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Used loosely, this term describes the information that supports or explains a particular conclusion. As used in this book, a 'reason' is an initial statement of why a particular conclusion is acceptable—a reason that must then be 'unpacked' or expanded into a chain of premises in order to give appropriate depth to our reasoning. (See chapter 4.)


A short-hand term for the idea that knowledge is not to be judged 'true or false' by comparing it to the real world, but instead by reference to the humans who hold that knowledge. Extreme relativism, in which 'everyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's opinion' (subjective knowledge), is the opposite of the anti-relativist position of objective knowledge. In neither case is the social aspect of reasoning properly thought through. Smart thinking is primarily concerned with social relativism, in which knowledge is constructed intersubjectively. Compare with intersubjective and knowledge. (See chapter 9; see also chapter 1.)


Premises are relevant to a conclusion if they provide some basis on which to accept that conclusion. We can say that, if true, a relevant premise makes the conclusion more likely. Relevance is involved in reasoning in many ways. For example, appeals to authority require the use of relevant authorities; reasoning from analogy requires that comparisons be made between relevantly similar cases; reasoning from generalisation requires that the relevance of the generalisation to the specific case be established. Crucially, a framing premise is often used explicitly to establish just how premises relate to a conclusion. (See chapter 6.)

The extent or coverage of a claim; an important property in terms of writing well-formed claims and assessing the degree of support necessary for a particular conclusion. A conclusion and its premises are said to be 'coherent' in scope when there is little variation in the way that the claims report the extent of their information. The scope component of a claim is often implicit but, in good reasoning, should be stated explicitly. Compare with certainty. (See chapter 2.)

self-evident claim

A self-evident claim is one that, relative to the audience and context in which it is presented, requires no foundation or, literally, is so obviously acceptable that it provides its own evidence of acceptability. What is self-evident for one group or individual, or in one context, may not be self-evident in other situations. Compare with well-founded claim. (See chapter 5.)

simple structure

An argument or explanation is said to be simple when it involves only two layers of claims: the premises and the conclusion. No matter how many premises are offered, scope

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