Counter-Assertions, Counter-Arguments, Hypothetical Reasoning, and Assumptions

An overview of counter-assertions, counter-arguments, hypothetical reasoning, and assumptions.

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  • Created by: Holly
  • Created on: 18-05-12 14:31

Counter-Assertion

If the writer presents a reason that would support an opponent's argument, rather than a counter-argument, then the writer is making a counter-assertion/claim.

Also referred to as a counter-claim. 

This is similar to a counter-argument but is only a reason, there is no given conclusion.

By including a counter-assertion or counter argument the writer gives the impression that the issue has been considered in a balanced way, as the opposing view has been taken into account.

Indicators for Counter-Arguments/Assertions

  • although
  • despite this
  • however
  • it has been said
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Counter-Argument

An additional argument that argues against what the conclusion wishes to establish.

A writer will normally present a counter-argument in order to dismiss it, and strengthen their own argument.

By including a counter-assertion or counter argument the writer gives the impression that the issue has been considered in a balanced way, as the opposing view has been taken into account.

More Indicators for Counter-Arguments/Assertions

  • it has been suggested that 
  • contrary to this
  • on the other hand 
  • some may argue
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Hypothetical Claims

Claim
A statement  or judgement that can be challenged.

Hypothetical Claim
A claim in the form of "If this... then that..." 

Here is an example of a hypothetical claim:
"If we don't keep hospitals clean, then more people will catch nasty bugs like MRSA."

They predict what will happen, if something else happens.

Most of the time hypothetical claims are not clearly indicated. For example:
"If we don't keep hospitals clean, more people will catch nasty bugs like MRSA."

As well as this, some statements look similar to hypothetical claims but aren't ones! E.g: "I want a winter suntan even if I get skin cancer from the sunbed." 
This statement does not make a prediction. 

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Hypothetical Reasoning

Looks at the consequences that might occur if something were the case.

Here is an example:

If it rains, we will get wet. I hate getting wet, so we should stay at home.

They use the hypothetical situation in order to support their argument.

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Assumptions

A missing reason in an argument.  The writer accepts the assumption but has not stated it. The assumption is essential for the conclusion to be drawn.

Example
The office safe has been forced open. Ethan has not turned up this morning. Therefore, Ethan stole the money.

Here there are two basic assumptions:
1. The money was in the safe.
2. Ethan is not late for another reason.

Exam Tip
You need to phrase the assumption clearly and precisely. 
Before thinking about a possible assumption, make sure you have identified the conclusion. This is because any assumption that you find must support the conclusion. 

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Checking Assumptions (The Reverse Test)

Work out the exact opposite of the assumption you have and see how that relates to the argument. If your assumption is correct, then putting its exact reverse into the argument should mean the argument will not work.

Example
Graduates from Oxford are often found in senior positions in major institutions. Also, their salaries are often higher than graduates from other universities who have jobs of equivalent status and responsibility. So, whether it is fair or not, a place on an Oxford degree course is still a good guarantee of better earning after university.

Assumption: Graduates from Oxford earn more only because of the fact that they went to Oxford. 
Reverse: Graduates from Oxford do not earn more (only) because of the fact that they went to Oxford.
If this was put in the argument, it would no longer work. The argument would suggest that Oxford graduates earn more money through working harder or being more skilled. 
So this shows that the original assumption was correct.

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