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premise

Introduction to Logic, 2nd edition, by Harry Gensler (Routledge, 2010)

Definition:

A proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn; either the major or the minor proposition of a syllogism in a deductive argument.

See also:

Etymology:

From Medieval Latin, "things mentioned before"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Logic is the study of argument. As used in this sense, the word means not a quarrel (as when we 'get into an argument') but a piece of reasoning in which one or more statements are offered as support for some other statement. The statement being supported is the conclusion of the argument. The reasons given in support of the conclusion are called premises. We may say, 'This is so (conclusion) because that is so (premise).' Or, 'This is so and this is so (premises), therefore that is so (conclusion).' Premises are generally preceded by such words as because, for, since, on the ground that, and the like."
    (S. Morris Engel, With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies, 3rd ed., St. Martin's, 1986)


  • "Here is a simple example of reasoning about the nature/nurture issue:
    Identical twins sometimes have different IQ test scores. Yet these twins inherit exactly the same genes. So environment must play some part in determining a person's IQ.
    Logicians call this kind of reasoning an argument. In this case, the argument consists of three statements:

    1. Identical twins often have different IQ scoeres.
    2. Identical twins inherit the same genes.
    3. So environment must play some part in determing IQ.
    The first two statements in this argument give reasons for accepting the third. In logic talk, they are said to be premises."
    (Howard Kahane and Nancy Cavender, Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric, 8th ed., Wadsworth, 1998)


  • "Here's another example of an argument. In fall 2008, before Barack Obama was elected US president, he was far ahead in the polls. But some thought he'd be defeated by the 'Bradley effect,' whereby many whites say they'll vote for a black candidate but in fact don't. Barack's wife Michelle, in a CNN interview with Larry King (October 8), argued that there wouldn't be a Bradley effect:
    Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.
    If there was going to be a Bradley effect, Barack wouldn't be the nominee [because the effect would have shown up in the primary elections]
    [Therefore] There isn't going to be a Bradley effect.
    Once she gives this argument, we can't just say, 'Well, my opinion is that there will be a Bradley effect.' Instead, we have to respond to her reasoning. It's clearly valid--the conclusion follows from the premises. Are the premises true? The first premise was undeniable. To dispute the second premise, we'd have to argue that the Bradley effect would appear in the final election but not in the primaries, but it's unclear how one might defend this. So an argument like this changes the nature of the discussion. (By the way, there was no Bradley effect when the general election took place a month later.)"
    (Harry Gensler, Introduction to Logic, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2010)
Pronunciation: PREM-iss
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