Intellectual integrity and the soundness of arguments

I will define intellectual integrity (or at least a large portion of it) to be when one endeavors to always make sound arguments to the best of their ability. Importantly, that involves changing your mind when your arguments lose their soundness. That requires a little unpacking.

An argument can be scored on two criteria: Truth and validity. These relate to the premises and the logic used to construct lemmas and conclusions from those premises, respectively. Namely,

    • An argument’s premises can be either true or false; are they fact- and science-based or otherwise? We’ll have true here mean it is in accordance with the best evidence currently available.
    • The logic used to derive the conclusions from the premises can be either valid or invalid; are any logical fallacies committed in the argument? The steps from premises to conclusion must be rigorous and self-consistent in order to be valid.
    • When an argument is both true and valid, it is called sound. Otherwise, it is unsound.

You might say we practice science in order to know what is true, and skepticism in order to know what is valid.  With those two pillars we have a chance at making sound arguments, and thus they are the pillars of intellectual integrity.

(The primary sources for this micro-essay can be found here and here).

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