Effective use of dependent premises Dependent premises providing one reason

A reason for a conclusion is very unlikely to consist in a single claim. No matter how we might state it in short-hand, it is, analytically, a complex interaction of many ideas and implications. The reason must be broken down into a chain of more precise premises. For example, the claim that 'university education should be free for all Australians' might be supported by the reason that 'the economy benefits from a well-educated Australian population'. But is our analysis of the situation clearly expressed in just one statement? Hardly. The conclusion is about universities and free education, while the reason introduces some new ideas: economic benefit and a well-educated population. While the link between these two ideas and the conclusion might seem obvious, the purpose of reasoning is to avoid assuming the 'obvious' by carefully working through the connections between the various ideas in the initial statement of our reason.

Here is how we might do it:

1. University education should be free for all Australians.

2. A well-educated population is more productive at work.

3. Higher productivity at work benefits the economy.

4. If something benefits the economy, then the government should encourage it.

5. The best way for the government to encourage Australians to be well educated is to provide free university education.

6. In our complex technological society, one requires university study in order to be well educated.

Now turning one reason—'the economy benefits from a well-educated Australian population'—into five separate premises does not provide any additional, different reasons. Rather, we have 'unpacked' some of the hidden aspects and implications of one reason and shown how they relate to one another.1 For example, in the initial reason 'well-educated' is not defined. There are many different opinions on what constitutes such an education, and claim 6, a definition,

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