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SA/PSA Questions versus Principle Questions

theo1106theo1106 Monthly Member

How do you differentiate between SA/PSA questions that bring up principles versus Principle questions?


  • ryan.lattavoryan.lattavo Member Sage 7Sage Tutor
    102 karma


    We differentiate between SA and PSA because there does seem to be some difference between the question types, but I think its a marginal one at best. Here is how I go about differentiating:

    1. SA requires you to bridge some gap. Always. You will always be filling in some blank in the argument to make the premises support the conclusion.

    2. PSA can ask you to do two things, depending on whether it is an Application question (PSAa) or a Rule question (PSAr)

    a. If it is an Application question, you'll typically be given some Principle, and sometimes a corresponding application, sometimes not. For the easier questions in this category, you'll just utilize the Principle to form an Application. Suppose the principle is "If a number is even, it is divisible by two". Then, the question will ask you "Which scenario best conforms to the principle", "Which is best demonstrated by the principle" etc, for which you'd then give some even number (in my little scenario here). Or, if they already give you an application, something about the application will be incomplete. Just like in SA, then, you'll have to bridge the gap between Principle and Application by modifying the principle.

    b. If it is a Rule question, I'd treat it almost exactly a SA question type. Usually, some conclusion will seem unjustified, and the question will ask you to give some principle that fills in the gap. This is, of course, exactly like the SA question type, except the principle tends to be some broad thing that is applicable to many scenarios, whereas SA's tend to stay local with what is happening in the question type.

    What I'm about to say is some pretty advanced logical theory, so if it goes over your head, know that its really not essential to getting these questions right. What is essential is generalizing the scenario with some Principle. But in any case, PSAr answers tend to be normative, i.e. they tend to command you to do something (most of the time, with the word should). Thus, when we take the principle given by the answer choice to be true, our conclusion follows from the normative claim. Consider the argument below:

    1. The sky is blue

    C: The sky should be blue

    That's incomplete, right? No way does it follow. But in a PSAr, the answer choice would say something like "If something is blue, then it should be blue". In an SA, the answer choice would say "If the sky is blue, then the sky should be blue". Nuanced and subtle difference, but there it is!

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