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#20 - The new perfume Aurora smells worse to Joan than any

Jkjones3789
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Hello, For this flaw in the reasoning question, I chose B. I knew it wasn't an appeal to authority since Professor Jameson would be an appropriate authority. Please explain to me why it is C and not B? Thank You
KelseyWoods
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Hi Jkjones!

When looking for flaws, it's usually best to start with the conclusion and then look at how the author is trying to support that conclusion. In this case, the conclusion is "Joan and her friends have a defect in their sense of smell." The premises used to support that conclusion are that Professor Jameson, an expert on the physiology of smell, prefers a different scent to the one Joan and her friends prefer. But does that premise really support that conclusion? Does Prof. Jameson's preference really prove that there is something wrong with Joan and her friends' sense of smell?

The flaw in this argument actually is an inappropriate appeal to authority. Professor Jameson is an expert on the physiology of smell, but that doesn't mean that her preference for one smell over another proves that Joan and her friends have a defect in their sense of smell. The personal preferences of an expert don't prove some sort of defect in someone with different preferences.

Think about this parallel case: Let's say that I am an expert on the physiology of taste. If I say that I prefer the taste of beets to chocolate, would that mean that everyone who prefers the taste of chocolate over beets has a defective sense of taste?

The same reasoning applies here. Professor Jameson can tell us all about how our noses are able to detect smells, but that doesn't mean that her preferences for certain scents proves that people with different preferences have defective senses of smell.

Answer choice (D) is the correct answer here because it is the only answer choice that correctly identifies the flaw as an inappropriate appeal to authority.

Incidentally, inappropriate appeal to authority doesn't always mean that the expert appealed to has no expertise in the relevant field. Sometimes the expert appealed to might have relevant expertise, but an expert's opinion often doesn't prove anything. Experts can often have differing opinions. That's why many people might seek out a second opinion when getting diagnosed by doctors, etc.

Answer choice (B) doesn't describe a flaw in this argument. Yes, the argument does not discuss the fact that one might prefer one thing to another without liking either very much. But that distinction is not needed in this argument and so ignoring it is not a flaw of the argument.

Hope this helps!

Best,
Kelsey
bk1111
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Hello. I am having trouble with this flaw question. I understand why it is D is the correct answer, but why is C incorrect? I chose this answer thinking that because the stimulus only refers to one expert, Professor J, if there were a widespread agreement among experts in the physiology field, it could support the conclusion that there is a defect in their sense of smell. Is this way of approaching the question incorrect?

Thank you.
Jonathan Evans
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Hi, BK1111,

Great question! The trouble with Answer Choice (C) is that it shares the same flawed assumption with the argument itself. Answer Choice (C) suggests that given more popularity among smell-experts, the argument would be stronger. In fact, more popularity among this group of experts would add little credence to the reasoning. Smell-expertise is not relevant to establishing which preference is more valid. Adding even more smell-expertise to the equation does not corroborate one opinion over another. Further, the preferences of smell-experts have no bearing on whether anyone's sense of smell is "defective."

Answer Choice (C) only compounds the original error with a new flaw: Appeal to Popular Opinion.

I hope this helps!
Lsat180Please
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KelseyWoods wrote:Hi Jkjones!

When looking for flaws, it's usually best to start with the conclusion and then look at how the author is trying to support that conclusion. In this case, the conclusion is "Joan and her friends have a defect in their sense of smell." The premises used to support that conclusion are that Professor Jameson, an expert on the physiology of smell, prefers a different scent to the one Joan and her friends prefer. But does that premise really support that conclusion? Does Prof. Jameson's preference really prove that there is something wrong with Joan and her friends' sense of smell?

The flaw in this argument actually is an inappropriate appeal to authority. Professor Jameson is an expert on the physiology of smell, but that doesn't mean that her preference for one smell over another proves that Joan and her friends have a defect in their sense of smell. The personal preferences of an expert don't prove some sort of defect in someone with different preferences.

Think about this parallel case: Let's say that I am an expert on the physiology of taste. If I say that I prefer the taste of beets to chocolate, would that mean that everyone who prefers the taste of chocolate over beets has a defective sense of taste?

The same reasoning applies here. Professor Jameson can tell us all about how our noses are able to detect smells, but that doesn't mean that her preferences for certain scents proves that people with different preferences have defective senses of smell.

Answer choice (D) is the correct answer here because it is the only answer choice that correctly identifies the flaw as an inappropriate appeal to authority.

Incidentally, inappropriate appeal to authority doesn't always mean that the expert appealed to has no expertise in the relevant field. Sometimes the expert appealed to might have relevant expertise, but an expert's opinion often doesn't prove anything. Experts can often have differing opinions. That's why many people might seek out a second opinion when getting diagnosed by doctors, etc.

Answer choice (B) doesn't describe a flaw in this argument. Yes, the argument does not discuss the fact that one might prefer one thing to another without liking either very much. But that distinction is not needed in this argument and so ignoring it is not a flaw of the argument.

Hope this helps!

Best,
Kelsey


I also originally thought that this was a proper appeal to authority. Your explanation was very helpful. On the other hand, what would a proper appeal to authority look like? As you said, relying on the opinion of one expert is not enough, is any appeal to authority legitimate? Thank you!
onlywinter
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Flaw #57, p. 243

Since we're talking about a defect, an expert on the physiology of smell would have to examine and diagnose Aurora and her friends. A writer cannot simply use the preferences of Aurora and her friends and a statement by a smell expert to determine that the Aurora & co have a medical condition. That was my reasoning.
Malila Robinson
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Hi Lsat180Please,
It could be a proper appeal to authority if the expert said something like: "The general consensus of peer-reviewed research is that people who do not prefer Aurora to any other smell tend to have a defect in their sense of smell. Joan and her friends do not prefer Aurora to any other smell, so they may have a defect in their sense of smell."
In this example the expert it citing evidence and is using more general/less absolute statements, so it would be a proper appeal to authority.
Hope that helps!
-Malila
Malila Robinson
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Hi onlywinter,
I think you may be using too much outside reasoning in your process. I'm not sure that we can say for a fact that an expert would need to diagnose someone in order for a writer to say that someone has a medical condition. And I'm not sure that we can say for a fact that a defect in one's sense of smell would rise to the level of a medical condition. It may depend how we are defining medical condition? Regardless it is too much conjecture to work in a Flaw question, where we have to say that the statements in the argument are absolutely true.
Hope that helps!
-Malila