In the field of critical thinking, an argument is a statement or a group of statements that includes at least one premise and conclusion. Therefore, it can be said that premises and conclusions are the building blocks of an argument.
Let’s see what they are in detail here.
What is a Premise in an Argument
A premise is a statement in an argument that provides evidence or reasons to form a conclusion. It contains the information that leads your audience to believe that your argument is true. An argument can have one or more premises.
What is a Conclusion in an Argument
A conclusion in an argument is the statement the premises support; it indicates what the arguer is trying to prove to his audience. An argument can have only one conclusion.
Let’s describe the two terms, premise and conclusion, using some examples.
Examples of Premise and Conclusion
- Since small fish is rich in calcium, it follows that your body will benefit if you eat them.
The above argument can be categorized into two parts: premise and conclusion. The premise is that small fish is rich in calcium; the conclusion is that your body will benefit if you eat them. This argument has only one premise.
Note that this argument can be also written as follows.
Your body will benefit from eating small fish because it is a rich source of calcium.
Here, the conclusion is presented first and the premise is connected to it by the linking word because. It is important to remember that the conclusion and the premise have no set order in an argument.
Given below are some more examples of arguments with their premises and conclusions.
- I have heard that cats with long hair have lots of fleas. They also shed all over the house, so you should not get a long-haired cat.
Premise 1: Cats with long hair have lots of fleas.
Premise 2: Cats with long hair shed all over the house
Conclusion: Don’t get a cat with long hair
- He is not good at his work, so he doesn’t deserve a raise.
Premise: He is not good at his work.
Conclusion: He doesn’t deserve a raise.
- No one under eighteen-years-old can vote. Jim cannot vote because he is not yet eighteen.
Premise 1: No one under eighteen-years-old can vote
Premise 2: Jim is under eighteen.
Conclusion: Jim cannot vote.
5. A good society treasures its dissidents and mavericks because it needs the creative thinking that produces new hypotheses, expanded means, a larger set of alternatives, and, in general, the vigorous conversation induced by fresh ideas. (Nel Noddings, Philosophy of Education, 1995)
Premise: A good society needs creative thinking that produces new hypotheses, expanded means, a larger set of alternatives, and, in general, the vigorous conversation induced by fresh ideas.
Conclusion: A good society treasures its dissidents and mavericks.
How to Differentiate Premise and Conclusion in an Argument
Look at the Indicator Words
The easiest way to distinguish premises and conclusions in an argument is to learn their indicator words. Indicator words, also known as joining words, act as transitional words between ideas; the transitional words that occur with premises and conclusions are not the same.
Some examples of indicator words that can be found with premises include because, since, given that, considering that, but, and, or, etc.
Some examples of indicator words and phrases that can be found with conclusions include, therefore, thus, which follows that, consequently, so, hence, etc.
- A premise in an argument is the part that supports the conclusion with evidence and reasons.
- A conclusion in an argument is the main point the arguer is trying to prove.
- An argument can contain one conclusion and one or more premises.