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2012/13 Essays & Annotations

In deductive argumentative reasoning such as was practiced by Socrates, in order for an argument to be sound, the conclusion must be based on true premises.

There are many takes on what makes for a good argument. Different kinds of argumentation employ different kinds of logic. The kind of argumentation that we associate with Socrates, for instance, makes the case for conclusions based on the validity of premises. A premise is a proposition that supports a conclusion. A premise in Logic is a proposition supporting or helping to support a conclusion. In Law, a premise is a statement or assumption that forms the basis on which reasoning proceeds. Socrates argued using propositional logic in the form of syllogisms…

Premise: All human beings are mortal
Premise: Socrates is a human being
Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

…in which true premises and valid reasoning led inevitably to sound conclusions. An argument is said to be valid if the conclusion is assured by the premises. A sound argument is one in which the reasoning is valid and the premises are actually true. It is possible, after all, to have a valid argument that reaches a conclusion based on assertions that are not in fact true.

This kind of argumentation employs deductive logic or reasoning to make its case. Deductive reasoning is often thought of as arguing from the general to the specific: From general truths we deduce more local realities.

Ebest et al. (2005, p. 372) distinguish between deductive reasoning, which deals with certainties, and inductive reasoning, which deliberates probabilities and is generally thought of as arguing from the specific to the general. Whereas the premises guarantee the conclusion in a sound deductive argument, the premises in inductive arguments only suggest that the conclusion is true.

The essays that we are looking at here usually employ inductive reasoning, where the conclusions are supported by the balance of the evidence that we have at our disposal and the quality of the reasoning from that evidence. Arguments falter when the reasoning is faulty, the evidence that disputes the conclusion is suppressed or the evidence mustered in support of the conclusion is biased or not credible, the evidence is not strong or of the kind that the audience honours.

Despite the fact that the arguments that follow are not arguing for certainties, but for positions on a social issue, all writers strive to use convincing evidence and valid reasoning to make their case. Below, the essay’s conclusion and the premises that support it are identified, and some attempt is made to determine the validity of the reasoning and the soundness of the argument.

Ebest, S. B., Alred, G. J., Brusaw, C. T., & Oliu, W. E. (2005) Writing from A to Z: The Easy-to-Use Reference Handbook, Boston: McGraw-Hill.


FIRST PLACE WINNER: Edmund Heaphy, Does freedom of speech mean that everyone should get a voice? - View Essay

SECOND PLACE WINNER: Fintan Óg Guilfoyle,  UntitledView Essay

THIRD PLACE WINNER: Ailís McCarthy Use Your Voice - We Have the Power - View Essay