Example Argument – The Toppled Trash Bin

We've seen two arguments now and I hope you're warming up to the ideas of argument and support. You can think of support as reasons to believe that something is true. In the first argument, the fact that tigers are dangerous is a reason to believe that some mammals are not suitable as pets. In the second, the fact that Walt has never propitiated himself before Goofy's alter is a reason to believe that he must have done some awful things to goats for Mickey. Premises supply the reason for us to believe the conclusion.

Let's now look at another set of claims and I want you to tell me if it's an argument.

Detective: The trash bin in the kitchen is toppled and its contents, including some leftover salmon from dinner, spilled. Mr. Fat Cat is perched on the counter, self-satisfied, licking his paw to clean his face the way he does after having eaten. My hypothesis is that Mr. Fat Cat is the guilty party, having intentionally knocked over the bin to access the fish within.

Is this an argument?

The answer is yes. It has all the elements of an argument. It’s got multiple premises and it’s got a conclusion.

Premise: gives support
Conclusion: receives support

We have many claims, paraphrased:

  1. The trash bin is toppled.
  2. Its contents, including salmon, are spilled.
  3. Mr. Fat Cat is perched on the counter.
  4. Mr. Fat Cat is licking his paw in the way he does after having eaten.
  5. Therefore, Mr. Fat Cat knocked over the trash in order to eat the salmon within.

Claims (1) through (4) (the premises) support claim (5) (the conclusion). In other words, claims (1) through (4) provide reasons why we should believe claim (5). In other words, they are evidence.

But is this a strong argument? In other words, is the support here powerful? Surely this isn't a done deal like in the previous argument where we knew beyond any doubt that Walt offered up goats. Might there not be room here for doubt over Mr. Fat Cat's guilt? I mean, if you were the judge, would you be comfortable with finding Mr. Fat Cat guilty on the basis of the detective's argument?

I'm not so sure. Granted, the evidence is consistent with and perhaps even suggestive of Mr. Fat Cat being the culprit. But, there is doubt. If you're having trouble seeing why, just pretend you're Mr. Fat Cat's lawyer and you have to defend him.

I say all this in an attempt to get you to think again about what are now three different kinds of arguments that we've encountered. Each has support flowing from its premises to its conclusion. But each also should feel very different because the strength of the support is different.

The type of argument represented here is different from the previous two types. This is an argument that utilizes causation logic and the framework of phenomenon-hypothesis. Don't worry, there will be a whole set of lessons on these topics later.

Right now, just look over this argument and the previous two. Take a few minutes and think about them. Think about how their premises support their conclusions. And if you're engrossed, see if you can come up with your own analogous versions of each argument. Write them down below in the comments.


You'll encounter many different types of arguments on the LSAT. Too many, in fact, to fully enumerate. However, they are all united by a fundamental theory: support. An argument contains premises which support the conclusion.

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