Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Evidence-Based Care for the Elderly"

Samuel K. Williams and Joanne M. Braxton and Melissa Gosdin and Nathan Nobis et. al. "Evidence-Based Care for the Elderly: Uses of “the Grandmother Principle”." Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 28, no. 1 (2017): 1-7.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

How to Have a Philosophical Discussion

Someone recently asked me how to have philosophical conversations or discussions. Here are some quick guidelines, focusing on philosophical discussions about moral issues:

1. Topic?

You need to clearly identify a topic or issue. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes people "dance around" a topic -- raising related issues about a topic -- before getting an exact topic.

2. Conclusions?

You need to identify a conclusion(s) about the topic. Sometimes you need to think about what various words in those conclusions mean: ask, "What do you mean?"

3. Premises? 

You need to identify a premise(s) or reason(s) given in favor of that conclusion. For many moral issues, at least one premise is often an empirical or scientific claim, and at least one premise is a moral principle, that is, a claim about when an action is wrong or not. Sometimes you need to think about what various words in those premises mean: ask, "What do you mean?"

4. Unstated Premises? 

You need to identify an unstated premise(s) or reason(s) given in favor of that conclusion: these are part of the argument, but are sometimes not yet stated. (However, sometimes they are!) These premises need to be identified so the full argument is stated. Doing this is often called stating the argument in logically valid form. This handout and this video give guidance on doing that:



5. Soundness?

Once the full pattern of reasoning is stated, i.e., it is in logically valid form, you need to evaluate the argument as sound or not: are the premises true or false, supported by good evidence or not? If at least one premise is false, then the argument is sound and does not provide a good reason to accept the conclusion. You need to check the facts to see if any factual claims are true, and try to identify any strong counterexamples to any moral principles.

This process can and should be repeated with any and all premises given in favor of a conclusion, and for different conclusions and the premises given in their favor. You must focus on one and only one argument at a time.

Details forthcoming!