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Premises and Conclusions

Premises and Conclusions

Author: Glenn Kuehn

In a given argument, identify which statement is a conclusion.

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Source: Image of Socrates, Creative Commons,

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Hello, I'm Glen, and this ethics tutorial focuses on premises and conclusions. First, let's go over a brief review and then cover the topics for this tutorial. In review, philosophical arguments center on the notion of support where the premises of an argument support the conclusion. And let us remember that an argument is a group of statements containing at least one factual claim and at least one inferential claim.

The topics for this tutorial are going to center around premises and conclusions. We will define premises and conclusions, and we will also see methods of distinguishing a premise from a conclusion. We will show how premises and conclusions operate in four sample arguments.

A significant part of the evaluation of arguments depends upon evaluating the premises and the conclusion. Premises always provide support, and conclusions are always the result of the support. And in our evaluation, we first need to clearly identify which is which. The easiest way to do this is to look for certain key indicator words. Premises usually involve the close use of one of the following words. You could use the word because, since, for, given that, or in as much as. Words like these and phrases like these indicate the use of a premise.

Conclusions also use indicator words. Words like therefore, thus, hence, implies, entails, or it follows that indicate a conclusion. And looking for these keywords and they are synonyms helps us identify and distinguish premises and conclusions.

So let's look at four sample arguments so that we can begin the process of evaluation by identifying which statements are premises, and which one is the conclusion, seeing the relationship among them, and then do a brief assessment of whether or not the conclusion follows from the premises. In each case, I'm going to read the arguments directly. And then we will look at them specifically to make the identifications and evaluation.

First argument. They're practically giving these cars away, and I need a car, therefore I should buy this car. The conclusion is identified by the word therefore, and that means the other two statements are the premises. However, this argument is not very strong, because, just because they're practically giving cars away and I need a car, that doesn't mean I should buy this particular one.

Argument two, this car is in good shape, and it gets good mileage. I need a car, and this car is within my budget. This implies that I should buy this car. The phrase, this implies that, indicates the conclusion and again, the other two are premises. And in this case, the premises are reasonable and strong, and therefore the conclusion is highly supported by the premises.

Argument three. Because I need a car and since I like this car, I should buy this car. The use of the words because and since indicate the two premises, which means the other statement is the conclusion. This argument could go either way, but because even though I need and like something doesn't mean I should buy it. However, these reasons for buying it can be very persuasive.

And finally, because the mileage on this car is high and because the car is more than I can afford, even though I really like this car, therefore I should not buy this car. Here, the first two phrases which begin with the word because indicate premises. They're joined with the phrase even though, which also provides support, are distinguished from the fourth line, which says therefore, and indicates the conclusion. This argument is a very good argument because it gives a good case for not buying the car, even though there is a partial reason to buy it because we like it.

In summary, we have covered the topics of premises and conclusions as they work in an argument. We've defined a premise and conclusion, and we've found methods of identifying them. And then we looked at four sample arguments to see how the premises and conclusions work together.