I'm looking for a way of diagramming the component parts of ideas and arguments, and their relationships to each other, formally and visually. Does such a thing exist?
There are hints of what I'm looking for in UML
, flowcharts, Venn diagrams, and the notation of Boolean algebra and set theory, but has anyone developed something specifically for diagramming deductive argument?
It seems to me that diagramming an argument in this way would (a) force the argument toward higher standards of clarity and rigor, (b) facilitate the communication and debate of the idea, and (c) make it easier to identify (and illustrate) where fallacies exist.
Primitives would probably include individual objects, categories of objects, the relationships between categories, the properties of those objects and categories, the ways in which the objects can act on each other, the effects which follow those actions, etc.
By combining a few primitives, you could express simple ideas such as:
—"object X is a member of category Y" (e.g., "this object is a member of the category known as 'apples'")
—"object X has property Y" (e.g., "this apple is red")
—"all members of category X have property Y" (e.g., "all apples are red")
—"categories X and Y are mutually exclusive" (e.g., "no member of the category 'apples' is also a member of the category 'peaches', and vice-versa")
—"event X [necessarily|sometimes|never] follows as a consequence of event Y" (e.g. "if an apple is dropped, it will always fall to the ground")
—"if X [has property Y|belongs to category Z], then X [can never have property W|must have property V|must belong to category U|etc]"
—various opposites/negations of the above
—probably lots of other things I'm not thinking of
If the primitives (objects, categories, properties, etc.) are atoms, then these statements are molecules. And by assembling molecules, you could diagram the whole argument.
So: is there such a thing, or something like it? Does this even make sense? :)