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How Arguments Can Go Wrong

What are the parts of an argument?

Arguments are built out of premises and conclusions. For example, here is a simple argument:

All cats are mammals.
All mammals feed their babies milk.
Therefore, cats feed their babies milk.

The first two sentences are the premises. The last sentence is the conclusion. Premises are statements that support the conclusion.

If the premises are true and the logical structure is valid, the conclusion is also true.

How Arguments Can Go Wrong

There are two main ways arguments can go wrong.

1. One or more premises are incorrect.

For example:
All fruits are purple.
Bananas are fruits.
Therefore, bananas are purple.

The logic in this argument is valid, but the first premise is false.

2. The logic is flawed.

For example:
Horses are mammals.
Cats are mammals.
Therefore, horses are cats.

In this argument, the premises are correct, but the logic is flawed. Arguments with flawed logic are called invalid arguments.

Important Note

An argument can have false premises and/or flawed logic and yet still have a true conclusion. For more on this, read How Flawed Arguments Can Go Right.

The ways an argument can go wrong are covered in Critikid's course Symbolic Logic for Teens.


Courses

Fallacy Detectors Part 1

Develop the skills to tackle logical fallacies through a series of 10 science-fiction videos with activities. Recommended for ages 8-12.

US$15

Symbolic Logic for Teens Part 1

Learn how to make sense of complicated arguments with 14 video lessons and activities. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

US$15

Worksheets

Symbolic Logic Worksheets icon

Symbolic Logic Worksheets

Worksheets covering the basics of symbolic logic for children ages 12 and up.

US$5

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Elementary School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 2-5 about superstitions, different perspectives, facts and opinions, the false dilemma fallacy, and probability.

US$10

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Middle School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 5-8 about false memories, confirmation bias, Occam's razor, the strawman fallacy, and pareidolia.

US$10

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

High School Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 8-12 about critical thinking, the appeal to nature fallacy, correlation versus causation, the placebo effect, and weasel words.

US$10

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans icon

Statistical Shenanigans Worksheets and Lesson Plans

These lesson plans and worksheets teach students in grades 9 and up the statistical principles they need to analyze data rationally.

US$10