Michael Daniel Oct 2, 2006 ARQ Chapter 5 Thesis: Unstated beliefs and assumptions need to be identified in order to understand

and evaluate an argument. Arguments are made with assumptions and beliefs that are usually unstated, taken for granted, influential in determining the conclusion and potentially deceptive. Assumptions and beliefs are the glue that holds an argument together. If we don’t understand the assumptions and beliefs then we can’t understand the argument. We should look for assumptions in the arguments that support the conclusion and in the movement from reasons to conclusion. “An assumption is an unstated belief that supports the explicit reasoning.” In other words, examine all inductions that may have happened in the argument. Value conflicts occur when the person making the argument has different values than the audience. The example given in the book is that the speaker believes the assumption that, “public safety is more than freedom of choice”. The speaker then argues that, “Illegal drugs cause violence and other crimes, therefore recreational drugs should not be legalized.” This is an example of a value conflict because if you do not accept their assumption then you can not accept their argument. Values are unstated ideas that are seen as worthwhile by the people who hold the idea. They are abstract and underlie our beliefs. Somebody’s belief in mercy killing is related to how they value the sanctity of human life. Values are also standards of conduct, such as ‘lying is bad’. A value preference is a preference for one value over another. Some people value competition over cooperation. When an argument is

presented it usually builds up one value and attacks another. Values are contextual. In other words, we usually hold a value up to a certain point and then abandon it for another value when the situation becomes closer to what we would consider extreme. For example, wearing an American flag on one’s shirt can be defended because we believe in the individual’s right to expression but we might not defend an individual’s right to hold a racist rally. Usually there is more then one value judgment effecting any decision or argument. We can sometimes get clues to what assumptions a speaker might have by looking at his background. A Nazi would probably have different assumptions than a Democrat or a Communist, for example. We should avoid stereotyping though. Sometimes people hold beliefs that are different than the groups they associate with. For example, I despise modern unions but when my call center went closed shop I became a union member. Sometimes a value is held based on what outcomes result from it. The magnitude of an outcome is important as well. We might value economic freedom over economic security so long as unemployment stays below a certain level, for example. We should always try to identify value priorities rather than simple value assumptions whenever possible in order to clarify an argument. Reverse role playing is useful in finding assumptions. The rights of the individual vs. the rights of the group is a common value conflict. We must always remember that assumptions and value judgments are abstract. Sometimes we find assumptions that are too concrete to be useful in understanding the argument on a deeper level.