Argument Reconstruction

Argument Reconstruction is the process of restating a naturally-occurring argument so its premises, conclusion, and reasoning are clear

Contents
Argument Reconstruction

Argument Reconstruction is the process of restating a naturally-occurring argument so its premises, conclusion, and reasoning are clear, making it easier to understand and evaluate.

Examples
John Oliver
  • Naturally-occurring Argument
    • John Oliver is not eligible to be president because he’s not a natural-born U.S. citizen.
  • Reconstruction
    1. Only natural-born U.S. citizens are eligible to be president.
    2. John Oliver is not a natural-born U.S. citizen.
    3. Therefore, he’s not eligible to be president
  • The reconstructed argument is in premise-conclusion form, with the premises on lines 1 and 2, followed by the conclusion.
  • Premise 1 is unstated, making the naturally-occurring argument an enthymeme, a partly stated argument with an implicit premise or conclusion understood from the context.
  • The same argument can be expressed differently:
    • Leaving premise 2 unstated:
      • John Oliver is ineligible to be president because only natural-born U.S. citizens are eligible.
    • Leaving the conclusion unstated:
      • If you’re wondering whether John Oliver is eligible to be president, the facts are these: only natural-born U.S. citizens are eligible to president and John Oliver isn’t a natural-born U.S. citizen.
    • Replacing because with reason:
      • The reason John Oliver is ineligible to be president is that he’s not a natural-born U.S. citizen.
Capital Punishment
  • Naturally-occurring Argument
    • “Death is the only final and irreversible criminal punishment. As the Richardson and Adams cases vividly show, humans and their governments are fallible and corruptible. Prudent humility dictates that fallible people refrain from inflicting irreversible punishments.” (Why Execution is Dead Wrong, NYT)
  • Reconstruction
    1. Fallible governments should refrain from inflicting irreversible punishments
    2. Capital punishment is irreversible.
    3. Governments are fallible.
    4. Therefore, governments should refrain from inflicting capital punishment.
  • Premise 1 is from the last sentence of the Times’ paragraph. Premise 2 from the first sentence. Premise 3 from the second sentence. The conclusion is unstated, making the argument an enthymeme.
New Employee
  • Naturally-occurring Argument
    • The new employee is married – she’s wearing a wedding ring.
  • Reconstruction
    1. The new employee is wearing a wedding ring.
    2. Wearing a wedding ring is a reliable sign of being married.
    3. Therefore, it’s reasonable to believe the new employee is married.
Missing Links
  • Naturally-occurring Argument
    • The theory of evolution is false because of missing links in the fossil record.
  • Reconstruction
    1. If the theory of evolution is true, fossils exist for every transitional form between species.
    2. No fossils exist for some transitional forms between species.
    3. Therefore, the theory of evolution is false.
Cheating
  • Naturally-occurring Argument
    • You shouldn’t cheat because you might get caught.
  • Reconstruction
    • If you cheat, you might get caught.
    • Getting caught would be bad.
    • Therefore, you shouldn’t cheat.
Creationism
  • Naturally-occurring Argument
    • ‘Scientific creationism’ is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase because it cannot be falsified.  I can envision observations and experiments that would disprove any evolutionary theory I know, but I cannot imagine what potential data could lead creationists to abandon their beliefs.  Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science.  Lest I seem harsh or rhetorical, I quote creationism’s leading intellectual, Duane Gish, Ph.D., from his recent book, Evolution? The Fossils Say No: ‘By creation we mean the bringing into being by a supernatural Creator of the basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat, creation.  We do not know how the Creator created, what processes he used, for he used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe.  This is why we refer to creation as special creation.  We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by the Creator.’  Pray tell, Dr. Gish, in light of your last sentence, what then is ‘scientific’ creationism?
      • Evolutionary biologist Steven Jay Gould:
  • Reconstruction, Rough Version
    • Scientific Creationism can’t be falsified.
    • Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science.
    • Therefore, ‘Scientific Creationism’ is a self-contradictory, nonsense phrase.
  • Reconstruction, Improved Version
    • Scientific Creationism can’t be falsified.
    • Theories that can’t be falsified are not scientific.
    • Therefore, Scientific Creationism is not a scientific theory
Reconstruction Problems
Abortion
  • Abortion should be legal because abortions are going to be performed whether legal or not. 
Evolution
  • The evolution of one species into another has never been observed and is therefore not an established fact.
Vietnam War
  • If a limited number of Communists with no national roots were our enemy, it would be reasonable to expect their early defeat and liquidation.  This, accordingly, was predicted.  ‘The reports of progress’, as Senator Mansfield has said, ‘are strewn like burned-out tanks all along the road which has led us ever more deeply into Vietnam.’  And after each report of progress the American people learned, in effect, nothing has been changed.  The progress, if real, was invisible.  The roots of the opposition, all too evidently, went far deeper. (John Kenneth Galbraith)
    • John Kenneth Galbraith on the Vietnam War
  • View Answer
Aaron Blake on Covid Cases
  • There are myriad problems with the claim that Covid-19 cases in the US are increasing only because more tests are being conducted.
  • To break it down to its most basic level, if this was just about testing, the percentage of positive tests would be declining. But it’s not — and that’s particularly the case in a trio of emerging hot spots: Arizona, Florida and Texas.
    • As Trump ramps up his coronavirus denialism, GOP allies in hard-hit states are singing a very different tune, Aaron Blake: WaPo
  • View Answer
Answers
Abortion
  • Abortions are going to be performed whether legal or not.
  • An activity should be legal if it’s going to be performed whether legal or not.
  • Therefore, abortion should be legal.
Evolution
  • The evolution of one species into another has never been observed.
  • For something to be an established fact it must be observed.
  • Therefore the evolution of one species into another is not an established fact.
Vietnam War
  • If the enemy were a limited number of Communists without national roots, they would have been defeated early.
  • They were not defeated early.
  • Therefore, the enemy is not a limited number of Communists without national roots.
Aaron Blake on Covid Cases
  • If the increase in Covid cases were due only to more testing, the percentage of positive tests would be declining.
  • The percentage of positive tests is not declining.
  • Therefore, the increase in Covid cases is not due only to more testing.