• Episode 8 Point Two: Conditional Statements and Hypothetical Premises 2

    In Episode 8 Point Two Nick and Dave continue with a deeper discussion of hypothetical premises.

    Dave: You are listening to Critically Minded.
    Nick: The podcast for English learners who want to become better critical thinkers. We’re your hosts, Nick . . .
    Dave: And Dave. In an earlier episode, we were discussing conditional statements and hypothetical premises.

    Nick: We explained that hypothetical premises are a kind of conditional statement that makes cause-and-effect predictions about future outcomes. We gave examples of hypothetical premises that use the If, then structure and we pointed out that in a hypothetical premise, the first part of the sentence should use the basic present tense, and that the second part of the sentence should use the future tense with phrases like will be or will do.
    Dave: Lastly, we pointed out that words like whenever or every time that cannot be used for hypothetical premises, because they only make general claims, and do not make testable predictions about the future. Now, let’s continue from that point. We need to understand that there is also one other important thing about words like “whenever.”


    Nick: We must be careful in the way we use them, because, although they are often used to hint at general cause-and-effect relationships, for example, Every time I eat at that restaurant, I get very sick, words like “whenever” and “every time” are also often used to discuss two conditions that do not have a cause-and-effect relationship.
    Dave: For example, consider this one: Whenever I get on the train at 5:45 a.m. the train is not crowded. However, whenever I get on the train at 6:15 a.m. the train is very crowded.
    Nick: I see what you’re saying, David. You’re getting on the train before or after 6:00 doesn’t cause the train to be uncrowded or crowded. In fact, if you stayed in bed and didn’t leave your home, the train would still be uncrowded before 6:00 and crowded after 6:00. The number of people already on the train is not a result of your getting on the train, unless you count yourself, that is. Now let’s try to turn this into an argument, which is supported by a hypothetical premise, starting with the claim that more people are on the train leaving from your station after 6:00 a.m. than are on the train leaving your station before 6:00.


    Dave: That would be the conclusion of the argument. Now, we need to support that conclusion with reasons to believe it is true.
    Nick: Premises.
    Dave: Yes, premises.
    Nick: We should begin with two hypothetical premises that set up a way of testing the truth claim made in the conclusion. So, how about this? If I get on the train at 5:45 a.m. the train will not be crowded. And if I get on the train at 6:15 a.m. the train will be crowded.
    Dave: Wait. I see one problem here. What does “crowded” mean? We need some way to define crowded.
    Nick: Alright, good point. I suggest that we define crowded as meaning that there are no empty seats, so that we cannot sit down.
    Dave: Okay can you continue from there?


    Nick: Sure. First premise: If we count the number empty seats on the 5:45 a.m. train, then there will be at least one empty seat. We counted ten empty seats on the 5:45, so it is not crowded. Second premise: If we count the number of empty seats on the 6:15 train, then we will find zero empty seats. We counted no empty seats on the 6:15 train, and there were many people standing, so the train is crowded.  Conclusion: The 5:45 a.m. train is not crowded and the 6:15 train is crowded.
    Dave: So the main points here are: don’t confuse conditional statements that involve cause-and-effect relationships with those that do not.
    Nick: And remember that hypothetical premises only make predictions about the future, usually using an If then structure. It’s as easy as that.
    Dave: And until next time, this has been, Critically Minded: Critical Thinking for 2nd Language Learners.

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