Digital thinking tools for better decision making
Digital thinking tools for better decision making

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Digital thinking tools for better decision making

4.3 Grouped versus independent claims

If you find several statements that support (or oppose) the claim at the previous level, you will need to decide whether these claims provide support independently of each other, or only when taken together as a group. You will then need to update your argument map accordingly. For instance, Figure 13 shows a map with a group of opposing claims and another group of supporting claims.

A map with a group of supporting claims and another group of opposing claims
Figure 13 A map with a group of supporting claims and another group of opposing claims

Now look at a concrete example. Consider the claim that Socrates had a beard. You could support this claim using the following two further claims:

  • Socrates was an adult Greek male in 4th-century Athens.
  • In 4th-century Athens, shaving was uncommon and most adult Greek males wore a beard.

These claims need to be grouped, as in Figure 14.

Two grouped claims supporting that Socrates had a beard
Figure 14 Two grouped claims supporting that Socrates had a beard

The two claims support the main claim that Socrates had a beard, only when taken together as a group. If either of the supporting claims turns out to be false, the main claim is no longer supported.

For instance, suppose it is true that in 4th-century Athens, shaving was uncommon and most adult Greek males wore a beard. Also assume that it is false that Socrates was an adult Greek male in 4th-century Athens. In that case, the claim that Socrates had a beard is no longer supported. For this claim to be supported, both supporting claims need to be true.

In contrast, independent claims stand on their own. Their force is not dependent on other claims. Figure 15 shows several independent opposing and supporting claims for a main claim.

A map with independent opposing and supporting claims at level 1
Figure 15 A map with independent opposing and supporting claims at level 1

Returning to Socrates, further evidence that he had facial hair could be that busts of Socrates show him with a beard (Figure 16). Unlike the two grouped claims, this supporting claim stands on its own.

A bust of Socrates (c. 470–399 BC)
Figure 16 A bust of Socrates (c. 470–399 BC)

You can add this further supporting claim to obtain the argument map in Figure 17.

Two grouped and one independent claim supporting the claim that Socrates had a beard
Figure 17 Two grouped and one independent claim supporting the claim that Socrates had a beard

You have ended up with map containing a mixture of an independent and two grouped claims, all of which support the main claim that Socrates had a beard.

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