Logic and Articulation

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Examples)

S. Morris Engel’s “With Good Reason” discusses the difference between inductive arguments and deductive arguments. Table 6 illustrates an example of the discussion, taken directly from his book. Let’s review the table before moving forward with the explanation of the comment. 

Table 6:  Example from the Chapter “The Nature and Scope of Logic,” S. Morris Engel

Deductive Inductive
All the beans in that bag are black. All these beans are from that bag. All these beans are therefore black. All these beans are from that bag. All these beans are black. All the beans in that bag are therefore black.

Engel makes a distinction between both terms.

An inductive argument has a conclusion that is based on probability that can never be certain; elements within the conclusion can have some truth to them, but the truth depends upon whether or not the probability is high or low (41). Engel states, “In inductive arguments, we assert in the conclusion a fact not itself contained in the premises” (41). In contrast, the conclusion of a deductive argument is reached by reasoning from general to specific; “. . . the premises in a deductive argument contain all of the information needed in order to reach a conclusion that follows with necessity” (Engel 41).

In other words, in a deductive argument, we need the premises to match the conclusion, because the conclusion is dependent upon the premises. However, in an inductive argument, we need the premises, but the conclusion is determined based upon likelihood. It is likely that all the beans in that bag are therefore black, but not certain.

This is a brief lesson on the nature of logic and reasoning. I am not a philosopher. I received a “C” in a course I took in junior college, Symbolic Logic; and this was actually a pity grade. I didn’t understand anything about logic and philosophy then, and I don’t understand anything about the two today.

However, I do like the ideas Engel expresses within his book. Engel’s book is a valuable resource because he simplifies the information enough so that it is readable and understandable. If you struggle with philosophy, use this book as a good resource for breaking down the information.

Now let’s return to our discussion.

When you receive the comment “Logic,” the professor is referring to how you have reached a conclusion within a certain paragraph. You may start attempting to argue a point by using a topic sentence as a method. Then you debate the subject by adding one or two more sentences. However, somewhere within the analysis, without realizing it yourself, you may have moved from what started out as deductive reasoning to inductive reasoning, or the logic may altogether not reflect logical thinking (step-by-step).

Let’s read the following sample excerpt. Notice the first set of bolded sentences.  They represent the conclusion.

Sample Excerpt

The role of Burch within the novel, as a revealer of truth, contradicts Faulkner’s construction of Christmas.  As creator-narrator, Faulkner uses Burch to classify Christmas, to reveal his racial heredity.  But just as Faulkner creates Joe, he creates Burch.  So, if he is able to have Burch classify Christmas, then shouldn’t Christmas be able to classify himself?  And shouldn’t Faulkner also be able to classify his character without Burch as a way of bringing certainty to Christmas’s life?  These contradictions represent a double consciousness in Faulkner that illustrates his inability to reconcile the nature of his character, Joe Christmas, with that of the nature of society, to include his perspective.  In this instance, Faulkner’s double consciousness is a weakness because it involves a dual depiction of Christmas’s struggle with identity and the other members’ preservation of social norms.

Figure 27: Essay Excerpt on Burch, Light in August

Questions

1) What truth or truths does Burch reveal?

2) Can a person classify himself or herself or are classifications by society projected onto people? 

3) What are these contradictions?

4) Just because Christmas doesn’t know who he is, but Burch knows Christmas’s heritage, doesn’t mean that these are contradictions. This is irony. Each person sees him or herself differently. This entails perception, self and social. Now what is the impact of double consciousness on this assumption?

5) What can you deduce from reading just the first set of sentences?  Before we analyze the paragraph, let’s first place it within a table to determine its premises and what type of conclusion(s) it has.

Table 7:  Exercise in Deductive/Inductive Reasoning, Light in August

 Premise The role of Burch within the novel, as a revealer of truth, contradicts Faulkner’s construction of Christmas.
 Premise As creator-narrator, Faulkner uses Burch to classify Christmas, to reveal his racial heredity.
 Conclusion But just as Faulkner creates Joe, he creates Burch.
 Conclusion So, if he is able to have Burch classify Christmas, then shouldn’t Christmas be able to classify himself?
 Conclusion And shouldn’t Faulkner also be able to classify his character without Burch as a way of bringing certainty to Christmas’s life?

The paragraph begins with a debatable argument, a topic sentence (first premise) that causes us to think more about the subject. The second sentence is an extended example, a move from the general to the specific. The connection between these two sentences causes us to believe that we are moving toward a deductive argument.

However, in the first conclusion, this is where we switch to an inductive argument. The last two conclusions confirm our assumption here. The sentences of Table 7 represent an inductive argument, one where the conclusion is likely to follow from its premises, but not always. Whereas in deductive arguments the conclusion can be valid or invalid, in an inductive argument, the conclusion can be classified as either good or bad, strong or weak (Engel 41).

In Table 7, the conclusion, in its connection to at least the first premise, is weak because in the premise Burch is a revealer of truth; but in the conclusion Burch is disregarded for Christmas. One doesn’t have anything to do with the other. It is likely from the premise that Burch doesn’t always have to be the revealer of truth and that Christmas will become more self-aware and classify himself. However, it is not for certain either man will. Now let’s add the rest of the paragraph to the table.

Table 8:  Deductive Reasoning for the Last Conclusion (Essay), Light in August

 1.  Premise The role of Burch within the novel, as a revealer of truth, contradicts Faulkner’s construction of Christmas.
 2.  Premise  As creator-narrator, Faulkner uses Burch to classify Christmas, to reveal his racial heredity.
   
 3.  Conclusion But just as Faulkner creates Joe, he creates Burch.
 4.  Conclusion So, if he is able to have Burch classify Christmas, then shouldn’t Christmas be able to classify himself?
 5.  Conclusion And shouldn’t Faulkner also be able to classify his character without Burch as a way of bringing certainty to Christmas’s life?
 6.  Conclusion These contradictions represent a double consciousness in Faulkner that illustrates his inability to reconcile the nature of his character, Joe Christmas, with that of the nature of society, to include his perspective.
 7.  Conclusion In this instance, Faulkner’s double consciousness is a weakness because it involves a dual depiction of Christmas’s struggle with identity and the other members’ preservation of social norms.

The last two conclusions represent the end of what should be a deductive argument, but the reason why this paragraph is not a deductive argument is because of the first three conclusions.  If we remove the first three conclusions, then we will have a deductive argument; we will have conclusions that are dependent upon their premises (i.e., according to Engel, conclusions that follow from its premises).  Let’s remove them. 

Table 9:  Constructing a Deductive Argument, Light in August

 1.  Premise The role of Burch within the novel, as a revealer of truth, contradicts Faulkner’s construction of Christmas.
 2.  Premise  As creator-narrator, Faulkner uses Burch to classify Christmas, to reveal his racial heredity.
   
 3.  Conclusion These contradictions represent a double consciousness in Faulkner that illustrates his inability to reconcile the nature of his character, Joe Christmas, with that of the nature of society, to include his perspective.
 4.  Conclusion In this instance, Faulkner’s double consciousness is a weakness because it involves a dual depiction of Christmas’s struggle with identity and the other members’ preservation of social norms.

As you now see that in removing the first three conclusions, we do not have any real example to which to refer. We need textual evidence of a relevant example in order to make sure that “These contradictions” refers to something specific. Any example within Faulkner’s work that reflects Christmas’s self-perception and what Burch perceives will be sufficient enough to make our case here.

It is not necessary to go into detail and add the example here because within Faulkner’s novel you can easily find any example of “perceptions” of Christmas, what characters say about his mulatto skin, and the racial epithets the townspeople use to refer to him in contrast to “what” Christmas considers himself to be within the context of the work.

When your professor writes “Logic” in the margins of your papers, he or she wants you to think more deductively versus inductively. Sentences after the first topic sentence that actually relate to the topic sentence and represent expanded, specific sentences are examples of deductive reasoning. The conclusion must follow from the premises.

What you say after the first topic sentence—and in some cases an extended topic sentence—must correspond to the topic sentence in sense and meaning. In this case, anything after the topic sentence represents examples; these examples transition into elevated statements that reflect an observer’s view. For example, as the writer, when you say that “John’s behavior reflects his inability to function in the real world” or “In this instance, Faulkner’s double consciousness is a weakness . . .” these are elevated statements. Elevated statements reflect “bird’s-eye view” of what is happening in the literary work. 

In essence, make sure that your paragraphs reflect deductive reasoning. In other words, move from general to specific and whatever you conclude at the end of a paragraph, the conclusion must correlate to what you have written or used as a topic sentence as well as to all of the middle (of the paragraph) elements.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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