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#23 - Ethicist: Marital vows often contain the promise to

Steve Stein
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In that one, the ethicist makes the following argument:

Premise:
If in marital vows, love refers to feelings, then that promise makes no sense.

Conclusion:
Therefore love should not be taken to refer to feelings in that context.

The problem with answer choice B is that this stimulus doesn't deal with the question of whether or not people should make such promises, but how such promises should be interpreted. That is why answer choice D wins:

Premise: love refering to feelings in marital vows makes no sense.
Answer D: promises should not be interpreted such that they make no sense.
Conclusion: Therefore love should not be interpreted as referring to feelings in such context.

Let me know whether that makes sense--thanks,

Steve
Steve Stein
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agroves
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Hello,

Can you explain why answer choice C is incorrect? I was taught to work from the conclusion when answering assumption questions and answer choice D does not seen to connect as closely to the conclusion.

Thank you!

Angela
Jon Denning
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Hey Angela - thanks for the question. This one is actually a Justify the Conclusion question, where the correct answer will prove that the conclusion is true.

This argument centers on the meaning of the marital vow promise to love “until death do us part.” The ethicist argues that if “love” here refers to a feeling, the promise makes no sense, because one does not control his or her own feelings and it doesn't make sense to promise something that is not under one’s control. The ethicist concludes then that no one should take “love” in the context of marital vows to refer to feelings. I italicize "should" in the conclusion because, as you'll see, that's a bit of a leap: going from saying a particular interpretation of a word does not make sense, to concluding that people should therefore not interpret it that way (just because it wouldn't be sensible doesn't prove we should avoid it).

To prephrase, we need to consider that leap! That is, we need to explain why the author thinks we have to interpret a promise in a way that makes sense.

Let's look at C and D:

Answer choice (C): Just because "love" can potentially refer to something other than feelings, that still doesn't prove how we should interpret it. In other words, even if we believe that it can refer to something else, does that lead to the conclusion that that something else is preferable? No, so this doesn't prove the conclusion.

Answer choice (D): This answer proves the conclusion by showing that promises should not be interpreted in such a way that do not make sense. The stimulus already stated that the promise to love, if it refers to a feeling, would make no sense. So if we add that interpreting promises in a way that makes no sense is something we should not do, then logically we would conclude that no one should interpret love to refer to feelings.


I hope that helps!
Jon Denning
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euniecho1
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This question about the Ethicist and marital vows has only a 19% success rate, as I read from my test results.

I don't see how D is the best answer. To me, B or C look like legitimate answers as well. I would appreciate it if you could explain this to me. Thank you!

Best,
Eunie
BethRibet
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Hi Eunie,

Thanks for writing in; I'm happy to help!

With a question like this, we know that the language "follows logically if... assumed", signals that the right answer choice needs to contain an assumption which if true, will thoroughly justify the conclusion. Meaning if the answer choice is true, then the conclusion must be true as well.

So the first step is to identify the conclusion, which in this case, includes a value judgment, that no one "should", take the concept in question (love), to refer to feelings.

Then we ask, what assumption was made in this passage, in order to get to the conclusion. The support for this conclusion is that the promise in question makes no sense. They explain why it supposedly makes no sense, indicating that one can not promise to feel, basically.

So we have premises that tell us:
a) people promise to love,
b) promising to feel makes no sense

and a conclusion tells us that we should not interpret love to refer to feelings.

So the missing information, or the assumption, is that we should not interpret promises in terms that would cause them to make no sense. If that assumption is presented as true, then the conclusion follows logically. D corresponds to that assumption very nicely.

B does not quite correspond to the conclusion. The conclusion tells us how not to interpret something, not whether or not we should promise. Even if we continue to promise things beyond our control, the conclusion, that we should not interpret love to refer to feelings, might still be possible.

C is probably true, given the argument, but not 100% certain. Perhaps the author might argue that love is simply a nonsensical word. All we know is that the author asserts something about what love does not mean, in a particular context, but we don't know for sure that love means anything else. In addition, C is not the assumption *required* by the argument. If C is true, that perhaps supports the argument somewhat, but the conclusion is not then guaranteed. Even if love can mean something other than feelings, that doesn't help us understand why no one *should* interpret love in this regard.

Compare D again, and note that D must be true. If we were to negate it for instance, and say that promises should be interpreted in this way (rather than that they should not), the conclusion would then be thoroughly unsupported.

I hope this helps resolve the question!

Beth
euniecho1
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Hi Beth,

Thank you for your detailed reply. It makes much more sense now. :)
avengingangel
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I originally chose C when taking this PT, but when going back over my questions and having time to fully think/diagram it, I clearly saw why D is the correct answer.

When thinking through why I originally chose C, I fell into the assumption vs. justify wormhole. I think I originally chose C because I knew that it had to be true in order for the conclusion to make sense. I spent a good amount of time reviewing/thinking about it, and It;d be great if a human can confirm the explanation I've given myself in my own words, so I can make sure I'm on the right track!:

"An assumption answer does not justify the reasoning (a statement that is sufficient enough to make the conclusion true, would however). A correct assumption answer simply states one thing that's necessary for the conclusion to be true."

thanks ! !
David Boyle
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avengingangel wrote:I originally chose C when taking this PT, but when going back over my questions and having time to fully think/diagram it, I clearly saw why D is the correct answer.

When thinking through why I originally chose C, I fell into the assumption vs. justify wormhole. I think I originally chose C because I knew that it had to be true in order for the conclusion to make sense. I spent a good amount of time reviewing/thinking about it, and It;d be great if a human can confirm the explanation I've given myself in my own words, so I can make sure I'm on the right track!:

"An assumption answer does not justify the reasoning (a statement that is sufficient enough to make the conclusion true, would however). A correct assumption answer simply states one thing that's necessary for the conclusion to be true."

thanks ! !



Hello avengingangel,

That's often true, yes, although in the case of biconditionals, an assumption (necessary) could also be a justify (sufficient) answer.
(Also, you say "I think I originally chose C because I knew that it had to be true in order for the conclusion to make sense.": maybe so, although it may not legitimately refer to anything else besides feelings, and may have a really silly meaning. --And, as per Beth, maybe "love" might not mean anything at all!)

Hope this helps,
David
avengingangel
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Thanks!

Can you clarify what exactly you mean by "biconditionals?" I apologize if it was discussed elsewhere in the thread and I missed it.

Thank you!
David Boyle
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avengingangel wrote:Thanks!

Can you clarify what exactly you mean by "biconditionals?" I apologize if it was discussed elsewhere in the thread and I missed it.

Thank you!



Hello avengingangel,

"Biconditional" means an arrow that goes in both directions, as in "if and only if". Normally an arrow points in only one direction for conditionals, as in "If A then B". But sometimes you have "A if and only if B", where the arrow goes both directions.

Hope this helps,
David