A Guide to the GRE/Conclusions and Premises

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Conclusions & Premises[edit]


Identify the conclusion of each argument

The “conclusion” is the ultimate point which the author seeks to have the reader believe. Conclusions are typically buried within very verbose language. For instance:

John Locke wrote that life in the state of nature was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” However, many other writers took a more positive view of the state of nature. For instance, well known writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson glorified nature as pure and virtuous compared to the evils of society and civilization. It is clear from this that Locke’s view of nature was quite cynical.

The conclusion is the last sentence - that Locke's view was cynical.

Conclusions can be located by looking for signal words such as “thus”, “therefore”, “it follows”, “so”, and “conclude.”

The conclusion will be the statement that the other sentences gravitate towards, and thus will often be signaled by language of this sort.


Identify the conclusions in each of the following short passages.

1. The common carp frequently occurs in rivers and lakes, and is often caught by fisherman. Recently, a similar fish, the black carp, has spread into many of the same bodies of water from the fish farms where it is raised. Since the black carp is native to China, it lacks immunity to many local diseases, and since the black carp looks very similar to the common carp, fishermen who catch carp are currently at risk of contracting food poisoning from the fish.

2. Paying taxes to support government welfare programs tends to reduce citizens’ desire to provide assistance to others volitionally, since if people feel they are already contributing to the welfare of others through taxes which fund government welfare expenditures, they will feel that their obligation to society has been fulfilled. It follows that public welfare programs in fact have at least some detrimental impact on the public good.


Answers to Practice Questions[edit]

1. The conclusion is that fishermen are at risk for food poisoning from catching the fish. This argument is explaining that, because fishermen can't distinguish the fish from other carp, and because the fish isn't immune to local diseases, fishermen will be at risk.

2. The conclusion of the argument is that tax-funded social welfare reduces incentive to give. The reason for this conclusion is that if people are forced to pay taxes, they will feel they have done enough, and will be less inclined to give.