Arguments for Reconstruction

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All of the following passages present arguments. Your job is to reconstruct the argument in order to bring out the premises and conclusions clearly. In most cases, you will have to add premises or conclusions to complete the basic structure of the argument.

Examples:

1. The Lakers almost couldn’t beat the Jazz. They’ll never get past Dallas.

Example answer: This author concludes that the Lakers won’t beat Dallas. The reason is that they almost couldn’t beat the Jazz, and presumably, the Jazz are not as tough as Dallas. [Note how we had to supply a missing premise here.]

2. Seventy percent of freshmen at Wharfton College come from wealthy families so probably about the same percentage of all Wharfton College students come from wealthy families.

Example answer: In this passage, the author argues that about 70% of the freshman class at Wharfton are from wealthy families. The first premise for this conclusion is that 70% of the freshmen come from wealthy families. An second, implicit premise is that the freshman class is like the rest of the student body.

Exercises

1. Whales must bear their young alive because all mammals do.

2. Gun control advocates forget that criminals will always find guns. How are we going to protect ourselves if the government takes away our guns?

3. John Hinckley should not be punished for his attempt to assassinate the president. He’s mentally ill.

4. Since we are not under an obligation to give aid unless aid is likely to be effective in reducing starvation or malnutrition, we are not under an obligation to give aid to countries that make no effort to reduce the rate of population growth that will lead to catastrophe.

5. A recent Justice Department study found that more than a third of those with serious criminal records-meaning three or more felony convictions are arrested for new offenses while free on bond awaiting federal court trial. You don’t have to be a social scientist to suspect that the longer the delay, the greater the likelihood of further violations. In short, overburdened courts mean much more than justice delayed; they quite literally amount to the infliction of further injustice. The constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial protects citizens from arbitrary government abuse, but it has at least one other benefit, too. It prevents crime.

6. The idea of a free press in America today is a joke. A small group of people, the nation’s advertisers, control the media more effectively than if they owned it outright. Through fear of an advertising boycott they can dictate everything from programming to news report content. Politicians as well as editors shiver in their boots at the thought of such a boycott. This situation is intolerable and ought to be changed. I suggest we all listen to National Public Radio and public television.

7. Society has deemed it right to check out adoptive parents to determine whether they are fit to be parents. Society has, then, admitted that there are criteria for being good parents, and that people who do not satisfy these criteria should not have the chance to become parents. Since these things are already given, there is a justification for also requiring biological parents to have a license for parenthood.

8. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race: posterity as well as the existing generation: those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hide it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” (John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty,” in The Utilitarians (New York: Doubleday, 1960, p. 491.)

9. Evolutionists think their theory is strong, but it really isn’t. Evolutionary theory requires showing that an unbroken chain of adaptations leading from the first forms of life to the most complex organisms alive today. But we just don’t have an account for most of this process and the account we have has huge gaps. The pre-Cambrian explosion is a case in point.

10. Animals eat each other, so why shouldn’t we eat them? The decisive point is that nonhuman animals are not capable of considering the alternatives open to them or reflecting on the ethics of their diet. Hence, it is impossible to hold the animals responsible for what they do, or to judge that because of their killing they “deserve” to be treated in a similar way. (Peter Singer, Practical Ethics)