PRO

Critical Thinking for Business

Chapters 2 › Unit 2: Argument analysis 1 View instructions Hide instructions

Argument analysis 1

In this practice sheet, we will analyze the first of three simple arguments.

“Of all the candidates we’ve seen today, the third one seemed to be really experienced in sales. We need somebody with this advantage. I think we should hire him.”

Please give it a go yourself, in your journal, following the steps below, without reading my take. In the end, please compare your work to my notes (which are obviously not perfect) and perhaps note what needs to be improved. Then, jump to the next exercise.

Steps of analyzing an argument:

1. Put the argument in standard form.

a. Identify the conclusion.
b. Identify all premises.
c. Identify and write hidden premises.
d. Simplify wording.
e. Draw the graph.

2. Check if the conclusion follows logically from the premises.

3. Check if the premises are true.

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Instructor’s take (to be read only after your own analysis):

1. Putting the argument in standard form.

a. What is the conclusion of this argument? “So I think we should hire him.”
b. What are the premises? What is the conclusion based upon? “Of all the candidates we’ve seen today, the third one seemed to be really experienced in sales.” and “We need somebody with this advantage.”
c. Are there any hidden premises? No, in this example we have two stated premises.
d. Let’s simplify wording:
P1: The third candidate seemed to be experienced in sales.
P2: We need somebody with this advantage.
C: We should hire the third candidate.

e. Now we can draw the graph:

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2. Checking if the mechanism works.

This is an inductive argument and we treat its mechanism in terms of strong or weak. In the absence of a context, this is an averagely strong argument. Context should provide information about, for instance, the total number of candidates.

3. Check if the premises are true.

P1: The third candidate seemed to be experienced in sales.
• Who assesses that? The candidate himself said so? He has a clear interest for us to believe that, so he could have exaggerated. Somebody who interviewed him? If so, can sales skills be measured during an interview?
• How is this statement reached? Do we rely on his past performance? If yes, then we assume that the two jobs are similar (he sells the same kind of stuff to the same kind of customers and in the same framework of motivation). Is it safe to assume that?
• Is the statement clear? What does it mean “experienced in sales” exactly? How can we quantify that? Or find a benchmark?
• Is it testable? Can we devise a test, like a role-playing sales pitch?
• Is there some information not taken into consideration? Or clearly omitted? This does not check the truth of the statement, but its real-life frame. For instance, what if the guy really is experienced in sales, but with a quick phone call we can find out that he was fired from his last job because he is very lazy?

Well, only if the answers to all these questions are satisfactory, then we can say that the first premise is true and we can move to the second.

P2: We need somebody with this advantage.

• Who decided that? And how? Was this need identified as clear and strategic during a previous discussion?
• Is the statement clear? What is the meaning of the word “need” here? That we can’t do without? Or that it would be nice? Is it even necessary to hire one more person?
• Is it testable? Can we, for instance, hire someone just for a trial period?
• Is there some information omitted? Perhaps we don’t have the budget to hire somebody experienced.

Again, only if the answers to all these questions are satisfactory, then we can say that the second premise is true, as well.

If the mechanism works and the premises are true, we can say that this is a good argument and we can believe the conclusion to be true.

Sales background candidate

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Premise 1: of all the candidates we’ve seen today, the third one seemed to be really experienced in sales.

Premise 2: We need somebody with this advantage.

Hidden: sales skills is a definitory advantage for this role.

Conclusion: I think we should hire him.

In fact the argument is based on only one premise: sales skills of the candidate.
We know nothing about candidate motivation, energy level, ability to deliver results, ability to connect with the team.
Best case scenario, the evaluation of the sales skills could be based upon digging candidate'd: market knowledge, market networking, sales strategy, product value proposition, pricing, but the rest of the feature are abstractions (not investigated).

Premise 2 does not bring any additional input/information. It is in fact an assumption not based on anything and not related to any other feature candidate may/may not have.

Decision to hire based solely upon one feature is like the conclusion is not the logical result of the premises, while at least one premise is not supported by anything.

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