Critical Thinking

In this work, you will make two contrasting normative arguments about what one ought to do. Both arguments will be about the same topic; thus, at least one of the arguments will contradict your personal opinion. You will compose the arguments in standard form, as a series of statements that end with your conclusion. Do not write your arguments as an ess

Step 1: Choose a Topic

Choose one topic from the following list:

Should people eat meat?
Should marijuana be legal?
Should pet cats be kept indoors?
Should zoos exist?
Should customers leave a tip in a coffee shop?
Should seat belt wearing be mandatory?
Should children be required to take gym/physical education?
Should public roads be used for private car parking?
Step 2. Develop Logically Contradictory Normative Conclusions

Develop two logically contradictory normative conclusions on this topic. You do not need to agree with both (or either!) conclusions, but you should be able to logically support both of them.

The conclusions need not be phrased exactly the same as they are phrased in the topic list, but they do need to be logically contradictory to one another.


If you selected the topic “Should people eat meat?”, your conclusions might be:

People should not eat meat.
People should eat meat.
But it would also be acceptable to choose:

People should reduce their meat consumption.
People need not reduce their meat consumption.
Another option could be:

It is morally permissible to eat fish.
It is not morally permissible to eat fish.
Note that you need not indicate which conclusion you actually agree with. An omnivore might write an excellent logical argument for veganism, or vice versa!

Step 3: Write Normative Argument for First Conclusion

Choose your first conclusion and write a normative argument in standard form to reach that conclusion. This requires knowledge of the standard form of logical arguments, which you can find in 2.1.1 What Is an Argument?, and understanding of normative arguments, which you can find in 2.1.2 Identifying Arguments and Statements. Because normative arguments rely on standards of human behavior, you should also review 4.3.3 Moral Frameworks. The directions in the template will give you further instructions.

Step 4: Write Normative Argument for Second Conclusion

Repeat Step 3 for your second conclusion.

Here is an example of two arguments with normative conclusions taking contrary points of view. The normative premises are marked with an asterisk. This serves as an example of what arguments look like in standard form. This topic may not be used for your own Touchstone.

Americans are granted the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as a foundational principle of its founding documents.
Among these rights are bodily autonomy and personal decisions about family planning.*
Forcing a parent to go through an unwanted pregnancy and childbirth violates these principles by taking away their basic right to liberty and long-term pursuit of happiness.*
Forcing a parent to go through an unwanted pregnancy and childbirth also frequently presents a threat to the life of the birth parent.
There is no constitutional or scientific reason to confer personhood on a fetus.
Any opinion on the personhood of fetuses is thus not based on law or science, but a personal moral or religious choice.
The Constitution (Amendment 1) establishes the freedom of religion.
Therefore, any law derived from a religious stance is unconstitutional (from 5-7).
Therefore, pregnant people have the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason (from 1-4, 8).
It is wrong to kill a human being without justification such as self-defense.*
An unplanned pregnancy may be inconvenient, but only in rare cases does it present a threat to a person’s life.
In no other cases besides abortion do we make it legal to murder people who inconvenience us.
Born children are also inconvenient, but it is not legal for parents to kill them.
In no other cases besides abortion do we make it legal to murder the born children of rape or incest.
A fetus is a viable human being at 24 weeks.
Therefore, except in cases where the pregnancy presents a threat to the birth parent’s life, abortion should be illegal after 24 weeks.
Step 5: Reflection

Answer the reflection questions about your reasoning behind the arguments you wrote. One question asks to identify a deductive rule of inference or an inductive practice used in your arguments. You can find these in 3.3.2 Valid Rules of Inference From Conditional Statements, 3.3.3 Valid Rules of Inference From Conjunction and Disjunction, and the 4.1.4 Inference to the Best Explanation, or other inductive practices discussed throughout unit 4.

Refer to the checklist below throughout the Touchstone process. Do not submit your Touchstone until it meets these guidelines.

1. Argument Preparation
❒ Is each argument in standard form, not paragraph form?
❒ Do your two arguments have logically contradictory conclusions?
❒ Is each argument at least seven declarative sentences, ending in a conclusion?
❒ Does each argument have a normative conclusion (saying what people ought to do)?
❒ Is there at least one normative premise that supports each conclusion?
2. Annotating Your Argument
❒ Did you place an asterisk (*) on the normative premise(s) that support your conclusion?
❒ Did you underline any subconclusions in your argument?
❒ Are there sources for any assertions that are fact-based and not well known/accepted?
3. Reflection Questions
❒ Did you answer all five of the reflection questions satisfactorily?
❒ Do your answers meet the length requirement and fully answer the question?