[lit-ideas] Re: Ideology vs Experience

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 19:46:06 -0700

Lawrence writes:

I believe "anecdotal argument" is a common term nowadays. Yeah it means
taking some anecdotal incidents and saying "therefore" and drawing a
conclusion.  A google search indicates wide usage.

Yes, it does. But the name seems misconceived. If this is a special kind of argument, then there ought to be 'expert arguments' (arguments based on evidence provided by those who know what they're talking about), etc. Surely, what one might find defective in an 'anecdotal argument' is that the soundness of the argument--which depends on its premises being true--is questionable.

What my brother sees exists.
My brother saw a Sasquatch.
Therefore, Sasquatches exist,

is a perfectly valid argument. But its anecdotal premises make it disreputable.
As for inductive arguments, no number of premises--in this case a list of
facts--justifies concluding that some general claim (what follows the
'therefore' after the last premise) is true. Highly likely, perhaps, but

Robert Paul
The Reed Institute

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