Working With Claims


A claim is a statement that which we can say "true" or "false" to. Lots of statements aren't claims, since they cannot be assigned truth values ("What time is it?", "Good morning", "Shut the door".) Statements are logical units of thought, whereas sentences are grammatical units. We can have more than one statement in one sentence. Claims demand that we make decisions about something. We agree or disagree with them, either intellectually or by our actions.

It's not easy to decide on whether to agree with claims or not. Deciding on a claim is not as simple as simply ascertaining the truth of a statement. We don't make our decisions in a vacuum:

1. We have certain commitments - things we stand for, for whatever reason. For instance, I may believe strongly in gender equality. This means that I may accept certain claims based on this strong belief, rather than on argument. I may have faith that my commitment can deal with all problems.

2. We have a certain amount of previously held knowledge about the issue at hand, which makes for biases. For instance I may have been cheated by someone of a certain ethnic group. Therefore I may be biassed against that group.

3. We must have both the desire and the ability to bring information to bear on a situation. Without these, we will not be able to reason critically. Sometimes, we simply do not have enough evidence, but sometimes we have enough evidence and we don't want to consider it.

Why do we make claims? 1) to convey information; 2) to affect our attitudes about someone or something; 3) To influence our behaviour.

ARGUMENTS: An argument is not simply a disagreement, at least in the sense used in this course. It is a technical term, defined as follows:

1. Any unit of discourse, oral or written, in which reasons are given in support of a claim is an argument.

2. A set of claims that a person puts forward in an attempts to show that some further claim is rationally acceptable. want to persuade others to accept claims.

3. Rational attempt to convince us of a claim.