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What is meant by "worthiness" of an argument, and what are some examples?

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cindykoonce | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted May 9, 2012 at 2:49 PM via web

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What is meant by "worthiness" of an argument, and what are some examples?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 9, 2012 at 4:54 PM (Answer #1)

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Besides avoiding false logic (ad hoc, undistributed middle, and the like), the evidence and examples and logical order of a person’s argument should match the seriousness or “loftiness” of the debated topic itself.  The whole process of the argument should be “worthy” of the importance and seriousness of the question to be resolved.  One of the most frequent examples of “unworthy” argument is the ad hominem argument, which, while not untrue, is simply not “worthy” of the debate subject.  Example: If we are discussing immigration policy, we should not say “Look at your grandfather; he was an immigrant, and he was a shiftless drunk.”  The example, not only “ad hominem” but too small a sample and oversimple in its implied logic, is “unworthy” of the discussion; it does not carry the same “weight” (influence in the mind) as the subject.  Again, the “unrepresentative sample” argumentive fallacy in “unworthy” of a debate on gun law:  “No-one on my block has ever been shot by a homeowner protecting his property.”  The “unworthiness” often comes when the desired response is an emotional one rather than a reasoning one: In an argumentive discussion on state’s rights vs. federal regulation, the rhetorical question “How would you like it if your cat was legally liable for killing a bird in your garden and you were raided by the FBI?” is not worthy of the discussion, because it trivializes the consequences of the debate’s results. But, as an example of “worthiness” in an argument, if you are debating the pros and cons of the death penalty and you cite statistics of death-row inmates cleared by recent DNA evidence, your argument has the same seriousness as the topic.  Also, an argument’s structure (the order in which the evidence is presented) should be “worthy” of the debate occasion (formal or simply conversational). 

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