Identifying premises to analyze argument

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Identifying premises to analyze argument

Post by martinphil » December 1st, 2019, 9:38 pm

Hello everybody! I have recently started studying Philosophy out of interest for the subject, and I found a guide online where I started learning from scratch. (The guide is called "I'm interested in philosophy - where should I start? What should a beginner read?" for those who are interested!) =D

Upon doing one of the tasks where I was instructed to analyze an argument and provide criticism if applicable (fallacies, inconsistencies, etc), I encountered some difficulty identifying the premises of this argument as they're not quite clear to me (I feel that I lack experience). Could anybody perhaps help me identify them? I feel like that it would be extremely helpful for a newbie like myself! The article is "The treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould highlights Canada’s problem with Indigenous women" and can be found on theglobeandmail dot com.

Any help is hugely appreciated!

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Re: Identifying premises to analyze argument

Post by PAntoneO » December 3rd, 2019, 9:07 pm

martinphil wrote:
December 1st, 2019, 9:38 pm
Upon doing one of the tasks where I was instructed to analyze an argument and provide criticism if applicable (fallacies, inconsistencies, etc), I encountered some difficulty identifying the premises of this argument as they're not quite clear to me ...
Normally, in a formal logical argument, the premises are listed first and then the conclusion is presented. In this article, the conclusion seems to be presented first, and (at least in part) it seems to be used as support for the premises--which do not appear to me to be well supported. Part of this may be the fact that the author is assuming the reader will have a far greater familiarity with mentioned situations than I have.

Despite this, I will try to lay out the premises (as I see them) the best I can:

1. Tina fontaine was lost in the government's social services program and allowed to die.
This is more of an anecdotal example than an actual premise. But if the goal is to find premises, then I think this would have to qualify as one. It is a weak argument, as laid out, I think, for two reasons. A) it doesn't provide any measuring sticks for determining that the services provided to non-indigenous women are any better, and B) it doesn't do anything to show that what happened to Tina Fontaine is typical for Indigenous women. As I understand it, Canada has a larger social net than the U.S. where I live. So, for example, their healthcare may be free, but the waits to actually see doctors are much, much longer. Assuming the social services program are in a similar situation, it is quite possible that what happened to Tina Fontaine is simply a reflection of an over-worked system that was doing the best it could, rather than a system that has a pointed malice towards indigenous women. It's not all that unlike the "Black Lives Matter" movement, which seems to protest blacks who are mistreated by cops. There are two main supporting points for this view, as far as I can tell. A) blacks are shot by cops and B) there are more blacks in prison (per capita) than there are whites. While both points are true, the problem with these arguments is that they aren't pertinent. Whites are also shot by cops and there is a significant body of evidence which suggests that blacks are actually less likely to be shot by a cop than a white suspect under the same circumstances. A black man is far more likely to struck by lightning than to be shot by a cop--which means it's actually quite rare. And most of the cases that do happen are well justified. Thus, there's nothing about this fact that implies racism. Similarly, although it's true there are more blacks in prison--it's also true that blacks commit a far higher percentage of the crimes. Assuming this is not due to racism, it would be racism against whites if blacks were imprisoned at the same rate as whites. Thus, once again, it is not an indication of racism. In the same way, the fact that one indigenous woman falls through the cracks is not very good evidence that they are held in such low regard as the author concludes.

2. The second premise is that Jody Wilson-Raybould was ejected from a political position after being involved (somehow) in a scandal.
Again, this is just an anecdote, and thus not a very good argument to begin with, for many of the same reasons given above. And since there isn't any explanation of what the scandal was, it's impossible to know (without research that I'm not willing to do) if her role in the thing was sufficient to warrant being removed.

3. The third premise seems to be that the Indian Act is bad or indigenous women
Again, I don't know enough about it to comment intelligently. I do get the feeling that someone was trying to get some legal act through that would allow many more indigenous women to get onto the welfare roles. And the author ties in the reaction of a government official as further "proof" that the government is on board with this act. I don't know if this is the case or not, since I don't know what the act says or does. It does, however, seem reasonable to me for a government official to be concerned about a large group of people moving onto the welfare roles and further straining an already massively over-burdened government social net. There's also a very high probability that moving people onto the welfare roles will do them more harm than good. It's better to teach a man how to fish and make them fish than to give them a fish each day--for the one who receives the fish will be far less likely to actually learn to fish, and so if the government every stops giving them their fish, they'll go hungry... as will their children and grand children into perpetuity. That's not good for the person receiving the fish or for the people who have to pay the government extra to keep providing the daily fish.

4. The last premise is actually a collection of points, highlighted by the statistics on the higher mortality rates of indigenous girls and women.
Again, this premise is not as strong as it could be because too much is left unsaid. There are two main questions I would ask: A) "Is mortality rate really an indication of what the author is concluding?" In the U.S. the suicide rate is far higher among males than females--yet most liberals would argue that men are suppressing and oppressing women. So why is one statistic a valid indicator of oppression and the other not? B) "why is the mortality rate higher?" There are many factors that could influence these statistic. Until we know what they are, I think it's a little premature to assume that they necessarily indicate oppression. Although, in fairness, it does seem to be a premise that may have merit.

Unfortunately, the problem is that this may be a mixture of culture and government policies. In the U.S. for instance, liberal welfare policies encouraged fathers (in poor families) not to live in the home. This was done by policies that only gave money to unwed mothers. The result was that the rate of children born to unwed mothers rose from just 25% at the start of the great society to 75%, where it stands today. Since the greatest statistical indicator of a child's success is whether or not they're raised in a two parent family structure, this change (brought about by government policy) ensured that more black children would grow up living in poverty.

The problem, however, is this: who is more compassionate. Those who support helping the poor by giving them welfare? Or those who wish to reform welfare and reduce perpetual support needs? I would argue it's the later, but I think both sides have a claim. And, if I'm correct in my deductions about what the author wishes to see; and why she is criticizing the government--then it seems to me that she may be one of those who is siding with MORE support for Indigenous women. In which case, I think there's a valid argument to be made for the notion that she's the one who is trying to oppress indigenous women.

That, of course, requires one to make a lot of assumptions. But given the sparsity of actual information in the article, that's about all we have.

My final thoughts: Nothing in the article (or in my own knowledge) necessarily indicates that the author's conclusion is wrong. However, there really isn't anything that she's presented that makes me believe that she's necessarily right, either.

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