In this article, we deal with question types which are very frequent in Critical Reasoning: Weaken the Argument and Strengthen the Argument.
As the name suggests, these questions are based on attacking the conclusion of argument and creating an element of doubt in it.
The first thing you need to do is identify the assumption for this argument. Remember, assumptions link the given facts and conclusion in the argument.
Now the question is how to weaken the argument? Well, the simple method is to attack the assumption of the argument: reverse the assumption of the argument. But wait, how can we do that? Assumptions, after all, function like unstated facts in an argument.
That is exactly where the catch is: Assumptions are unstated facts and that is why they leave room to be attacked. Remember, facts in an argument are sacred and cannot be challenged. And when we talk of weakening the argument, we imply weaken the conclusion of the argument (that is our goal).
You should challenge the given conclusion without attacking the facts. This is what ‘Weaken the argument’ questions are all about.
We can also use the method of alternate explanations to answer these questions.
In this method, we essentially search for another explanation for the same set of facts and thereby prove that the given conclusion may not be valid.
We now explore how to deal with ‘Strengthen the Argument’ questions. Strengthen the argument questions are the exact reverse of weaken the argument questions.
In fact, since you need to support a given argument, these questions are actually easier than the ‘weaken the argument’ ones.
In order to strengthen an argument, you will have to either:
- Introduce supporting evidence for the given conclusion.
- Validate an assumption made by the argument
- Identify and fix a weakness of the given conclusion.