Arguments are Relationships
THE LSAT CARES ABOUT A VERY PARTICULAR TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP.
The relationship is called support and the relata are called premise(s) and conclusion.
So what exactly do the words “support,” “premise,” and “conclusion” mean?
Well, let's consider “premise” and “conclusion” first. They’re statements. That’s what they are and that’s where they’re similar. Where they’re different is that the premise(s) supports the conclusion. Or, in other words, the conclusion is supported by the premise(s). That’s it. What do you get when you have a premise in addition to a conclusion? You have an argument!
Definition of an argument:
two or more statements where one statement is being supported by the others.
Awkward definition? Let’s just say that an argument is a premise plus a conclusion. Of course, this relies on your understanding of the definitions for “premise” and “conclusion.”
I know this is not what we colloquially mean by “argument.” What do you think of when you think of an “argument?” Probably of heated, vociferous “debates” with your significant other over who left those little specks of toothpaste residue on the bathroom mirror? (Probably you.) Or who started the argument in the first place? (Probably them, but why do you have to be so gross?!). Or, perhaps, you think of politicians and they're loudly talking over one another on TV. Well, whatever associations you make with this word “argument,” the LSAT defines “argument” very specifically and the LSAT is stubborn. You have to bend to its definition. Luckily for you, it’s not a hard definition!
So, remember: premises are supporting statements and conclusions are supported statements.
Let’s turn to an example to elucidate these concepts.
Consider the following argument, i.e., statements where one statement is supported by the others.
1. The state of Qari is hostile to our national interests.
2. The state of Qari harbors many rare and desired natural resources.
3. Therefore, we should invade and occupy the state of Qari.
Ponder this question for a minute or two. Are statements (1), (2) and (3), taken as a whole, an argument? Now that you know what the definition of an argument is, let’s reference it. Is it the case that we’re looking at two or more statements where one statement is being supported by the others? What do you think? Yes, right? Statement (3) is supported by statements (1) and (2). So, there you have it then, an argument.
Now, let’s use our new terminology: premises and conclusions. Which are which? (1) and (2) are the premises and (3) is the conclusion. Congratulations! Go celebrate with a big juicy cheeseburger.
Here’s the simple restated definition of an argument: premise(s) plus conclusion. So that’s all an argument is. Premise(s) plus a conclusion, where the premises are the sentences that do the supporting and the conclusion is the sentence that gets supported. It’s a piece of cake. At the bottom of it all, the LSAT is primarily concerned with testing your understanding of the support relationship between statements. That’s it.
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