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Complete Question Explanation

Assumption. The correct answer choice is (D)

The stimulus concludes that a university should not be entitled to patent the inventions of its faculty members, and supports that conclusion by arguing that patents amount to promoting a motive to suppress ideas, which is incompatible with a university's obligation to promote the free flow of ideas.

You are asked to identify the assumption to this argument, but the assumption may be difficult for you to ascertain before proceeding to the choices. The argument makes the assumption that entitlement ought to stem from whether an action is incompatible with obligations, and that any of the inventions will be valuable, among too many others to list. You should proceed to the choices and remember to use the negation test on anything that looks like it might be critical to the argument.

Answer choice (A): You can quickly eliminate this incorrect choice, because whether or not there are other institutions obliged to promote the free flow of ideas is not relevant to the discussion of the university's obligation.

Answer choice (B): This choice might have seemed attractive, but under negation (you must use the logical, non-polar negation) you find that fewer than most inventions would be profitable, which still allows the conflict with a university's obligations. This choice is wrong, and is a poor rendering of the required assumption that some of the patents would be thought valuable enough to patent.

Answer choice (C): Since the stimulus never discusses publications, you should not presume that publications are the implied method of disseminating ideas, and this choice is wrong.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice. For the conflict of interest to create any real incompatibility, the universities will have to sometimes act on the motive to suppress information. If the universities never act on that motive (using the negation technique), then it is difficult to understand why any real conflict exists.

Answer choice (E): The argument concerned whether universities should be allowed to patent the inventions of their faculty, not whether the patents would be sought by some other party, so this choice is wrong. Furthermore, this choice might actually suggest that the patenting of inventions and suppression of ideas is a given, challenging the assumption that granting or withholding patents to or from universities could change anything.
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Wouldn't this be a method of reasoning question?
 David Boyle
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jcough346 wrote:Wouldn't this be a method of reasoning question?

Hello jcough346,

Since the question stem reads, "Which one of the following is an assumption that the argument makes?", it would be safe to assume that it is an Assumption question.

Hope this helps,
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I ask since its listed as Method under the "Supplemental Tests, Test Sections, and Questions" page.
 Kristina Moen
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Hi jcough,

This stimulus appeared on the October 1993 test with two Question Stems. This used to occur on tests, and you may find this on older practice tests.

Question 19 reads "Which one of the following is an assumption that the argument makes?" This is indeed an Assumption question.

Question 20 reads "The claim that a university should not be entitled to patent the inventions of its faculty members plays which one of the following roles in the argument?" This is a Method of Reasoning–Argument Part question.

You will find these questions in different locations, so that they fit with the appropriate Question Type lesson in the PowerScore course and books. Question 20 (Method of Reasoning–Argument Part) is in the Logical Reasoning Problem Set #2 in the OSC. Apologies for the confusion!
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Can someone provide a negation of answer choice D? I wasn't sure of the proper way to negate it.
 Adam Tyson
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There are many ways to logically negate a statement, Tyler, but they all come down to the same thing: make the answer false. When you are stuck trying to figure out how to negate a statement, try just inserting the phrase "It is not true that" at the beginning of the statement. Here, that would be:

It is not true that Universities that have a motive to suppress information concerning discoveries by their faculty members will occasionally act on that motive.

Another way to do it when the answers are conditional, like this one, is to change the language of the stimulus in a way that makes the necessary condition not necessary. In other words, say that the sufficient condition can happen and the necessary condition doesn't have to, or maybe that it simply won't happen. Here's one way to do that in this case:

Universities that have a motive to suppress information concerning discoveries by their faculty members will never act on that motive.

Play around with that idea of accomplishing the goal of making the statement false, and you may find a few more ways to do it effectively and efficiently that give you what you need to determine whether the answer is an assumption or not. The negated (falsified) version of the correct answer will ruin the argument, while the negated (falsified) version of the wrongs answers will not have the effect. They might help the argument, or have no impact, or maybe weaken a little bit but not as much as the right answer does.

Give that a try and let us know how it works out!

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