Systematic Philosophy

to know what can be known

What Is A Final Conclusion?

In order to understand what an argument is, you need to know what a final conclusion is. Luckily, the definition of “final conclusion” is extremely simple.

What a final conclusion is

The “final conclusion” of an argument is simply a proposition in that argument that has been selected to be called “the final conclusion”. That’s it.

Of course, in order for something to be an argument, it must represent its final conclusion as being entailed by one or more of the propositions in the argument. This means that you cannot simply select any step in an argument to be the final conclusion. You have to select one of the conclusions of that argument.

What about the last proposition?

We have defined the term “final conclusion” one way. Some people prefer to define it another way. In particular, some people prefer to arrange the steps of an argument in a sequence on the basis of which are supposed to entail which, and then define “final conclusion” as “the last proposition in the sequence”.

Obviously, people can define terms however they would like. So anyone is free to use the term “final conclusion” as just described. In fact, using the term “final conclusion” in this way is perfectly fine for most arguments. The reason we do not use this definition of “final conclusion” is as follows. Our definition of “argument” requires that every argument has a final conclusion. But not every argument can be arranged into a sequence with a last proposition if the steps are arranged on the basis of which are supposed to entail which. Consider circular arguments. Arrange the propositions on the basis of represented entailments. The result will be a circle, not a sequence with a last proposition. If we define “final conclusion” in terms of the last proposition in the sequence, we would have to say that circular arguments had no final conclusion.

Of course, there is a simple solution to this problem. In the case of circular arguments, we might just require that one of the propositions be designated as “the final conclusion”. But if we are going to require this of some arguments, it will be simpler to require it for all arguments. This brings us back to our definition, which is that the “final conclusion” of an argument is simply a proposition in the argument that has been selected to be called “the final conclusion”.

No last proposition? Problem solved.

No need for a selector

We said that the final conclusion of an argument is whatever proposition has been “selected” to be called “the final conclusion”. One might wonder: selected by whom? Do we need to posit a selector for each argument? Our answer is no, we do not need to posit selectors. Instead, we should simply conceive of arguments as having their final conclusions built into them. If you take an argument and try to designate a new proposition in that argument as its new final conclusion, you’ve really just changed which argument you’re talking about.

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Written by Geoff Anders

May 29, 2011 at 12:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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