1.Discuss what constitutes a good argument, how arguments work and what makes some arguments better than others. (minimum 600 words)

A good argument is oddly enough described in the Monty Python sketch Argument Clinic: “An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.” (Monty Python)  Another way of saying this is that an argument is a collection of statements that contain premises that are used to prove a conclusion (Capaldi 18).

An argument should also be able to stand up to close scrutiny.  There should not be any fallacies and it should also draw valid conclusions from the premises that they rely on, and any syllogisms (an argument of two premises and a conclusion (Capaldi 35)) used are valid.  One should note that there is nothing about the argument being true.  A good argument will appear to be true even if it is not.

The premise and conclusion are the heart of the argument and it is important to be able to identify them.  The easiest way to identify them is by looking at the words around them.  Words such as “since, for, because, whereas, a, inasmuch as, seeing that” indicate that the sentence is a premise (Capaldi 27). Words such as “therefore, thus, so, hence, consequently, accordingly, it follows that, as a result, I conclude” indicate that the sentence is a conclusion (Capaldi 26).  There also may be implied or missing premises and conclusion that the one hearing the argument are expected to supply (Capaldi 28).  Once you identify the premises and conclusions, you can determine if the argument is valid using the rules that one can find throughout Capaldi’s book How to Win Every Argument.

While an argument may be valid, or follows the forms correctly, it may not be sound.  When an argument is unsound, it usually means that one or more of the premises are not true.  Arguments are only sound when all the premises are true, and the forms are valid (Capaldi 20).

Logic also has to play a role in arguments.  Any argument where there is flawed logic is not a good argument and hence not a sound argument.  As an example take the following premises and conclusion:

            Premise 1: All that is true of the parts is true of the whole.

            Premise 2: All the parts of a locomotive are light.

            Conclusion: Therefore a (whole) locomotive is light (Capaldi 43).

The structure of this argument is valid.  This is obviously an unsound argument due to flawed logic that what is true of the parts is true of the whole.  Experience tells us that this is not true, especially in this case.

Another part of a good argument is how you present it.  It has to be presented in such a way that it is convincing.  This is especially important when in a debate where there are multiple arguments being made.  There are many ways that this can be done.  Appealing to the audience to gain their sympathy is one.  Here you are appealing to their sense of pity, use of authorities in the field, talk about this as being traditional, or prior precedence (Capaldi 47-57).

One can also provide facts to support their argument.  Raw data itself can be used, but in general this tends to get unwieldy and it’s usually interpreted in some manner.  This interpretation can be definitions, classifying raw data, using analogies, and even statistics (Capaldi 57-78).   This interpretation can be skewed to support the underlying argument though, and one has to look at this closely.  Statistics in particular can tell multiple different stories depending on how they are conveyed.

Another part of a good argument is that it needs to be conveyed clearly, and in a logical order.  If the argument is tough to follow it will likely be ignored for one that is easier to follow.  Therefore, proper grammar and, if written, spelling also plays a role.  The conclusion also needs to be driven home and be as clear as possible.  That is where the use of the words indicating a conclusion, as mentioned above, comes in handy.

In the end, the goal of a good argument is to persuade the audience that your conclusions are the best, or at least better that that of those you are arguing against.

2.What is the difference between inference and deduction? (minimum 100 words)

Deduction is a form of logic where one starts with premises and come to a conclusion.  The premises are general statements of fact that leads to a specific conclusion that is also true (deduction).  Obviously, if a premise is not true, the conclusion may not be either.  An example of this is:  All members of Grove X live in New York.  Joe is a member of Grove X.  Therefore, Joe lives in New York.

Unlike the deductions where you don’t have to believe in the premises, inference requires that you actually have to believe in the premises (inference).  Inferences still need you to lay out a series of premises to lead to the conclusion.  The addition of belief in the premises will further their belief in the conclusion of the argument.

3.What is a fallacy? (minimum 100 words)

A fallacy is either an unsound or an invalid argument.  These can be classified as either formal or informal fallacies.  When dealing with a formal fallacy it only matters if the form is valid.  The premises and conclusions may or may not be true, and it is entirely possible to have a sound argument with an invalid form.  The invalid form is what makes it a formal fallacy.  A couple examples of this are:

False and Invalid:
Some men are green.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is green.

True but Invalid:
Some men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal (Bluedorn).


For informal fallacies, the form itself does not matter, but the soundness of the argument is the key.  Here the premise is not acceptable. (Bluedorn).  Examples of this include fallacy of composition (believing what is true of the parts is true of the whole) ad populum (an appeal to the major premise that what the majority likes is good), ad baculum (an appeal to force) (Capaldi 43-44), ambiguity in the terms, and even equating things that are not equal (Bluedorn).

4.What is the difference between an inference and a premise? (minimum 100 words)

Premises are the statements used in an argument that support the conclusion that is drawn.  They require no outside knowledge, and no outside belief.  All one needs to reach the conclusion are the premises that are presented.  An example of an argument based on premises is:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal (Bluedorn).

On the other hand, inferences as described in question two, require belief.  An inference requires outside knowledge that is not provided.  An example of this would be that if I see and smell smoke, I would infer that there is fire.  I would not know whether or not there is, but my past experience, and my belief that where there is smoke there is fire, would make this a logical inference.  The inference would not be valid though unless I searched it out and found that there was actually fire causing the smoke.

5.Discuss the effect of bias on thought and moral reasoning. (minimum 100 words)

Everyone has their own biases and these biases have an effect on how one thinks and their moral reasoning.  A bias is defined as a preference or inclination (bias).  This will of course influence a person’s thought process since they are already inclined to believe in certain things due to their bias.

Biases also have a profound effect on moral reasoning.  If one is already inclined to believe in something, that belief to them is moral.  Anything that is contradictory to this belief will automatically be thought of as wrong or immoral by the person.  Biases effecting moral reasoning are very easy to see if one looks at religions. 

The major three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all teach the same basic things.  However, because the people in these religions are raised with the bias that their religion is the one true religion, they automatically dismiss the others as irrelevant or even evil.  Historically this is how a religion that has the commandment “Thou shall not kill” went out and killed numerous of people during the Crusades and Inquisition.  The bias has changed their moral reasoning so that it was proper to kill because they were not of their religion.

6.Take an Indo-European topic essay of a minimum of five pages in length and analyze it for soundness, validity, fallacies, rhetorical devices and overall quality of composition. (Contact the ADF Preceptor for examples and suggestions of papers to critique.) (minimum 600 words)

The paper I am using for this question is Hyge-Cræft: Working with the Soul in the Northern Tradition by Diana Paxson (Paxson).  When printed out, it came to twelve pages, so it is of adequate length, and has been recommended by the preceptor.

This paper really has only one argument that is carried throughout: this is how I think we should define the various parts of the soul.  When the paper starts out, Paxon admits some of the faults of this argument.  Specifically, in the second paragraph she emphasizes that this whole exercise is controversial, uncertain, and likely not provable.  When she is doing this, she is trying to gain a sympathetic audience by appealing to their pity (Capaldi 47).

Paxson then goes on with trying to gain a sympathetic audience by appealing to authority (Capaldi 50).  Throughout the paper she cites people who are authorities in their respective area.  These include Thorsson, Gundarsson, Freud, and Jung.  While these authorities may not have her exact view on the soul, Paxson chooses ideas of theirs that appear to support her argument.

Another technique that she uses throughout is by presenting definitions (Capaldi 71).  Paxson takes her time to carefully define the various foreign words that she uses, and if possible skews them towards the way she wants to use them.  An example of this is where she is talking about the psyche and defining the terms hug and hyge-cræft.  Here she uses word etymology to connect the two from Old Norse to Danish, Swedish, and finally Anglo-Saxon.  While hug is the Norse term for psyche, the Anglo-Saxon hyge, which is related through etymology, means knowledge or wisdom.  So she is saying that part of this wisdom is found in the psyche, so hyge-cræft can be seen as working with the psyche or soul.  While to me this is a stretch, I don’t see this as an invalid or unsound argument.


Paxson then makes the definitions that are the basis of the argument by defining the parts of the soul: lich (body), ham (astral body), personal consciousness, önd (spirit or breath of life), goði (higher self), and öðr (divine consciousness).  She then appeals to precedence (Capaldi 56) and appeals to tradition (Capaldi 55) to support her division.  This is done by quoting a translation of the mythology (Voluspá) that supports her classification in part.  She also looks at other translations and interpretations of this section of the myth to support her argument for this division.


At this point, Paxson takes each of the six parts and goes through each giving her argument for each part.  The first part is the lich or body.  Here she again refers back to the mythology where Lódhur gave the gifts of , læti, and litr which were translated as “blooming hue” by Hollander.  Here she again goes back to linguistics and gives her own translation of the three words as appearance, movement, and health respectively.  She then uses this translation to bolster her argument that Lódhur gave men their physical form.  This is a variation of the use of definitions.

She continues in a similar fashion with the other five parts of the soul: giving definitions and relating them to the mythology of the Norse, but also to terms and mythology of other cultures.  One of the more interesting arguments to me was talking about the mind.  Here she compares the mind, and the Freudian id (the thinking half) and ego (the memory half) to Oðin’s ravens Huginn and Muninn who are commonly translated to thought and memory respectively. 

Here the argument is comparing the mind part of the soul to the animal spirits that aide Oðin.  She goes even further and assigns memory to the disir which she defines as the “female guardians of the family line” and to alfar the male equivalent.  She then goes on to say that this is all speculation on her part.  I found this to be an interesting argument, but I question her premises and find it all unsound because of this, and her own doubt that comes through the argument.

After she goes through her arguments for the six parts of the soul, the then asks the question that was running through my mind throughout the article.  Why is this important?  She answers this by bringing it into spiritual practices such as trance journeying and astral projection.  The remainder of the paper is used to bolster this argument by giving a detailed practical example of how to do such a use the soul in a spiritual practice. 

Throughout this paper, Paxson makes use of many rhetorical devices.  The use of expletives, the use of single words or short phrases to give emphasis to the words near it (Harris #1), are used throughout the paper.  This can be seen in sentences such as “In folklore, however, the hamingja may take the form…”  In this case “however” is being used as an expletive to emphasize that this is talking about where we find this in folklore.

Hypophora, the raising of a question and then answering (Harris #15) is also used throughout the paper as she often raises questions and then proceeds to answer them.  The most notable place she does this is when talking about the higher self.  Here she raises the question of “…if we are not the body, or the mind, then what are we?”  She then proceeds to answer that question in the following paragraphs.

Analogies, which is the comparison of similar things to clarify some point (Harris #26), also appear throughout the paper.  One that stands out to me is when she is talking about the astral body.  Here she uses an analogy to compare the animal shape that follows a person around with the Shamanic shape-change abilities on the astral plane when journeying.

We can also see the whole paper itself as a rhetorical device, procatalepsis.  This is the foreseeing that there are going to be many objections, and answering them to allow her to continue (Harris #17).  At the very beginning of the paper, she raises doubt and the obvious objection that the soul does not exist in the form she is suggesting.  The bulk of the remainder of the paper goes to answer those objections.  While this rather broad use of procatalepsis is often the essence of most papers, what makes it an appropriate analysis here is that she goes on beyond just answering the objections and makes use of all she is talking about in the final section with her exercises.  Without the answering of the objections that are raised at the beginning, the exercises would be of no use.

Overall, I found this article to be interesting.  Paxson makes many interesting arguments.  They all are valid and supported in large part by definitions, etymology, and appealing to tradition and authority with use of the myths.  It is tough for me to say all the arguments are sound though as my personal bias comes into questioning her premises.  Even with my biases though, she did make me question them which I think was the point of the whole article.


Works Cited

Bluedorn, Harvey. Formal and Informal Fallacies. 1995. 26 Jan 2008 <http://www.triviumpursuit.com/articles/formal_informal_fallacies.php&gt;.

Capaldi, Nicholas. How to Win Every Argument. New York: MJF Books, 1987.

Harris, Robert A. A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices. 6 Apr. 2005. 5 Apr 2008 <http://www.virtualsalt.com/rhetoric.htm&gt;.

Monty Python. The Argument Sketch. 26 Jan 2008 <http://www.mindspring.com/~mfpatton/sketch.htm&gt;.

Paxson, Diana L. Hyge-Cræft: Working with the Soul in the Northern Tradition. 1995. 26 Jan 2008 <http://www.hrafnar.org/norse/hyge-craeft.html&gt;.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. Bias. 26 Jan 2008 <http://www.bartleby.com/61/65/B0226500.html&gt;.

—. Deduction. 26 Jan 2008 <http://www.bartleby.com/61/44/D0084400.html&gt;.

—. Inference. 26 Jan 2008 <http://www.bartleby.com/61/77/I0127700.html&gt;.