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Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne Assessment Method Humanities Worksheet

This assessment method is designed to help you see how logic is used (or misused) in everyday life, and thereby appreciate the importance of good reasoning. You are asked to do some fieldwork related to logic. In particular, you are asked to document an argument “in the wild,” that is, an argument someone makes during a debate, a dispute, or a disagreement as you witness it in everyday life. The argument cannot be taken from a book or an article. You may use various mediums to document this “argument in the wild,” such as text, image, audio, or video. Then you should analyze the argument using the logical tools we learn throughout this course. For the fourth Argument in the Wild, you should write the argument in canonical form and then evaluate it, that is, determine whether the argument is valid or invalid, using a proof. If the argument is valid, determine whether it is sound or unsound.

Here is an example of what an “Arguments in the Wild 4” submission should look like:

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/9wdqkq/the-colbert-r…

In this video, Stephen Colbert makes the following argument: “The boys are signing, ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful’. But they’ve just told the girl she’s beautiful. So since she now knows it, she’s no longer beautiful.”

Colbert’s argument in this video can be reconstructed in canonical form as follows:

P1: If what makes one beautiful is ignorance of one’s beauty, then one stops being beautiful when one is told that one beautiful.

P2: It is not the case that one stops being beautiful when one is told that one is beautiful.

Therefore,

C: It is not the case that what makes one beautiful is ignorance of one’s beauty.

Reconstructed in this way, Colbert’s argument is valid; that is, if P1 and P2 are true, then C would have to be true as well. In particular, it has the following logical form:

???I?S

???S

?????I

Where I stands for the sentence “What makes one beautiful is ignorance of one’s beauty,” and S stands for the sentence “One stops being beautiful when one is told that one is beautiful.”

This logical form is known as modus tollens, which is valid as the following proof demonstrates: 

(check the picture shows the table)

Since the argument is valid, the question is whether the premises are in fact true. Is the argument sound? Colbert’s argument is a reductio ad absurdum. It is supposed to show that the idea that what makes one beautiful is not knowing that one is beautiful is absurd. This idea is absurd because it has an absurd consequence, namely, it implies that one stops being beautiful when one is told that one is beautiful. Since that is clearly absurd, it follows that being beautiful cannot be a matter of knowing whether one is beautiful or not.

For these reasons, Colbert’s argument is valid and sound (and funny).

This, then, is how your fourth “Arguments in the Wild” assignment should look like. That is, you should use the tools of Sentential Logic (in particular, proofs) to analyze an argument in the wild. You should determine whether the argument is valid or invalid by means of a proof. If valid, you should determine whether the argument is sound or unsound.

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