Legal skills and debates in Scotland
Legal skills and debates in Scotland

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1.3  Analysing the argument

When you evaluate, for example, academic materials, policy underlying legislation, court judgments, you should aim to understand and form a judgement on the validity of the arguments that are presented. You can do this by looking at the coherence of the argument, the supporting evidence and the conclusion reached.

Activity 2 Analysing arguments

Timing: (Allow 5 minutes)

Look at the following statements and consider whether they conform to the definition of an argument provided in Section 1.1. What do you think of the validity of the arguments?

  • a.‘The earth is round, as is demonstrated by the boat disappearing over the horizon.’
  • b.‘The explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 proves that all nuclear power stations are dangerous and should be closed down.’
  • c.‘The common law system based on judgments in real cases provides both a detailed and pragmatic system that cannot be matched by the more theoretical codes of the civil law system.’
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Comment

  • a.This statement argues that the earth is round and provides logical evidence for that claim; namely, it explains why the boat disappears over the horizon. This is now a verifiable fact rather than an argument.
  • b.This statement is an argument in the sense that its premise is that nuclear power stations are dangerous. The statement provides evidence for this by referring to the explosion in 1986 of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The conclusion that all nuclear power stations should be closed down has been made by making the assumption that the explosion at Chernobyl proves that all nuclear power stations are dangerous. The accuracy of this assumption would need to be explored.
  • c.In this statement the premise is that the common law system is more detailed and pragmatic than the civil law system. Limited evidence to back up this premise is provided – namely, that the common law system is based on judgments in real cases rather than being based on theoretical principles.

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