Justifying all aspects of the conclusion

As we know, claims are complex statements that tie together all sorts of information about ideas, scope, certainty, values, and so on. As a result, any reasoning to support or explain a claim (the conclusion) must attend to each aspect of that claim. For example, if we wanted to explain why 'Most people do not understand that late capitalism will never sustain unemployment levels lower than 5 per cent', then there are many aspects of the claim that need explanation. At the very least, our premises would need to answer the following questions:

• Why 'Most people' (and not some or all or none)?

• Why do they not understand this point?

• What is late capitalism?

• Why will late capitalism not sustain low unemployment?

• Why 'lower than 5 per cent' (and not a smaller or larger proportion)?

• What is unemployment (does it include, for example, partial employment)?

Part of the trick in reasoning effectively is to frame our conclusions in such a way that we can justify all of what they state explicitly. There is no point, for example, in concluding that 'capitalism has never caused social problems'. Even if we wish to argue that capitalism is better than any other economic system, it is better to assert the conclusion in a way that does acknowledge its problems, while still making an argument that it has some advantages. On the other hand, we should not be afraid to state our conclusions (if we believe in them) and then go to the effort of covering all the many aspects involved. For example, the Australian historians, such as Reynolds, who dramatically improved our understanding of Aboriginal-European relations did not back away from their conclusion that Aboriginal people actively and persistently resisted European invasion simply because it was hard to prove. They did the detailed research necessary to establish this conclusion.

Justifying all aspects of the conclusion is particularly necessary when the conclusion contains some value component. The premises must provide support both for the descriptive basis of the claim and for the value judgment that it makes

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