What Is the Argument?

An Introduction to Philosophical Argument and Analysis

by Harrell

ISBN: 9780262529273 | Copyright 2016

Click here to preview

Instructor Requests

Digital Exam/Desk Copy Print Desk Copy Ancillaries

The best way to introduce students to philosophy and philosophical discourse is to have them read and wrestle with original sources. This textbook explores philosophy through detailed argument analyses of texts by philosophers from Plato to Strawson. It presents a novel and transparent method of analysis that will teach students not only how to understand and evaluate philosophers’ arguments but also how to construct such arguments themselves. Students will learn to read a text and discover what the philosopher thinks, why the philosopher thinks it, and whether the supporting argument is good.

Students learn argument analysis through argument diagrams, with color-coding of the argument’s various elements—conclusion, claims, and “indicator phrases.” (An online “mini-course” in argument diagramming and argument diagramming software are both freely available online.) Each chapter ends with exercises and reading questions.

After a general introduction to philosophy and logic and an explanation of argument analysis, the book presents selections from primary sources, arranged by topics that correspond to contemporary debates, with detailed analysis and evaluation. These topics include philosophy of religion, epistemology, theory of mind, free will and determinism, and ethics; authors include Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Ryle, Fodor, Dennett, Searle, and others. What Is the Argument? not only introduces students to great philosophical thinkers, it also teaches them the essential skill of critical thinking.

“Harrell's book nicely combines the craft of argument construction and analysis with essential primary source material—both indispensable to any Intro to Philosophy course. Her first-person writing style presents an easy read and it is evident that her years of classroom teaching experience shaped and molded an interesting, thorough curriculum that she unselfishly shares with us in this book. Harrell’s book is an excellent resource that conveniently gathers all the information students need in one smart package. It could be used at both the university and college preparatory levels.”

—Joyce Lazier, Philosophy Instructor, The Canterbury School

“Finally! An Intro to Philosophy textbook that teaches students to read! While most introductory textbooks include only cursory instruction in logic, and most critical thinking texts are not designed for philosophy students, this book contains the best of both worlds—serious consideration of canonical primary texts and sustained instruction and practice in rigorous argument analysis.”

—Kaija Mortensen, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Randolph College

“At long last, in Mara Harrell’s What Is the Argument? we have an introductory philosophy text that makes systematic use of argument-diagramming techniques proven to enhance students’ philosophical and critical thinking skills. It is the delightfully clear, engaging, and competence-building introduction to core arguments in philosophy that I’ve been waiting for.”

—Brendan Lalor, Philosophy Coordinator and Associate Professor, Castleton University

Expand/Collapse All
Contents (pg. v)
I Doing Philosophy (pg. 1)
Preface (pg. ix)
1 Introduction (pg. 3)
1.1 What Is Philosophy? (pg. 3)
1.2 How Do We Do Philosophy? (pg. 6)
1.3 Purpose and Structure of This Book (pg. 11)
1.4 In-Class Exercise (pg. 12)
1.5 Reading Questions (pg. 13)
2 Types of Arguments (pg. 15)
2.1 Vocabulary (pg. 16)
2.2 Necessary versus Sufficient Conditions (pg. 22)
2.3 Deductive versus Nondeductive Arguments (pg. 24)
2.4 Forms of Valid and InvalidDeductive Arguments (pg. 24)
2.5 A Priori versus A Posteriori Deductive Arguments (pg. 27)
2.6 Types of Nondeductive Arguments: Induction, Argument by Analogy, and Abduction (pg. 28)
2.7 Answers to Self-Assessment Exercises (pg. 29)
2.8 In-Class Exercises (pg. 30)
3 Argument Analysis and Diagramming (pg. 33)
3.1 Visual Representations of Reasoning (pg. 34)
3.2 Understanding and Representing Argument Structure (pg. 39)
3.3 Interpreting Arguments to Create Diagrams (pg. 51)
3.4 Diagramming Objections and Replies (pg. 59)
3.5 Summary (pg. 65)
3.6 Answers to Self-Assessment Exercises (pg. 66)
3.7 In-Class Exercises (pg. 72)
II Philosophy of Religion (pg. 85)
4 Deductive Arguments for the Existence of God (pg. 93)
4.1 St. Anselm, Proslogion (pg. 93)
4.2 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (pg. 101)
4.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 113)
5 Deductive Arguments against the Existence of God (pg. 119)
5.1 Michael Martin, “Three Reasons for Nonbelief” (pg. 119)
5.2 John Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence” (pg. 126)
5.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 132)
5.3 Reading Questions (pg. 136)
6 Nondeductive Arguments for the Existence of God (pg. 137)
6.1 David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (pg. 137)
6.2 William Paley, Natural Theology (pg. 144)
6.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 156)
6.4 Reading Questions (pg. 161)
III Epistemology (pg. 163)
7 The Definition of Knowledge (pg. 171)
7.1 Plato, Theaetetus (pg. 171)
7.2 Edmund L. Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” (pg. 175)
7.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 180)
7.4 Reading Questions (pg. 184)
8 Justification and Certainty (pg. 187)
8.1 René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (pg. 187)
8.2 John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (pg. 206)
8.3 David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (pg. 212)
8.4 In-Class Exercises (pg. 221)
8.5 Reading Questions (pg. 227)
9 The Problem of Induction (pg. 229)
9.1 Hans Reichenbach, Experience and Prediction (pg. 229)
9.2 Karl Popper, “Science: Conjectures and Refutations” (pg. 234)
9.3 Nelson Goodman, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast (pg. 241)
9.4 In-Class Exercises (pg. 247)
9.5 Reading Questions (pg. 252)
IV Theory of Mind (pg. 253)
10 Dualism (pg. 259)
10.1 René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (pg. 259)
10.2 Gilbert Ryle, “Descartes’ Myth” (pg. 267)
10.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 273)
10.4 Reading Questions (pg. 275)
11 Materialism (pg. 277)
11.1 J. J. C. Smart, “Sensations and Brain Processes” (pg. 277)
11.2 Jerry Fodor, “The Mind–Body Problem” (pg. 281)
11.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 283)
11.4 Reading Questions (pg. 288)
12 Antimaterialism (pg. 289)
12.1 Thomas Nagel, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” (pg. 289)
12.2 Frank Jackson, “Epiphenomenal Qualia” (pg. 293)
12.3 Paul Churchland, “Knowing Qualia: A Reply to Jackson” (pg. 296)
12.4 In-Class Exercises (pg. 300)
12.5 Reading Questions (pg. 305)
13 Consciousness (pg. 307)
13.1 John Searle, “Can Computers Think?” (pg. 307)
13.2 Dan Dennett, “Consciousness Imagined” (pg. 311)
13.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 314)
13.4 Reading Questions (pg. 316)
V Free Will and Determinism (pg. 317)
14 Hard Determinism (pg. 323)
14.1 Baron d’Holbach, “Of the System of Man’s Free Agency” (pg. 323)
14.2 Galen Strawson, “The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility” (pg. 328)
14.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 333)
14.4 Reading Questions (pg. 336)
15 Compatibilism (pg. 337)
15.1 David Hume, “Of Liberty and Necessity” (pg. 337)
15.2 W. T. Stace, “The Problem of Free Will” (pg. 341)
15.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 346)
15.4 Reading Questions (pg. 348)
16 Libertarianism (pg. 349)
16.1 Roderick M. Chisholm, “Human Freedom and the Self” (pg. 349)
16.2 Peter van Inwagen, “The Powers of Rational Beings: Freedom of the Will” (pg. 354)
16.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 360)
16.4 Reading Questions (pg. 363)
VI Ethics (pg. 365)
17 Meta-ethics: Divine Command Theory (pg. 373)
17.1 Plato, Euthyphro (pg. 373)
17.2 James Rachels, “Does Morality Depend on Religion?” (pg. 379)
17.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 385)
17.4 Reading Questions (pg. 388)
18 Meta-ethics: Relativism (pg. 389)
18.1 Ruth Benedict, “Anthropology and the Abnormal” (pg. 389)
18.2 James Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” (pg. 393)
18.3 In-Class Exercises (pg. 397)
18.4 Reading Questions (pg. 399)
19 Normative Ethics: Virtue Ethics, Egoism, and Contractarianism (pg. 401)
19.1 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (pg. 401)
19.2 James Rachels, “Egoism and Moral Skepticism” (pg. 405)
19.3 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (pg. 412)
19.4 In-Class Exercises (pg. 418)
19.5 Reading Questions (pg. 428)
20 Normative Ethics: Utilitarianism and Deontological Ethics (pg. 429)
20.1 Jeremy Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (pg. 429)
20.2 John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (pg. 435)
20.3 Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (pg. 440)
20.4 In-Class Exercises (pg. 445)
20.5 Reading Questions (pg. 448)
Notes (pg. 451)
Index (pg. 457)

Maralee Harrell

Maralee Harrell is Teaching Professor of Philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Go paperless today! Available online anytime, nothing to download or install.


  • Highlighting
  • Note-taking