# 48 What is an argument? (Atheism - Constructing a Logical Argument)

## Description

This article is from the Atheism FAQ, by mathew meta@pobox.com with numerous contributions by
others.

# 48 What is an argument? (Atheism - Constructing a Logical Argument)

An argument is, to quote the Monty Python sketch, "a connected series

of statements to establish a definite proposition". There are three

stages to an argument: premises, inference, and conclusion.

Stage one: Premises

For the argument to get anywhere, you need one or more initial

propositions. These initial statements are called the premises of the

argument, and must be stated explicitly.

You can think of the premises as the reasons for accepting the

argument, or the evidence it's built on. Premises are often indicated

by phrases such as "because", "since", "obviously", "let's assume",

and so on.

(The phrase "obviously" is often viewed with suspicion, as it gets

used to intimidate people into accepting things which aren't true at

all. If something doesn't seem obvious to you, don't be afraid to

question it. You can always say "Oh, yes, you're right, it is obvious"

when you've heard the explanation.)

Stage two: Inference

Next the argument continues step by step, in a process called

inference.

In inference, you start with one or more propositions which have been

accepted. You then use those propositions to arrive at a new

proposition. The new proposition can, of course, be used in later

stages of inference.

There are various kinds of valid inference -- and also some invalid

kinds, but we'll get to those later. Inference is often denoted by

phrases such as "implies that" or "therefore".

Stage three: Conclusion

Finally, you arrive at the conclusion of the argument, another

proposition. The conclusion is often stated as the final stage of

inference.

The conclusion is affirmed on the basis the original premises, and the

inference from them. Conclusions are often indicated by phrases such

as "therefore", "it follows that", "we conclude" and so on.

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