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Introducton to Critical Reasoning

Critical Reasoning, as a test item, is a regular feature on CAT and other B-school examinations.

 

Critical Reasoning Questions are designed to test the following:


Identifying the Argument

An argument does not mean conflict in Critical Reasoning. Argument is simply a piece of reasoning which tries to prove or disapprove an assertion.


(Question would be like—Which of the following best expresses the main point of the passage above?)

Flaw in Reasoning

 

An example of flaw in reasoning can be—Sometimes in attempt to prove something on the basis of an argument, generalization may be done. This generalization may not be true always.


(Which of the following options exhibit reasoning similar to the one used in this given question?)

Wrong Assumption Based Conclusions

 

An assumption is something which is there in the mind of the person while speaking or writing.

(Question would be like—Given conclusion/argument in the question depends upon which of the following assumption?)


Difference between Assumption and Conclusion is
 – Assumption is unstated, it is in your mind. You do not speak this. Whereas conclusion is stated, you speak this out and it can be verified for being right or wrong through stated words.

 

Example :
A Father said to his son—If you do not attend your classes regularly, you will not get good marks in examinations. In this case, father assumes that (a) son will listen to his father. Conclusion that can be derived is—To get good marks in examinations, one is required to attend the classes regularly.

Usually, in CR questions, one is required to understand the assumption to identify the gap in the arguments and subsequent conclusion.

Strengthening or Weakening an Argument

 

To strengthen or weaken an argument, student is required to understand the argument and reasoning put forward.


Before we move ahead, let us know the ingredients of a Critical Reasoning question:


There are three parts of a Critical Reasoning question:

 

Description: 50142.png 


In normal situations, a premise is a ‘given’ statement, and hence, cannot be used to weakening or strengthening the argument. However, this should not be taken as a rule.

 

Mostly, strengthening or weakening happens at 2nd level—‘Connection between premise and conclusion’. This connection can happen using data or logical argument, and if a reliable data or logic can be given against the given argument in the question, then the argument has got weakened. On the other hand, if a reliable data or logic can be given in favour, then the argument has got strengthened.
 

Example :
When fossil fuels like coal, oil and other substances are burnt, they produce Carbon Dioxide which is already present in the atmosphere. However, as the Carbon Dioxide level rises, it leads to the greenhouse effect.

Already there is a lot of Carbon Dioxide which has caused an increase in the temperature, in order to stem this trend, growth in industrial production must be slowed down or methods of production without Carbon Dioxide emission must be
afound.

Example

Which of the following, if true, would tend to weaken the impact of the above conclusion?

  1. Most of the Carbon Dioxide responsible for the greenhouse effect comes from automobiles.
  2. Many cold countries would benefit from a rise in temperature.
  3. Carbon Monoxide is more harmful than Carbon Dioxide.
  4. Industry is soon shifting to synthetic fuel extracted from waste.
Solution

Understand the underlying reasoning:
 

Description: 50150.png 

 
Conclusion derived is—To stem this trend (Greenhouse effect), industrial production must be slowed down (here the assumption is that industrial production is responsible for Carbon Dioxide emission and hence, rise in Greenhouse effect) OR Methods of production without Carbon Dioxide emission must be found.

Which of the following, if true, would tend to weaken the impact of the above conclusion?
How can we weaken this:

There are two steps in the whole reasoning chain (as shown in the diagram). To weaken the conclusion drawn, we are required to weaken either step 1 or step 2 or both.

Weakening of Step 1:
If we somehow prove that Fossil fuels like coal, oil and other substances do not produce Carbon Dioxide.

Weakening of Step 2:
If we somehow prove that rise in Carbon Dioxide does not contribute significantly in the Greenhouse effect, or if we can prove that there are some other significant source of production of Carbon Dioxide so that we can shift the onus of Greenhouse effect from the Industrial production to some other factor.


Now let us look at the options:

 
Example

Many cold countries would benefit from a rise in temperature.

Solution

This option may be true factually that rise in temperature may benefit cold countries, although it is still to be verified. Although, in any case, this does not weaken the reasoning given in the question.


Example

Carbon Monoxide is more harmful than Carbon Dioxide.

Solution

May be true, but not related to the logic as given in the question.

 
Example

Industry is soon shifting to synthetic fuel extracted from waste.

Solution

Not related to the logic as given in the question.

 
 
Example

Most of the Carbon Dioxide responsible for the greenhouse effect comes from automobiles.

Solution

This shifts the onus of emission of Carbon Dioxide from the Industries to the automobile. Hence, weakens the reasoning used in the question.





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