Understanding the Links between Claims

Linking claims involves two distinct processes, as signalled by the + and I symbols used in analytical structure diagrams. The first process involves connections between premises and other premises; the second between premises and a conclusion. We must explore these links in more detail in order to understand, first, the analysis that lies behind such connections and, second, how to represent them accurately in the analytical structure format. Of course, in practice, the process of representation often allows us to clarify what we are thinking. This chapter will cover three main issues:

1 We will look at the way premises almost always work with other premises in providing a reason for a conclusion. What we think of as 'a reason' may, in the analytical structure, require many claims to express all its complexities. These claims add together to form a chain of dependent premises.

2 We will extend this discussion by exploring the way in which, within a group of premises, there can be a premise that links the rest of the premises to the conclusions, and/or a premise that states a definition, making the other premises explicable.

3 We will look at the way links are made between premises and conclusions to better understand the process of making premises support a conclusion.

Dependent premises Using a group of premises

A 'reason for a conclusion usually involves many complex ideas. It will probably require more than one premise to express all of these ideas. All such mainp - softvnn.cgm premises relating to a particular 'reason are dependent on one another and thus are shown, in the diagram, as being linked along the same line. Dependency involves one of the key qualities of claims that we looked at in chapter 2: that within a single claim there is an internal connection between two (and, occasionally, more than two) ideas.

In the following claim, the two component parts are (a) and (b):

The Internet (a) has greatly increased the amount of information readily available to researchers (b).

Imagine we are using it to argue for another claim:

The Internet (a) has increased the amount of work that researchers need to do (c).

The first claim only relates to the conclusion via a third claim:

The more information available to researchers (b), the more work they must do (c).

By adding these two claims together, the internal connection between the Internet and more information (a-b) is combined with the connection between more information and more work (b—c) to establish the conclusion's claim that the Internet leads to more work (a—c). The significance of these two premises working together is clear: most people would assume that the likely conclusion to a claim that 'The Internet has greatly increased the amount of information readily available to researchers' is that it has made their job easier, only by combining premises can we support the opposite view.

Here is another example, this time written in the analytical structure format:

1. Australia's natural environment should be protected.

2. The Australian natural environment is very beautiful.

3. Beautiful natural environments make a country a popular site for international tourism.

4. International tourism is very beneficial to a nation's economy.

5. If something is of benefit to the national economy, then it should be protected.

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If you look carefully, you will see that, individually, none of the premises support the conclusion. How, for example, does a claim about the economic benefits of tourism help us to accept that Australia's natural environment should be protected? It does not, unless it is combined with all the other premises. In adding all four premises together in this manner, there is a process of cross-linking going on, in which a connection between two ideas in one claim is extended to a third idea via another claim, and so on, through to the conclusion. This argument is giving one reason—regarding economic benefit—for protecting the Australian environment. The way this reason leads to the conclusion is too complex, however, to be handled by just one or two premises. Instead, to make sure that the relationship of economics to the environment is made clear, four premises are added together in a group.

Exercise 4.1

Write two arguments or explanations (expressed as a list of claims) that match the following generic argument structure. Choose issues about which you have some knowledge or that are important to you at the moment.

Using independent premises

There is nothing in the analytical structure as such that prevents us from using single, independent premises where each premise offers a reason for the conclusion that is independent of other premises. Here is another version of the example about the environment, but this time none of the premises are dependent on one another. Note the three arrows, one for each 'reason', in the diagram.

1. Australia's natural environment should be protected.

2. Environmental protection improves the quality of life for all Australians.

3. Protecting the natural environment will benefit the economy.

4. If Australia's natural environment is looked after, then other countries might follow our example.

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While, obviously, these three reasons are broadly concerned with the same issue, in this argument they are offered independently: no one claim needs any of the others for the argument to make sense. I could, quite legitimately, find out that claim 3 is wrong and yet still be convinced by claims 2 and 4 to accept claim 1. In a dependent chain, if one of the three claims were to 'fall out' in this way, then the entire reason expressed by that chain would be invalidated.

Now compare the previous example to the following variation on our argument, which demonstrates how to use, in one analytical structure, a combination of dependent and independent premises:

1. Australia's natural environment should be protected.

2. Protecting the natural environment will encourage tourism.

3. Increased tourism will benefit the economy.

4. Environmental protection improves the quality of life for all Australians.

5. If Australia's natural environment is looked after, then other countries might follow our example.

6. It would be very good if other countries also protected their natural environments.

Exercise 4.2

Write two arguments or explanations (expressed as a list of claims) that match the following generic argument structure. Choose issues about which you have some knowledge or that are important to you at the moment.

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The weakness of independent premises

Independent premises are easier to generate, because we can quickly think of a reason for our conclusion and then jump to expressing it as a single claim. But the resulting independent premises are not strong. They reflect either a lack of insight into the complexity of (most) problems or a failure to recognise that our audience may not be as clever as us at grasping these complexities implicitly. Indeed, there are no genuinely independent premises. What we tend to think of initially as being a single, independent premise is often two (or more) dependent claims; alternatively it may well be a single claim, but one that is dependent on another claim, which we have failed to recognise.

In the following argument, claims 2 and 3 are offered as independent premises:

1. Australia's natural environment should be protected.

2. Tourism will benefit the economy.

3. Environmental protection improves the quality of life for all Australians, which is something we all want.

However, claim 2 only supports the conclusion when it is read together with the implied (that is, unstated) premise that:

4. Protecting the natural environment will make Australia a popular tourist destination.

Claim 3 is, when we look closely, a clever way of adding together, in written form, two dependent claims:

3. Environmental protection improves the quality of life for all Australians.

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44 SMART THINKING: SKILLS FOR CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING & WRITING 5. All Australians want to improve their quality of life.

In technical terms, these extra' premises explicitly state the necessary cross-linking between the claims' internal connections. More generally, the premises make clear implied information, which in the original argument would have had to be inferred by its audience for it to make sense. In other words, adding these premises moves the information they contain from the implied context to the actual text. In practice, we can produce and use analytical structures with independent premises, but it is rare that these structures will be well thought out and careful. They are, more usually, a sign that we have not explicitly considered some further connection that should be shown in the analytical structure as a chain of dependent premises. We will return to this issue in chapter 6, where we consider how independent premises can only work effectively when their audience can readily supply the hidden, implied extra premises on which they are dependent.

Special functions of premises

In the groups of premises that we have explored in the first section of this chapter, not all premises will perform the same function. Basically, there are three functions for a premise: to make a substantive point, to provide a framework by which substantive premises can be shown to relate to the conclusion, or to define a term in such a way that premises make sense. We will now look in detail at the latter two, special functions of premises.

Premises that provide a framework

When premises combine to form one reason, they usually perform different functions: each premise provides one part of the reason, but is a different type of component. Very often, one claim in particular in a chain of dependent premises will serve a special role in supporting the conclusion. Consider the following argument:

1. Australia's education system should be properly funded by the government.

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2. Australia's education system is vital to the future well-being of the nation.

3. If something is vital to the future well-being of the nation, then it should be properly funded by the government.

The premises, claims 2 and 3, are dependent on one another. But each performs a different function as they work together to establish the conclusion. Claim 2 is about a specific item ('Australia's education system'); claim 3, in contrast, is much more general ('something vital to the future well-being of the nation').

I could change the specific focus of the argument, and yet this general claim would remain the same:

1. Australia's defence forces should be properly funded by the government.

2. Australia's defence forces are vital to the future well-being of the nation.

3. If something is vital to the future well-being of the nation, then it should be properly funded by the government.

Although the substance of the argument has changed, claim 3 remains the same. This situation prompts us to ask what task claim 3 is performing in each of these arguments. Through the cross-linking of ideas within each claim, claim 3 is showing why it is that the specific premise stated should give rise to the particular conclusion. In effect, claim 3 answers the implicit question 'why does the first premise lead me to the conclusion?'. We can call claims that function like claim 3 'framing premises.

A framing premise shows how or why a particular case or piece of evidence relates to the conclusion, usually by claiming that there is some 'general rule' guiding what to do in the sort of case raised by the other premise(s). A 'reason' will, almost always, consist of at least two premises performing two different functions. One or more premises function to give some important information or evidence that, on its own, is not necessarily related to the conclusion; another premise gives the framework that shows why the information given does indeed lead to the conclusion. The precise function of a framing premise, however, cannot be determined in isolation. It is always dependent on the way in which the other premises are trying to establish the conclusion. The relationship between a premise and another premise, then, can only be made by also thinking about the relationship between all the premises and the conclusion. Smart thinking is only possible when we recognise the frameworks on which we and others rely.

Exercise 4.3

Identify the framing premises in the following natural arguments (the conclusion is italicised, but you will need to identify the premises and think about how they relate to one another and to the conclusion). Then go back to the arguments you mainp - softvnn.com wrote in exercise 4.2: what framing premises should be added to the premises you have already written?

a. Theresa is ill today, and as a result, she is off work. I mean, if one is sick, then one should not come to work.

b. When the voters elect politicians, they are, essentially, placing their trust in those politicians. Corrupt politicians have abused the public's trust in them, and when someone abuses your trust, they should be punished. That is why corrupt politicians should be sent to jail.

c. All human life is worth protecting, and capital punishment involves taking a human life. Hence we should oppose capital punishment.

Premises that provide a definition

In a dependent chain, we sometimes need to include a premise that provides a definition. Definitions tell the audience the meaning of a particular word or phrase found in the other premises and/or conclusion. Definitions are only meaningful in concert with the other claims in the argument or explanation (the ones that actually use the term being defined by the definition). There is little value in simply giving a definition for its own sake; it must be linked in with other premises that depend on that definition. For example:

1. Australians are likely to win more Academy Awards in future.

2. 'Australians' means actors, writers, directors, and so on who have lived and worked in Australia, even if they now live overseas.

3. Australians are increasingly involved in making successful films.

4. Successful films attract the most Academy Award nominations.

Claim 2 provides the definition. It is necessary to give it in this argument because many people might imagine that 'Australians' means people actually living and working in Australia, whereas the person making this argument is simply talking about a more general category of Australians (for example, the actor Nicole Kidman or the director Bruce Beresford). Claim 2 is only meaningful as a definition because of the way it relates to the other claims.

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Definitions are often crucial in reasoning. While many words that we use are 'obvious' in their meaning, others are more complex. Sometimes we want to use words that have a 'common-sense' meaning that is different from the meaning we want to convey in our own argument or explanation (like 'claim' in chapter 2). Good definitions ensure that the other premises relying on a definition can be understood by our audiences when, without the definition, there would be a risk of the premises being misinterpreted. There are four types of definition. Here are some examples:

By 'regulate the free market' I mean:

• action taken by the government such as requiring that accounts be lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission

• something like placing a speed-limiting device on an engine to stop it going too fast

• government actions requiring businesses to perform according to policy rather than market forces

• the opposite of letting innumerable individual decisions about demand and supply determine market interactions.

The first case is a definition by example. Such definitions are useful only where the audience will understand the connection between the general definition and specific situation in the example. In the second case, the definition becomes clear via a comparison to a similar situation; these definitions are very useful where the intended audience does not know enough about the topic to be given an example but can, through an appropriate comparison, draw upon their knowledge of other topics. The third case gives an analytic definition, which uses many words to define some smaller phrase. Here the advantage is that you do not need to keep repeating the longer and more precise definition; instead you can rely on the smaller phrase. The final definition is by negation, in which a term's definition is established simply by saying what it is not.

Exercise 4.4

Use each of the four methods to provide a definition for the phrase 'studying critical thinking' in the claim 'studying critical thinking should be part of all university curricula'.

The link from premises to conclusion

In chapter 2, we identified a number of properties of claims that help us not only to determine what a claim is, but also then to write them properly. We have already seen how, in forming groups of dependent premises, what makes these groups work are the similarities and differences in the way we can form claims with these internal connections. We will in this section continue to look at this property of claims, as well as return to a consideration of questions of scope and certainty, and mainp - softvnn.com also of value judgment so as to learn better how to make a good link from premises to conclusion. In this section, I will try to model for you the process of writing an argument in the analytical structure format so that you can see how understanding the links between claims also depends on understanding what those claims are saying.

The importance of internal connections

Let's begin by thinking about the following simple claim, which we will use as our conclusion: 'Australia is a good country in which to live'. Now the reason I am asserting this conclusion is that I believe 'Countries that permit freedom of religious expression are good places to live'. So, in theory I could create a structure like this:

1. Australia is a good country in which to live.

2. Countries that permit freedom of religious expression are good places to live.

My knowledge that independent premises are a sign that another, dependent premise is needed cues me to think 'what is missing here?'. The answer comes from the fact that claims 1 and 2 both share the same predicate (good places to live) but have a different subjects: Australia (1) and Countries that permit freedom of religious expression (2). While it might seem obvious, the problem here is that you cannot move from claim 2 to claim 1 logically without providing an additional claim in which the two different subjects in claims 1 and 2 are themselves placed in a relationship. Such a claim would be 'Australia permits freedom of religious expression'. Thus, by thinking about the internal connections of the claim that is my conclusion, and the first premise I thought of, I have identified an extra premise that is needed in my analytical structure, which now looks like this:

1. Australia is a good country in which to live.

2. Countries that permit freedom of religious expression are good places to live.

3. Australia permits freedom of religious expression.

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Let us consider another example: I know that Australia has no laws that forbid any religion, and that, by and large, the people who live in Australia let others practise their religions peacefully, even if they do not agree with them. These in fact are the reasons why I had assumed it was obvious that Australia permits freedom of religious expression. But we should not assume our readers know this, or that we are in fact right: we better write in those ideas to make sure the logic is correct. So, now, I am constructing a different argument:

3. Australia permits freedom of religious expression.

4. Australia has no laws that forbid any religion.

5. The people who live in Australia let others practise their religions peacefully even if they do not agree with those religions.

But once again, I can see there is something missing, because of internal connections. The conclusion has, as its predicate, 'freedom of religious expression. But this term in the argument is not mentioned in either of the two premises, 4 and 5. Hence, I have not yet represented accurately what I am thinking. I should add a claim which will function as a framing premise, and incidentally is an example of the value of the super-claim that has the if/then form: 'If a country has no laws against individual religions and the people of that country do not object to any religious practices, then freedom of religious expression exists in that country'.

3. Australia permits freedom of religious expression.

4. Australia has no laws that forbid any religion.

5. The people who live in Australia let others practise their religions peacefully even if they do not agree with those religions.

6. If a country has no laws against individual religions and the people of mainp - softvnn.com that country do not object to any religious practices, then freedom of religious expression exists in that country.

As we can see here, the very fact that you could probably guess what was missing is a sign that the pattern of interconnections in premises and conclusions is important: we are able, often, to see what is missing but should, always, make sure that it is written in explicitly when we are constructing these claim/diagram structures.

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