Exercise

Context basically involves both audiences and knowledge. In a sense, we know and think about audiences in terms of what they know and what they expect us to know. We know that reasoning is about linking claims together in various ways. We will do this in our own reasoning, but when our audience hears or reads it, they will themselves immediately 'connect' what we have presented to their existing knowledge. If they know something that we have not included and make connections that run counter to our general argument, then we will fail to convince them. If, at the moment, you are studying or working and must regularly produce reasoning in some form, reflect on any stated, explicit requirements that you must meet in this presentation. Try to determine what underlying assumptions about reasoning these requirements express. (See also chapters 8 and 9.)

mainp - softvnn.com a The scope and certainty involved make it a strong conclusion. However, the particular burden of proof involved in proving this conclusion would be affected by the audience and by its existing commitments to, and understanding of, the claim. Serving military officers, for whom national service involves considerable disruption to their preferred volunteer armed forces, would need more convincing than, say, a conservative group of older veterans b Words like 'one option and 'some' limit the scope considerably and make it a mild conclusion. Yet the burden of proof involved in proving this claim to a group of peace activists, for whom military service would never be an appro-

c This is tricky because the claim is stated with certainty but is of fairly limited scope (not advocating service, but an inquiry). Moreover, the word 'possibility' suggests that the inquiry may not conclude that military service should be introduced. It is strong, but only in the precise context of the establishment of an inquiry. Note that, from the perspective of someone who has already made up their mind that national service should be introduced, a commitment to establishing an inquiry will seem like an opposing conclusion, especially in a context in which it is often assumed that the purpose of inquiries is simply to postpone indefinitely difficult decisions

Here are five examples, one of each type. In each case, claim 1 is the conclusion, and the other claims are all dependent premises in one group.

1 Cigarette smoking is the most significant cause of lung cancer.

2 Almost all people with lung cancer have been exposed to cigarette smoke.

3 Few lung cancer sufferers show any evidence that other causes are responsible

Notice how the two premises establish the common element (smoking) and

3 Very few lung cancer patients survive their disease for more than a year.

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