critical reasoning basics
Critical reasoning

Sometimes it is necessary to ask ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG)’ questions to put your goalposts and milestones in perspective. For example, a CAT 2010 aspirants should regularly question himself “Am I a 100 percentiler yet?” This question has lot more to it than it seems. First, half of you would not even dare to ask this question as you do not possess the belief that you can be a 100 percentiler. That means you would not be even 99 percentiler and the race for CAT is already over for you. For those who DO believe that they can be a 100 percentiler, the question would really make you ask yourself if you are doing enough to become one. You would realize the slackness that you have fallen into or the weak areas that you need to look into. In short, it would bring back the steel that you need so badly. The catch is that if you are not stupid enough to dream to be supreme, the biggest, and the best, do not dare to dream at all. Once you decide to be the best, biggest, or the most famous at what you want, everything else will fall into place.Today’s chapter is a continuation of the critical reasoning series that Kumar Sir has agreed to write. I am loving his simple and lucid way of explanation. I sincerely hope you would too. Please do attempt the subjective questions at the end of the lesson. Good Luck!-

As we begin a new chapter, let us reminisce what we had learnt earlier. We had, in the previous lesson, come to understand that an argument has broadly two parts, a conclusion and a premise. Starting with small arguments, we had dealt with some bigger arguments having multiple premises at times.

Before we jump to handling CR questions, let us understand a couple of things more, since they are going to play a crucial role in our broader comprehension of logic per sein the coming weeks.

Now that you have understood what premises and conclusions stand for, it would be handy to keep some special things in mind:

  1. Premises CANNOT be negated.
  2. An argument with only one premise is typically a weak argument.
  3. A premise which is an opinion in itself leads to weak argumentation.
  4. All the rules of ‘syllogism’ stand their ground in CR as well.

 

A. Premises CANNOT be negated.

In arguments, premises are considered sacrosanct and cannot be negated. Many a time, when asked to weaken an argument, people start negating the premises. While this may work in real-life situations (where fools are often found arguing!), it does not in CR questions. If an option directly negates what has been mentioned in the argument’s premise, then it is NOT the answer.

Consider the following argument:

X : Ravi is a good boy because he helps others.

If asked to weaken this argument, one CANNOT argue by saying “No! He does not help others, and hence is not a good boy.” This is what I fondly call BHASAD.

A classic way of weakening this argument could be to point at the fact that merely ‘helping’ others does not sufficiently lead to the conclusion that Ravi is a good boy. OR, by saying “Agreed that he helps others, but he does not pay his taxes, beats up his father, routinely kicks his neighbour’s dog” etc…OR, by explaining that the so called “others” here, refers to a bunch of (in)famous/wanted dacoits!!!

All these would help undermine the conclusion and unfortunately, in the light of fresh evidence, Ravi would no longer be as eligible a bachelor.

Let us look at this one for instance:

X : It will rain tomorrow.Y : No, it will not!X : Yes, it will!! I see black clouds in the sky.Y : Well, I don’t!!And there you go…..BHASAD at its best!!!!

 

B. An argument with only one premise is typically a weak argument.

We DID observe this in the previous examples, didn’t we? It is easy to refute or weaken an argument with only one leg (read premise). Classically, we refute such arguments by agreeing with the premise but citing the insufficiency of the conclusion drawn on the basis of only one instance.

For example:

X : It will rain tomorrow.Y : No, it will not!X : Yes, it will!! I see black clouds in the sky.Y : There had been black clouds yesterday too, but it hadn’t rained.Another way of refuting such arguments is to cite other instances which take away the credentials of the conclusion drawn (as we did with the Ravi/good boy argument).

C. A premise which is an opinion in itself leads to weak argumentation.

Consider the value of the following arguments.

– He is not a good man because I do not like him.- Seher is not a good film because many people disliked it.- The accident must have been caused by her because women cannot drive well.Hope you get the point.

Also, words like good, bad, weak, strong etc. are opinionated/relative and provide little logical or absolute value in arguments. Ideally, they should not have a place in premises. Premises are taken as true facts in the context of the argument, and hence, cannot be negated either (as stated somewhere above). Usage of opinionated words in the premises takes away the sacrosanct value attached to the premises, and therefore should be avoided.

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Exercise

This is a subjective exercise and you are free to use your argumentative skills. Find as many logical holes in the arguments as you can. And do remember that the world is watching. So do not be miffed if someone picks holes in YOUR logic. These days, as I learnt sometime back, even 8-9 years old ones are keeping a close watch! 😉

Find the flaw/s in the following arguments:-

1. Mr. Gupta: I don’t believe Sharma Ji will win the election for governor. Few voters are willing to elect a businessman with no political experience to such a responsible public office.

2. A law requiring companies to offer employees unpaid time off to care for their children will harm the economic competitiveness of our nation’s businesses. Companies must be free to set their own employment policies without mandated parental-leave regulations.

3. Are you still reading the other newspaper in town? Did you know that the Daily Bagula is owned by an out-of-town business syndicate that couldn’t care less about the people of Jungle City? Read the Daily Cheel, the only real voice of the people of Jungle City!

4. Alibaba: I don’t intend to vote for Senator Farzana in the next election. She is not a strong supporter of the war against crime.

5. At an enormous research cost, a leading chemical company has developed a manufacturing process for converting wood fibers into a plastic. According to the company, this new plastic can be used for, among other things, the hulls of small sailboats. But what does the company think sailboat hulls used to be made of? Surely the mania for high technology can scarcely go further than this.

6. Ravan: Using extraneous incentives to get teenagers to change their attitude toward school and schoolwork won’t work. Take the program in West Virgunj, for instance, where they tried to reduce their dropout rate by revoking the driving licenses of kids who left school. The program failed miserably.

7. Historically, women have suffered a lot of suppression and hence need reservation in all spheres. This is the only logical way to uplift them and bring them on par with men.

8. No nation can long survive unless its people are united by a common tongue. For proof, we need only consider Canada, which is being torn asunder by conflicts between French-speaking Quebec and the other provinces, which are dominated by English speakers.

9. As part of our program to halt the influx of illegal immigrants, the administration is proposing the creation of a national identity card. The card would be available only to Indian citizens and to registered aliens, and all persons would be required to produce the card before they could be given a job. Of course, such a system holds the potential, however slight, for the abuse of civil liberties. Therefore, all personal information gathered through this system would be held strictly confidential, to be released only by authorized personnel under appropriate circumstances. Hence, there would be no abuse of civil liberties.

10. A sociologist recently studied two sets of teenagers. The members of one set spent 10 or more hours per week watching violent television programs, and the members of the other set spent 2 hours or less per week watching violent television programs. A significantly greater proportion of the teenagers in the former group exhibited aggressive behavior during the period of the study. The sociologists reasoned that the prolonged exposure to television violence caused the aggressive behavior.

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D. All the rules of ‘syllogism’ stand their ground in CR as well.

This requires a full fledged chapter. Keep watching this space.

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