Analysis: A Rulebook for Arguments - Ch. 3 & 4

Arguments by analogy are examined in Weston’s third brief chapter. He first mentions that there is an exception to the rule previously mentioned, rule seven, that said to use more than one example. What arguments by analogy aim to do is argue from one specific example to another, reasoning that just because two examples are “alike in several ways, they are also different in one further specific way.” How do we evaluate arguments by analogy? Well, in regards to our third rule, that said, make sure the premise is true, it’s essential to include relevant examples to support your premise that has already been determined as reliable.

Furthermore, in Weston’s twelfth chapter, he focuses on analogies requiring relevantly similar examples. In arguments by analogy, it is not essential that the examples utilized be precisely like the conclusion. One notable case that uses an analogy to try to establish the Creator of the world. Just how beautiful and well-built houses must have “makers”: designers and builders. Well, the world is like a beautiful and well-built house; therefore, the world must have a maker, and that maker is God. Although the premise of this argument is questionable (Weston includes an argument from Hume suggesting “that the universe is not relevantly similar to a house”), this is an effective example of arguments by analogy.
In Weston’s fourth chapter, sources, he highlights the importance of using sources from reliable and valid sources. Opening up with: “No one can be an expert through direct experience on everything there is to know.” There are only a few persons qualified to give expert advice on given topics. In Weston’s thirteenth point, he says to cite your sources. Although there are some instances that everyone knows are inherently true, there are other instances in which they need supporting evidence. When providing this supporting evidence, it is crucial to cite your sources. Citation styles vary, but they all have a common goal, and that is for the reader to quickly find the source from which your evidence or information comes from.
In Weston’s fourteenth point, he reiterates the importance of having informed sources. As previously mentioned, it is important to have sources that are sufficiently knowledgeable on the topic or a primary source: “Sources must be qualified to make the statements they make.” He mentions some examples of people that are qualified to give information on a certain topic: hondas, midwives, and obstetricians. Additionally, it is essential to understand that when a source’s qualification isn’t entirely clear, “an argument must explain them briefly.” It is also important to note that just because a person is knowledgeable in one topic does not mean they know everything. Weston includes this example: “Einstein was a pacifist. Therefore, pacifism must be right.” He adds that Einstein’s genius in physics does not establish him as a knowledgeable person in political philosophy. Even more so, just because someone has “Doctor” before their name does not mean they are any more qualified in something that someone else when they are qualified in the particular field. Lastly, Weston mentions that truly informed sources are not likely to press their agenda but rather provide evidence and facts to support whomever’s claim.
Weston’s fifteenth point is to seek impartial sources. Essentially, the main “take-away” from this point is to understand “[p]eople who have the most at stake in a dispute are usually not the best sources of information about the issues involved.” Adding that in certain circumstances they sacrifice veracity for the sake of the situation. Some sources that could be considered impartial sources are independent government agencies, university studies or other independent sources. Weston gave an example of Doctors Without Borders, in that they could be considered impartial sources because they practice medicine and are not bent on politics, so to speak. Even then, however, some independent groups could be funded or ran by someone that is not an impartial source. In conclusion, “[a]t the very least, try to confirm for yourself any factual claim quoted from a potentially biased source.”
In the author’s sixteenth brief point, he points out the importance of cross-checking sources. It is essential to cross-check or “consult and compare a variety of sources to see if the other, equally good authorities agree.” Essentially, it is crucial to understand that mere disagreements do not determine the integrity of a source, and furthermore, some things are common sense, such as the Earth is round. Lastly, Weston’s seventeenth point is to use the web with care. In increasingly advanced technological times, it is easy to fall for sources that are not reliable. Weston then mentions some essential questions to ask when looking at the web for some references to contributing/utilize for your argument: “Who created this site? Why did they create it? What are their qualifications? What does it mean if they don’t tell you? How can you double check and cross-check its claims?” In conclusion, when utilizing web sources, it is crucial to go beyond the standard web result, to find the most reliable sources.

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