1. Compile links to all known examples of such questions.
2. Offer an analysis in paragraph or bullet form about what you think the questions have in common.

They want to know if an argument they heard is “valid”, i.e. correct, sound, justified, irrefutable, certain, etc.

3. Suggest an “abstract question form” which stands as the representative of the class of questions.

”Is X valid?”

4. Discuss why you think the abstract question form does or does not effectively summarize the suggested class of questions.

In general, I find the above listed synonyms close enough in meaning that I don’t have any issue currently with lumping them all together under the term “valid”. I suppose “valid” has been nominated by me as the representative term for the class of questions since perhaps it’s one that I see most often; or otherwise, it’s just intuition that tells me it’s a good generalized term for this use case.

5. Analyze in paragraph or bullet form what you think the recurrent issues with the RQT are, and why.

I don’t have any issue with this class of questions yet, I just wanted to identify it as an RQT. Of course, one could analyze if “Is X valid?” does not meet certain question characteristics meant to be universal on SE, such as answerability. In that case, I might say, it should not be required of the OP to mention any specific theoretical framework which would or would not consider the argument sound, but it could be requested of the answerers that they attempt to do so. That could be a small change with big effects, but I’m not sure.

6. Ideally, cite specific Stack Exchange policies or other meta posts discussing specific criteria the question doesn’t meet, such as being “opinion based”.

The main concerns I have are,

  • if the question title is “Is this valid?”, the title doesn’t inform as to the content of the question. Maybe that’s ok, or maybe we should try to make sure the title says, “Is this argument about X valid?”, or, “Is this argument that claims Y valid?”.
  • and, answerability / being opinion-based / etc. (SE:ANS; SE:OP; SE:VER; SE:ACC could be short-codes for “answerability”, “opinion-based”, “verifiable” (this idea coming from Wikipedia’s guidelines / abbreviations), and “accurate”).

For example (for the second point), if we have faith in the community’s voting judgment, then it might be sufficient to trust that poor-quality answers will be downvoted, without requiring any analysis as to why certain answers should be. On the other hand, if an explicit formulation could be helpful to anybody, such as a newcomer, here is where we could do some new, productive work on trying to define “answerability” and to what extent an answer is a good answer. Even if formulated in language which itself requires further analysis and definition, it could be a start. For example: “Your argument for why the argument is valid or invalid should be clear. It should be complete, in that it states its premises and how it draws each inference from them. (Etc.)”

7. Offer suggested “guidelines” for such question types.

None so far, just wanted to open up a conversation.

  • 1
    Valid has a technical meaning, which is that it is correctly making use of inference rules. An argument can be valid, yet have a conclusion that is false, because at least one premise was wrong. If the argument uses correct premises it is also sound.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Mar 25 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


This one:

Premise 1: All the humans can fly

Premise 2: I am a human

Conclusion: Therefore, I can fly

Had a correct conclusion from the premises, but premise 1 was no good. Of course premises are never proven. They're just unsupported claims, where if you DO accept them, you have to accept logical arguments that follow.

This one:

Premise 1: No one under 18 is permitted to vote.

Premise 2: No faculty member is under 18.

Premise 3: The philosophy chairperson is a faculty member.

Conclusion: The philosophy chairperson is permitted to vote.

Is not valid because we are not given an additional premise that everyone over 18 is permitted to vote. If you draw a Venn Diagram, it helps to see. The only thing guaranteed to overlap in the diagram is the chairperson is a subset of the faculty set. If everyone over 18 was permitted to vote, then the permitted to vote set would contain the over 18 set, and that would contain the faculty set, and then the chairperson.

  • 1
    The first argument is valid but not sound.
    – Philip Klöcking Mod
    Mar 25 at 12:50

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