• Episode 3: Organizing an Argument 2

    In this third episode, Nick and Dave continue their discussion of the basic structure of an argument. They discuss how to distinguish between reasons (premises) and conclusions. They talk about premise indicators (like “because”) and conclusion indicators (like “so,” “therefore,” and “thus”). They also talk about conclusion-first and conclusion-last arguments.

    Welcome back to Critically Minded: Critical Thinking For 2nd Language Learners. I’m Nick.
    Dave: And I’m Dave.

    Nick: As you may remember, last time we were discussing how arguments are organized. We noted that informally speaking an argument has reasons and a conclusion. And we said that when we speak formally, that is when we make an argument, we use the word premise for reason.

    Dave: When reading an argument or listening to someone argue a point it is not always easy to know which is the premise and which is the conclusion, but there are some very useful words called argument indicators that can help us. Argument indicators help to know if you are hearing a premises or a conclusion in order to understand what, exactly, is being argued.


    Nick: There are two kinds of argument indicators: they are called . . . premise indicators and  . . . conclusion indicators. Premise indicators include words like “because.” Conclusion indicators include words like “so” and “therefore.”
    Dave: In our previous episode, we looked at the argument, “There is ice on the pond, so the temperature must have been zero or below zero last night.” In this case, the premise is first and the conclusion is last.
    Nick: But that is not always the case. We could just as easily say, “The temperature must have been zero or below last night, because there is ice on the pond.” In that example the conclusion comes first and the premise comes second. Using the premise indicator “because” instead of the words “therefore” or “so” reverses the direction of the logic in the sentence.
    Dave: Recognizing these indicators will help you to know if you are reading a reason or a main point, a premise or a conclusion.


    Nick: Reason indicators are words that tell you that you are about to read a reason or premise. You already know most of these words. They include words like: because . . . since . . . the reasons are . . .  firstly . . .  secondly . . .  evidence . . . and support.
    Dave: When you read or hear words like these you can be pretty sure that you will read or hear the writer or speakers’ reasons next. Main points or conclusions also have indicators. They include words such as therefore . . . thus . . . hence . . . it follows that . . .  indicates that . . . and points to . . .
    Nick: When you see words like this you can be sure that a conclusion is on its way. You can also tell if the argument is conclusion-first or conclusion-last.


    Dave: And that should be enough for this time. It was a short episode but we packed in a lot of important information necessary for understanding the episodes that follow.
    Nick: Right. In these second and third episodes we learned about simple premises. However, there are various kinds of premises, and knowing how to identify each kind is also important for analyzing and evaluating arguments.
    Dave: In the next episode we’re going to begin learning about two kinds of premises, called major and minor premises.
    Nick: So, this has been Critically Minded—Critical Thinking for 2nd Language Learners.

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