Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Identifying an Argument through Language

Lenny Esposito writes over at Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes about the language people use in constructing arguments:

Being thoughtful and building a proper argument for one’s beliefs takes a little work. As I mentioned in my previous article, when building an argument one normally supplies reasons for why he believes the way he does. The reasons for a belief could be labeled the premises while the belief itself could be labeled the conclusion.

[ . . . ] Trigger words are simply words in English most people use to show reasoning. We do the same thing when we talk simple arithmetic problems, so I will use those as an example. Usually, you would see a problem presented this way: “If Johnny wants to take three apples in his right hand and four in his left, how many apples will he have?” The word “and” in the sentence above signals that this is an addition problem. If the sentence would have said “less than” it would have signaled a subtraction problem. The words help you understand the nature of the problem itself.

Similarly, there are trigger words that signal whether a person is making a conclusion or providing a premise for his belief. Here’s a short list of words that will frequently be used as triggers to signal a conclusion:

Conclusion trigger words:

  • Therefore
  • Thus
  • So
  • Hence
  • Implies
  • Indicates
  • It would follow
  • It’s likely that
  • It stands to reason.

Thus, if a person states “I’ve read about so much fossil evidence, it’s likely that evolution is true,” we can see the trigger words of “it is likely” showing that the person is drawing a conclusion about the truthfulness of evolutionary theory based on the reason (premise) of an abundance of fossil evidence. Another may be “I see an abundance of evil in the world, so God does not exist.” Here, the word “so” acts as a trigger. It points to a conclusion drawn from the previous statement. [ . . . ]

Reminds me of the first paragraph from the preface of Condillac’s Commerce and Government Considered in their Mutual Relationship: “Each Science requires a special language, because each science has ideas which are unique to it. It seems that we should begin by forming this language; but we begin by speaking and writing and the language remains to be created. That is the position of Economic Science, the subject of this very work. It is, among other matters, the need which I propose to meet.”

H/T Christian Reasons


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