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The Third Argument in the Wild Analysis

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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 third 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 truth table. If the argument is valid, determine whether it is sound or unsound.

Here is an example of what an “Arguments in the Wild 3” submission should look like:

https://youtu.be/2z-OLG0KyR4

In this video, Ray Comfort (the person holding the banana) makes the following argument: “…the whole of creation testifies to the genius of God…”

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

P1: If nature exhibits design, then it must have been designed by an intelligent being.

P2: Nature exhibits design (e.g., bananas are designed for humans to eat them).

Therefore,

C: Nature must have been designed by an intelligent being (AKA God).

Reconstructed in this way, Comfort’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:

$D\phantom{\rule{0ex}{0ex}}⟶\phantom{\rule{0ex}{0ex}}I$

$D$

Where D stands for the sentence “Nature exhibits design,” and I stands for the sentence “Nature must have been designed by an intelligent being.”

This logical form is known as modus ponens, which is valid as the following truth table demonstrates:

 P1 P2 C D I D –> I D I T T T T T T F F T F F T T F T F F T F F

Since the argument is valid, the question is whether the premises are in fact true. Is the argument sound? If Comfort studied a well-made coconut, as opposed to a well-made banana, he would have concluded that the coconut is not perfectly designed for human consumption. The coconut is difficult to open, hard to chew, and hard to digest. In fact, coconuts even kill people. The point, then, is that some things in nature appear to be designed for us and some are not. If we look at the former, we might conclude that there is a God. If we look at the latter, we might conclude that there is no God (or perhaps that there is an evil God who is trying to mess with us).

Since there are doubts about whether the premises are true, although Comfort’s argument can be reconstructed as a valid argument, it cannot be said to be sound.

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

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