Definition of Support

Let's now turn to a real example of a set of claims that I want you to think about in light of these new terms we just learned: argument, premise, conclusion, and support.

Do these claims comprise an argument?

Not every mammal is suitable to keep as a pet. After all, tigers are very aggressive and can cause serious injuries to people.

How do you answer this question? Well, by appeal to its definition. An argument, remember, consists of a premise, which is a claim that supports some other claim, which we call a conclusion.

Let's apply this definition. Do you spot any claims or statements which support some other claim or statement?

Hmmm, now some of you might be thinking, wait, what does it mean to support?

I mean, I understand what financially supports means. I don't suppose that's what we’re talking about. I also understand what physically supports means. Maybe I give you a boost as you're trying to climb over a fence. Again, that's probably not what we're talking about. You’re right. We're not talking about that either.

Definition of support

Support means increases likelihood of truth. If one claim supports another claim, that means that, given that the first claim is true, the second claim is more likely to be true. So evidence, for example, is a type of support. If the fingerprint on the murder weapon matches that of the defendant, then the prosecution’s conclusion that the defendant is guilty is more likely to be true.

Okay, so now we've bottomed out in this game of defining terms with other terms. We started with the term "argument." And in defining this term, I introduced two other terms, "premise" and "conclusion," which then I defined in terms of this word, "support," which now I'm defining in these terms of "increasing likelihood of truth."

We’ve hit bedrock.

You could ask, hey, what does it mean to increase? Or wait, what is likelihood, and while I’m at it, what is truth anyway? Does anyone really know what is and isn’t true? I mean, aren’t we all inescapably trapped within our own solipsistic prisons of subjective sense perception?

I’m simply going to presume that you know what those words mean because otherwise this game never ends.

See full diagram.


Support means to increase the likelihood of truth. Imagine a world where the supporting claim is true. In that world, the supported claim is more likely to be true than in a world where the supporting claim is false. An argument is a set of claims where at least one claim (premise) supports another claim (conclusion).

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