This is one of the big three ideas of the LSAT.
What is an "argument?" With this word most people think raised voices, flared nostrils, people shouting at each other and really an all together unpleasant affair. But, that’s not what "arguments" on the LSAT are. On the LSAT, "arguments" are very cerebral, intellectual, and abstract. So, just forget all that stuff you thought you knew about "arguments."
We’re going to define what "arguments" are and from now on, we’re going to use that definition every time we encounter the word "argument."
Outside the LSAT you can think whatever you want. But, on the LSAT, this is what you’re going to think.
- Persuasion is the aim of an argument.
- Premise plus conclusion is the definition of an argument.
- Support is the internal structure of an argument.
Let’s take these in turn.
1. The aim: persuasion
Isn’t it germane that one of the biggest ideas on the LSAT is arguments? After all, you’re studying to be a lawyer and what do you think you'll be doing? You will be persuading. You will try to persuade the judge, the jury, the public, and even opposing counsel of your point of view, of your way of seeing things. You are going to do that with arguments. That's what arguments do. That's the aim, that’s the objective, that's the goal: to persuade.
2. The definition: premise plus conclusion
The definition is simple. It’s just premise plus conclusion. Whenever anyone asks you - and I’m going to ask you a lot - "What is the definition of an argument?" you respond, "premise plus conclusion." Just mechanically say "premise plus conclusion." That's the definition.
In a later lesson, we’re going to drill into your mind what the definitions of "premise" and "conclusion" are so that way those words actually mean something to you. But for now, just remember "premise plus conclusion" is the definition of an argument.
3. The internal structure: support
The internal structure of an argument is support. Support is the stuff that tells you how good an argument is. I have to qualify what I mean by "good." Some arguments are incredibly persuasive but they are none the less not "good" arguments. That's because persuasion is a subjective thing. A lot of people can be easily persuaded by some really bad arguments. So, I suppose in a sense, if you think "good" means persuasive, then it's "good." But, what I mean and what the LSAT means by the word "good" is the strength of the support existing internally in an argument. How much does the premise support the conclusion? That determines whether an argument is "good" or "bad."
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