What is an Argument?
An Argument is a set of statements. The goal of any argument is to get you to believe something or agree with something - that "something" is called the conclusion of the argument. Most of the time, an argument cites one or more fact that supports the conclusion. Often, between the premises and the conclusions, there's a hidden logical connection i.e. the assumption of the argument. Our job as readers is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these arguments and figure out whether or not we should adopt the perspectives they present. The assumptions are the bond that holds an argument together and weakening or strengthening the assumptions will weaken or strengthen the argument. The trick of the Strengthen/Weaken question is to strengthen or weaken the assumptions.
Strengthening an Argument:
If you are asked to look for an answer choice that strengthens the argument; then find the answer choice that corroborates that the central assumption is correct.
There are two ways of strengthening an argument:
I. If you come across an answer choice that would be correct according to an assumption question, it would also be correct for a strengthen question. The correct answer can simply be a paraphrasing of the assumption itself.
II. If the correct answer can confirm the assumption by mentioning an experiment, survey or any other proof and helps the assumption appear to be true, then it will support our main argument.
Weakening an Argument:
There are two ways in which you can weaken an argument:
I. An answer that weakens the argument can directly disprove the assumption. Any choice that states that the assumption is wrong will weaken the argument.
II. If different evidence can strengthen the argument; different evidence can weaken the argument as well. Any new information given in an answer choice that makes the assumption less likely to be correct will weaken the argument as a whole.
1. Consider the following argument:
The latest Bollywood movie is based on a bestselling novel and stars Salman Khan. Therefore the film is expected to do well in box office.
The first step in these kinds of questions is to identify the facts, and the conclusion.
Fact 1: Film is based on a popular novel.
Fact 2: Star is Salman khan.
Conclusion: Film should be successful.
Critical Reasoning: Concepts & Practice
The second step is to identify the assumptions, but the assumption is always unstated and hence hidden.
Hidden assumption for fact 1: Fans of the book are expected to help sales of the tickets.
Hidden assumption for fact 2: Salman Khan’s presence should contribute to the success of the film.
The general assumption is that, based on main statement, anything based on popular novel and popular star will be a huge hit at box office.
Once we have identified these three aspects of the question, we read the question so as the identify what is required. If the question requires strengthening or weakening of the argument. In order to strengthen or weaken an argument, we will look at the assumptions.
In order to strengthen the argument, the assumption will support the argument; else it will go against the argument.
For the above question, consider the following options:
1. The film will play only in urban areas.
2. The producers of the film have cast their next movie without Salman Khan.
3. The film is not likely to win an academy award.
4. The book upon which the film is based is a worldwide hit.
5. Salman Khan’s popularity ratings are at an all time low.
If for the above options, the question is to strengthen the argument, then we will choose answer as option 4, as it would elaborate the book’s popularity, thereby increasing the sales the movie, consequently making it a hit.
However if the question was to weaken the argument, then we will choose option 5, as it is talking about the decreased popularity of Salman Khan, thus lesser people will watch, and thus the movie will not be a hit.
2. Consider the following argument:
The cellular service quality has dropped significantly in India. Ten years ago, there were no instances of call drop or no connectivity. There is also a decrease in the speed and reliability of service.
All of the following would tend to strengthen the conclusion of the argument above except:
A. The volume of connections handled by the Mobile operators has increased dramatically over the last ten years.
B. Unprecedented increases in the cost as well as scarce availability of spectrum for mobile services have put severe pressures on the Mobile companies.
C. Mobile services have diversified from carrying mere voice data to a whole range of internet data such as downloading, video-calling, data sharing, etc.
D. The opposition to negative externality of cellular radiation has obstructed increase of network services in response to the increasing subscriber base.
Understand the question carefully. The question is asking you look for an option that will weaken our conclusion. For that you need to find the conclusion. The conclusion in the given argument is 'The cellular service quality has dropped significantly in India.'
Now if we look at the option A, it is uprightly giving us a reason as why there is a decline in the services. If the volume of the mobile connection subscriber increase in a dramatic way, and the service provider is not in a capacity to handle it perfectly, it will surely lead to mismanagement. And similar is the case with option B, as- if there is scarcity of spectrum it will be difficult to give good services.
We are now left with option C and D. Option C says that as compared to the older times when the cellular companies were catering to only one kind of service whereas, now they have diversified their services. This option is weakening the main argument, which makes it the correct answer option.
Option D is also strengthening the conclusion as it says that due to the negative externality of the radiation, people are opposing it but they are not opposing the use of mobile phones, which means there may be less mobile towers in comparison to the increasing subscriber base.
Verbal Preparation Series