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conventional sense of good dress', then, clearly, the claims about his hat, trousers, and bare chest would be relevant. What determines the easy judgment that a is a good argument and b is a bad argument is the implied premise 'physical symptoms are relevant evidence from which to induce a conclusion about physical health'. Indeed it is so obvious—in our society, but perhaps not others—that we would be thought odd if we actually explicitly stated that premise.

Relevance is often a major problem in argumentation. Poor arguments regularly report the 'facts' well, and try to draw conclusions from them but do not establish the relevance of the premises given to the conclusion asserted. Poor skills in reasoning, especially not identifying one's assumptions, are one cause. As we considered in chapter 4 one of the functions of premises is, precisely, to establish relevance—not something which all people who use reasoning realise. However it is not just a problem of technique. Often the debates in our society that are most difficult to resolve concern disagreements about whether or not a premise is relevant to a given conclusion. Consider the treatment of people who arrive as refugees in Australia directly, rather than by official routes (so-called 'illegal immigrants'). Politicians who support detention of these people argue that international laws concerning the proper treatment of refugees are not relevant to this class of immigrants because they have arrived illegally. Opponents of detention counter by saying the international laws are relevant. On both sides, there is agreement that there are such laws, and that they do prohibit detention; there is also agreement that people are arriving in this manner. What differs is the judgment as to whether or not the refugees are arriving legally or illegally and, in consequence, whether human rights conventions are or are not relevant.

Issues of relevance are rarely as obvious as the example about Smith and his health that I used at the start of this section. Smart thinking always involves very careful consideration of relevance as distinct from whether or not premises are well founded. To emphasise, relevance of premises is completely different from the acceptability of premises. A claim can be true (and thus acceptable), but this quality alone does not necessarily mean it is relevant to the conclusion. For example, it is definitely the case that, as you read these words, the claim 'You are reading this book' is true and acceptable. But is it relevant to the conclusion 'You are going to cook fish for dinner tonight'? No! Hence, in making our arguments and explanations effective, we should not be satisfied simply that our premises are acceptable in themselves: for them to give any support to the conclusion, they must also be relevant to it. So, put simply, a premise is relevant to the conclusion when it provides some basis on which to decide whether or not to accept that conclusion.

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