Relevance What is relevance

Here is a simple example of relevance and irrelevance concerning the conclusion 'Smith is physically unhealthy':

a. Smith has pains in his chest; he coughs a lot and is short of breath walking up stairs. Clearly Smith is physically unhealthy.

b. Smith wears green trousers and a pink hat and has no shirt on. Clearly Smith is physically unhealthy.

In argument a, the relevance of the premises is clear: they all report physical symptoms that are routinely recognised as evidence of poor health. In the second case, these premises are irrelevant because they give us no indication of physical health. Note that it is impossible to determine the relevance of the premises by themselves: we must look at their relationship to the conclusion. Argument b contains a number of irrelevant premises, but if the conclusion were 'Smith has no

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