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Identify the technique | Worked example

Watch a demonstration of one way to approach questions that ask you to identify the technique used in an argument. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user a a
    What are the counterexamples, premise, and conclusion?

    Counterexamples:
    Wolves do not tolerate an attack by one wolf on another if the latter wolf demonstrates submission by baring its throat.
    The same is true of foxes and domesticated dogs.

    Premise:
    Only human beings are capable of obeying moral rules.

    Conclusion:
    So it would be erroneous to deny that animals have rights on the grounds that only human beings are capable of obeying moral rules.
    (9 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user A A
    Question Type:
    Analyze Argument Structure (Procedure)

    Stimulus Breakdown:
    Conclusion: You can't deny animals rights based on the idea that only human beings can obey moral rules.
    Evidence: (Wolves, foxes, and dogs can obey moral rules) They will not tolerate attacks on submissive wolves/dogs/foxes.

    Answer Anticipation:
    The common answers for Procedure questions are these: analogy, counterexample, implications of logic, define a term, make a distinction, alternate interpretation, rule out other possibilities. It looks like this one provides examples of animals, other than humans, who are capable of obeying rules in order to shoot down a type of argument. Be careful, the author does NOT say that animals DO have rights. She only says you can't argue against them having rights by saying that "they can't follow moral rules". They CAN follow moral rules, as demonstrated by the wolf/fox/dog example.

    Correct Answer:
    A

    Answer Choice Analysis:
    (A) This works! The philosopher's conclusion is calling a certain argument erroneous. This is the argument: "Conc: Animals don't have rights. Prem: Only human beings can obey moral rules." The author provides the wolf/fox/dog example to demonstrate that other animals CAN obey moral rules. So those ARE counterexamples that refute a premise. We can tell that "only humans can obey moral rules" is a premise because it's prefaced by the phrase "on the grounds that".

    (B) The author is never establishing that ALL animals have morality, just that AT LEAST SOME nonhuman animals do.

    (C) This principle WAS being assumed in the argument that the philosopher is fighting. But the philosopher doesn't push back against that assumption. Instead she pushes back against the actual explicit premise.

    (D) This refers to a conceptual argument, rather than one that provided a specific example. Because the provided example refutes (contradicts) the opponent's premise, it might be tempting to see the words "logical contradiction". The author's conclusion is not trying to "establish a claim". Instead, it's trying to "reject an argument". This answer choice describes this type of argument: "Claim X must be true. After all, if claim X were false, it would mean that claim Y is false. And claim Y must be true."

    (E) If anything, our author provides evidence that the concept of morality should be applied MORE broadly (i.e. NOT to only humans, but to some nonhuman animals as well)

    Takeaway/Pattern: These Describe questions are just "if it matches, it's right", so we just have to be comfortable matching up the abstract terminology in the answer choices with the specific ideas in the argument. "Refuting a premise" or "denying the truth of the opponent's evidence" is almost always a TRAP answer on these, but in this case it was appropriate.
    (4 votes)
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  • sneak peak green style avatar for user Colleen Benoit
    I'm still having trouble understanding why D isn't the correct answer still considering the question stem states that "it would be erroneous to believe..."

    Wouldn't that indicate a logical contradiction?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- [Narrator] So a philosopher says or writes, Wolves do not tolerate an attack by one wolf on another if the latter wolf demonstrates submission by baring its throat. The same is true of foxes and domesticated dogs. So it would be erroneous to deny that animals have rights on the grounds that only human beings are capable of obeying moral rules. So before I even look at the choices, let's just dissect what this philosopher is saying. It would be erroneous, it would be erroneous to deny that animals have rights on the grounds that only human beings are capable of obeying moral rules. So it would be erroneous to make the conclusion that you need to deny animal rights, so the conclusion, the erroneous conclusion according to this author, is denying, deny animal, animal rights on, and this is on the grounds that only human beings are capable, so the premise, and this is the erroneous premise and conclusion, that, according to this author, so only, only humans capable of moral rules, of moral rules. So, I would call that the premise. And what the author seems to be doing here, he is like hey, look, this premise is wrong. It's not the fact that only human beings are capable of moral rules, and he's giving examples. Wolves, dogs, foxes, so let's look at the choices. The philosopher's argument procedes by attempting to provide counterexamples to refute a premise on which a particular conclusion is based. Well that's exactly what we just said, it doesn't always work out that nicely but it did this time. Where there's this conclusion on this premise, he wants to refute the premise by giving, on which this conclusion is based by giving counterexamples, just saying, hey, well it seems like wolves and foxes, according to him, and dogs do have some type of moral rules. So this is, this looks like a pretty good choice. So, he's refuting this, so he's refuting, and he's refuting it with this first part of our little passage, or our little statement. He refutes this premise which would then undermine if someone makes this conclusion from this premise, they wouldn't be able to make that conclusion, if they're going off this premise. So let's look at the other choices. Establish inductively that all animals possess some form of morality. No, he's just trying to give some examples of animals that he knows that, at least he perceives to have morality, to undermine this premise. He's not making a case that ants and everything else must have some morality just by giving a few examples. So, this is not gonna be, this is definitely not gonna be our choice. Cast doubt on the principle that being capable of obeying moral rules is a necessary condition for having rights. So he's not attacking this premise conclusion, he's not saying that, well, you need this premise, you need to have moral rights in order to make this conclusion, he's, he's refuting anyone who goes through this logical chain right over here by refuting the premise. So he's not casting doubt on the principle that being capable of obeying moral rules is a necessary condition for having rights, he's showing that, hey, there's some animals that have moral rules. So let's rule this one out. D, establish a claim by showing that the denial of that claim entails a logical contradiction. No, he's not actually trying to establish a claim, I mean, it's starting to feel that he's trying to by saying, it looks like this is someone who would argue for animal rights, but he's really just trying to undermine someone else's claim, someone else's claim to deny animal rights. So he's not trying to establish his own or she's not trying to establish her own. Provide evidence suggesting that the concept of morality is often applied too broadly. No, it's in fact, the philosopher's, I think, trying to get to a place that's the opposite, trying to assume that it's too narrowly applied only to humans, he's making a case or she's making a case, that, hey, or starting to make a case that, this, you know, some logic for applying it only to humans, to denying it to animals is false. So this is definitely not gonna be the case. So we're gonna feel good about picking A.