For the Sake of Argument


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Table of Contents

Part 0: Introduction

Part 1: Truth

  • Why Truth?
  • Bullshit
  • Beliefs of No Consequence
  • Okay But Remembers We’re Talking about Philosophy
  • Consequences?

Part 2: The Right Way to Argue

  • And the Wrong Way to Argue
  • A Social Activity
  • Respect and Open Questions
  • What Not to Imitate
  • Common(s) Ad Hominem Fallacies

Part 3: Writing Philosophy

  • Why
  • How

Part 4: Good and Bad Writing

  • Clarity
  • The Disvalue of the Obscure
  • Jargon
  • Examples
  • Greening
  • Awful Language
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Part 5: How Arguments Work

  • The Basic Structures
  • Deduction
  • Induction

Part 6: “That’s Like Arguing”

  • Critiquing Other Kinds of Arguments

Part 7: Where You Get True Premises: The Obvious

  • True/Justified Premises
  • The Paradox of Justification
  • Maybe Needs No Justification: The Self-Evident
  • Maybe Needs No Justification: Common Sense
  • Maybe Needs No Justification: Evidence of Your Senses

Part 8: Where You Get True Premises: Authorities

  • Maybe Needs No Justification: What Authorities Say
  • Authority and Truth
  • Citing Philosophers
  • Citing Other Works

Part 9: Where You Get True Premises: Analysis

  • Justifying and Refuting Analyses
  • A Priori
  • Questions about Analysis
  • The Practicality of Argumentation

Part 10: The Thought Experiment

  • Imaginary Experiments
  • Philosophical Thought Experiments

Part 11: Inference to the Best Explanation

  • The Best Explanation
  • Theory
  • Other Criteria for a Good Explanation
  • Philosophical Inferences to the Best Theoretical Explanation: Some Examples

Part 12: Afterword

Appendix 1: Some Very Brief Suggestions about Further Reading

Appendix 2: Forms for Footnotes and Bibliography

Appendix 3: Glossary

About the Author

Robert M. Martin is Professor of Philosophy (retired) at Dalhousie University and author of numerous philosophy books, including Philosophical Conversations and the best-seller There Are Two Errors in the the Title of This Book.


“A unique and wonderful book! Wise and witty in equal measure, it makes the process of thinking and arguing about the fundamental philosophical issues come alive in a way that I have never seen before. Written in a relaxed, informal style and peppered with references to contemporary culture, it will be enjoyed by anyone interested in developing their skills in thinking clearly about the perennial issues of the human condition.” — Paul Boghossian, New York University“Displaying his characteristic informality, wit, charm, good humor, and irreverence, Martin offers insights and provocative suggestions that help improve philosophy students’ ability to think, write, and argue philosophically. They also remind us how to enjoy doing philosophy.” — Mason Cash, University of Central Florida“A practical guide for producing philosophical truth: a how-to manual for clear and effective argumentation, with advice on how and why to avoid the dogma, obscurity, and pretension that often becloud the discipline. Informal, friendly, personal, opinionated, engaging, and funny, this book belongs on the shelf of every philosophy student.” — Sheldon Wein, Saint Mary’s University

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