b. Now, first of all, privatisation leads to competition and, when there is competition, prices go down and service improves. People want reduced prices and improved service in the postal system and so the government c. Several politicians have been discovered to have lied in public; many rarely seem to have much knowledge of what their voters want; and generally, politicians get too many benefits. Hence we should not trust
But what if the connection between a premise and a conclusion is not obvious? A crucial smart-thinking skill is the ability to think through how evidence relates to a conclusion, and how apparently irrelevant material does indeed help to prove or establish a conclusion. Making sure premises are relevant to a conclusion requires careful analysis of the possible connections between them. As noted above, the key question is whether or not the premises are concerned with the same issue as the conclusion and, hence, whether they are capable of telling us something about it. A way to check this relationship is to ask, in the case of arguments, 'if this premise were true, would it make the conclusion more likely to be true' or, for explanations, 'if this premise were true, would it make it easier to understand why the events stated in the conclusion happened'. Equally, we must think about the way in which our knowledge of other events and ideas might help us to see the relevance of one particular claim in establishing another and thus prevent us from 'missing' an important relevant premise.
Presenting relevant premises is also about making it clear that they are relevant. In other words, use a claim, as part of a linked chain of premises, to show the relevance of the premises to the conclusion. An effective argument or explanation not only reflects careful thinking, but also clearly demonstrates it, so others can follow your reasoning. Here is an example of how to establish relevance:
2. Australian university graduates report that their lecturers are, gener-
3. All universities now have quality-assurance programs to maintain
4. Australia's universities attract many overseas students to them.
Claim 3 mentions the words university' and 'quality' and is demonstrably relevant through this word-similarity with claim 1. Claim 2, while possibly relevant (it certainly mentions some evidence—good communication by university teachers— that we might assume to be relevant), depends on exactly what the conclusion is trying to say. Claim 1, the conclusion, is not well formed. It is vague since it does not make clear whether it is claiming that all aspects of universities are of a high quality or whether (as hinted at by the premises) it is merely the teaching function of universities that is of a high quality (leaving aside, for example, research work).
So the first mistake here is that the conclusion's vagueness makes it unclear whether the premises are relevant. Claim 4 exhibits another problem with relevance. It may, for example, be that overseas students come to Australia because studying here is cheap, or because they like the climate in Australia. Claim 4 becomes a relevant premise only if the reason for the students' preference for Australia is based on the quality of the universities. So the second mistake is that another premise ought to have been added to make clear how claim 4 is relevant to claim 1. We might say that, while claim 3 is self-evidently relevant (it provides, in the word 'quality', its own evidence of how it bears on the conclusion), claim 4 is not self-evidently relevant and therefore
For each of the following claims, write three claims that, in your view, are relevant to showing either why they are true or why they are false (depending on whether b. Protecting the environment is more important than economic development.
c. Australia's unique cultural identity is being overwhelmed by imported
A framing premise, discussed in chapter 4, is one that in many cases functions to make other premises (in the same chain) relevant to a conclusion—to provide the extra information that, when combined with other claims, shows how they relate to the conclusion. Let us look again at the argument about quality universities. The relevance of claim 4 to claim 1 was not clear. However, if we added another claim to it, 'Overseas students generally seek to study at high-quality universities' (claim 5), then the relevance to claim 1 of this specific piece of evidence would be clearer. We should remember that claims initially connect two component parts. In this case, claim 1 connects universities and quality; claim 4, on the surface, relates universities with another issue—overseas students. This problem can be overcome only if the third claim, claim 5, links together overseas students with quality.
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