PT31.S2.Q19 - "If the flowers Drew received..."

Lime Green DotLime Green Dot Alum Member
edited April 2021 in Logical Reasoning 1371 karma


Question link:

Ok, I'm all on board with the correct answer and why that weakens.

Can someone please corroborate a few points on (D) for me?

Q1 - Can we really discard (D) on the basis that "there's a first time for every mistake..."?
I'm inclined to think we shouldn't. While of course "there's a first time for everything" is a true statement, doesn't the possibility that the florist has an immaculate record of correct deliveries give us some reason to doubt the conclusion?

I know, there is the presumption that this florist actually delivered flowers to Drew before, or delivered them enough times to have some kind of trend for accurate deliveries.

I know that the glaring presumption is still there that knowing SB’s preference = acting upon that knowledge. But I feel uncomfortable with discarding (D) just on there being possibilities for something running counter to it. Pretty much any A/C that is not calling out a sufficient assumption has embedded possibilities for it to not weaken as well, right? This is kind of related to my next question...

Q2 - Should we be cautious towards (D) on the basis that it appears to be attacking the conclusion?
I know this is a very, very infrequent occurrence, but I guess I don't really understand why we should be careful not to go after the conclusion itself if that's the most direct line of attack and that possibility is presented in front of us. I know we are to accept the premises and should rarely (if ever) attack those bits, so I wonder if it's stemming from this warning? I can't name specific questions off the top of my head, but I think I can recall some RC "weaken" questions whose correct answer does directly attack the conclusion. In this Q, should we exercise care in not attacking the conclusion solely b/c we are being asked to weaken the argument, which requires weakening the support b/w premises and conclusion, rather than just the conclusion itself?

Q3 - Can/should we eliminate (D) on the basis that even if the florist never made incorrect deliveries to Drew before, the conclusion is not invalidated, b/c the other possibilities mentioned are still wide open?
Those other possibilities being (1) Drew was supposed to receive a card or (2) the flowers were intended for SB else.
The conclusion merely states that the florist must have made some kind of mistake.

Appreciate anyone's thoughts on any of my questions!!


  • andre3000andre3000 Alum Member
    137 karma

    Hi, so I will try to address both Q1 & Q3.

    Q1- I think the statement "there's a first time for everything" is implying that track record of the past is irrelevant when considering a specific instance. Just because they have or have not made a mistake before is irrelevant towards the argument - it's almost like an ad hominem attack in the sense that it's adding details about a person's character but not touching on the argument.

    Q3 - Yes, even if you take it to be a true statement, it does not invalidate the conclusion that follows. For me, this usually is how I eliminate AC. Because she has been perfect at her job before - does this mean in this very specific instance, she has also performed perfectly? On the other hand, if she is mistake prone, can we conclude that she made a mistake again? I think at best, in each of these scenarios, most would answer "maybe" or "probably?". To me, this is the mark of a tempting answer choice. It doesn't definitively deny the gap, it's just playing to our biases.

    Hope this helps!

  • Lime Green DotLime Green Dot Alum Member
    1371 karma

    @andre3000 thank you for taking your time to help!

    Can I ask you a couple of follow-ups?

    Q1 - In complete agreement that (D) does not speak against the ARG itself. For that reason alone, I know we can eliminate it. But I'd push back a little and say I can't understand how this could be like an "ad hominem" attack? I don't really see it as a character issue so much as a trend/forecast issue. That's probably not exactly the label for it, but is whatever this is--presuming that what is true of the past carries over to the present instant--never a good weakening choice? Or just not in this instance b/c again it doesn't speak on the ARG?

    Q3 - Sorry, maybe I missed this in plain sight, but are you saying you do believe we can call out (D) additionally for just introducing a "maybe" or at best a "probably" to pretend like it's filling the gap, even though it actually ignores the fact that the conclusion already gives us options by saying the florist made some kind of mistake? Maybe not a wrong flower delivery, as (D) confines itself, but a missing card failure?

    I knew (D) was wrong, but I wanted to dig in a little deeper with why it was so, beyond not actually confronting the arg.

    Thanks so much again!

  • andre3000andre3000 Alum Member
    137 karma

    Yeah ofc. So ad hominem in the sense that we learn new information about this said florist. Prior, with only the information in the stimulus, we only know the details about the job (this person delivers flowers and those flowers are sometimes accompanied with letters). With this answer choice, if we take it to be true as we should, well now we might be able to say in the past they delivered flowers & have not messed up in the past. In most respects it's similar to the "trend" you describe, but I meant ad hominem in the sense that its specific to this one florist, not all florists.

    For example: you have Dentist S, pulling teeth. Will they mess up next year? I would say that learning about this person's track record, their dental schooling, their experience are all aspects that come together and make this person who they are. But does this mean they will not mess up next year? We can't definitively say anything, maybe mid-operation the power goes out, and they trip and fall. Despite their perfect track record, amazing education and longstanding practice, anything could happen. And yeah if it doesn't touch on the arg, eliminate.

    In my experience, yeah past => future is usually a bad argument form. I'd love to commit to saying past to future is bad in all cases, but unfortunately I cant commit to a general rule cause anything could happen.

    And yeah, I picked this up from JY. A lot of the tempting AC for weaken questions do not actually weaken. Given the AC, you can only answer "maybe" or "probably". To me this means to completely weaken this argument you are making outside assumptions. So at that point I move on because each AC alone, without any outside assumptions, should be able to weaken.

    Hope any of this helps!

  • Lime Green DotLime Green Dot Alum Member
    edited April 2021 1371 karma

    @andre3000 thanks so much again! I really appreciate this back-and-forth & hope it's been of use in some small way to you as well.

    Loved the dentist example btw! Thanks to this, when I found another Q from the previous PT (, it got me thinking again... o_O

    I'd say that what's wrong with (D) beyond failing to address the gap (easy elim there, but still a few more bones to pick) is that we just don't know enough about this florist's track record even if we accept (D) to be true, as we would for any A/C in order to analyze its impact on the ARG.

    I'll start with your example, b/c it really provides a much clearer picture of how we can extrapolate about a person's past (their "track record") if we are told the key information we need to know in order to properly do this.

    First off, knowing all the amazing details you gave about Dentist S ("perfect track record, amazing education and longstanding practice") would give me a very strong inclination to believe he's a darned good dentist and probably wouldn't be careless in the future. Of course, he could mess everything next year, or be that crazy dentist operating on a patient while on a friggin a hoverboard and ruin a career in dentistry with that one false move. Nothing's impossible, but the burden of proof is strongly against that idea, based on that near-perfect background. Therefore, I'd say knowing details about a person's stellar past is a pretty strong defense against an argument claiming the opposite about what is likely to happen in the future. (SPOILER: This is also the flaw in reasoning in PT30.S4.Q25--it completely rules out even the possibility that what's been true of the past can't carry over to the artist's future/unknown works.) Likewise, if you were to tell me that this dentist had an awful, awful track record, was careless in every way imaginable, and couldn't even do a simple tooth extraction w/o botching it, I'd say that's pretty strong evidence against any argument that claims Dentist S is awesome at his job.

    So I'd say that with the necessary information of the florist's track record at hand, we can properly strengthen or weaken an ARG even if we don't definitively validate/invalidate it. I stand by my reasoning that we cannot eliminate this A/C just on the basis that "anything could happen in the future," but rather b/c:

    -1- (D) is not presenting us with enough information to determine whether this might or might not be the case,

    -2- it does really ultimately boils down to not attacking the the gap b/w premises and conclusion--hard eliminate there--and

    -3- the conclusion, as bad as it is, does not actually confine itself to saying it had to have been a wrong flower delivery (again, could have been that the delivery person botched it b/c he forgot to include the card).

    There's also the tiny, tiny assumption in (D) that it was in fact a florist who made the flower delivery at all. Lots of florists just arrange and have others deliver them. But I think I've picked enough hairs here to go bald, so I'll leave it at that lol.

    I know I've written a page, sorry to be so cumbersome, but please let me know if you think otherwise!

  • GoatAdvocate_0L_SLSGoatAdvocate_0L_SLS Alum Member
    269 karma

    Howdy. I have some thoughts for you about how I'd analyze AC:D in relation to other AC's as opposed to assessing the AC's relationship to the premises and conclusion. Sometimes this is a clearer method to understand why an AC is wrong.

    AC: D can ultimately be discarded because it is irrelevant and vague. Why does it matter? Why does this, in itself, weaken the argument? To "weaken" the argument, we'd have to assume like the following: Because the florist never made a mistake in the past, they did not make a mistake in the present case. However, it is equally valid to assume that a past record of no mistakes does not guarantee that one will NEVER make mistakes. Whenever we encounter a vague AC that could be strengthened or weakened by competing assumptions of equal "validity", this should signal a red flag.

    To further see why AC: D is problematic, compare it to AC: B. The relevance of AC: B is apparent. We do have to make the connection between "preferences" and "the desire to please", but this is more of an inference than an assumption. AC: B is also not vague. It makes a specific claim that stands on its own without assumptions. To be honest, I'm struggling to think of a valid assumption that could undermine this AC to the extent that the aforementioned valid assumption undermines AC: D.

  • Lime Green DotLime Green Dot Alum Member
    edited April 2021 1371 karma

    @GoatAdvocate Exactly! (D) doesn't give us enough info (is vague) to actually allow us to conclude whether not making mistakes in the past can be transferred over to the present. Thank you for distilling it further!

    I do think that if we knew more about the florist's track record, we might be able to revisit this A/C, not as something that would weaken any more than it does now, but one that would have fewer holes than before (erm, "less bad"?). I dunno, maybe something quite obvious along the lines of "The florist, who makes all the deliveries to the area where Drew lives & delivered the flowers to Drew this time, has in his 25 years of experience making thousands of deliveries never failed to make an incorrect delivery before." This would still be wrong b/c it doesn't address the premise-conclusion gap, but it wouldn't be wrong based on "vagueness," or at least I don't believe it would. Modified, it's also still not "perfect," but a weakening A/C need not always destroy, and I'd argue (B) is on the weaker end of a weakening A/C, but am in full accord to its being the only weakening A/C here.

    I referenced another question (PT30.S4.Q25) where we did actually know enough about others' past to allow us to infer about the future and other circumstances (more accurately, premises about others' track record prevents us from ruling out the possibility that the past can't have ramifications for the future). This is why I don't think that "there's a first time for everything" justifies ruling this A/C out on its face--it's b/c we can't make an assumption about a track record we don't know enough about, which is one of many areas where (D) falls short. I also don't think that (D) could potentially strengthen while also not potentially weaken, due precisely to its vagueness. This was the part of JY's explanation I took issue with.


    Again, I absolutely see (B) as the only weakening A/C, as it's worded. (B) certainly does what an argument-weakening A/C must: it addresses the gap b/w premises and conclusion (& is therefore relevant in the way that (D) is not). While (B) is weakly worded, the strength of the conclusion allows us to throw a lot more against it to hurt the ARG. (I don't think I'm fully understanding what you mean by coming up with a valid assumption to undermine (B)? I mean, it's certainly not a SA, so knowing that the person who sent the flowers to Drew is not among these "some" might do it, if that's what you were referring to.)

    My contention was only ever with how we ruled out (D), and this discussion thread, including your comment, has been super-helpful in clarifying things.

    Many thanks again everyone!!

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