A Guide to the GRE/Roles in Arguments

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Roles in Arguments[edit]

Overview[edit]

Identify the role of each sentence in relation to the argument's conclusion.

A society's policy toward its justice system reflects the society's concept of morality. Nations must therefore have fundamentally different concepts of morality. Nations around the world have drastically different justice systems, which vary widely. It is thus impossible for the world to have a single unified set of rules or regulations. Groups with fundamental differences with regard to morality are necessarily precluded from having uniform rules between them.

The words marked in bold play which of the following roles in the argument?

(A) The first is a subconclusion which it uses to reach its main conclusion; the second is an additional premise which the argument uses to reach this main conclusion. (B) The first is the main conclusion of the argument; the second is an additional premise which the argument uses to reach this main conclusion. (C) The first is a premise which the argument uses to draw its main conclusion; the second is an inference which can be drawn on the basis of this conclusion. (D) The first is a subconclusion which it uses to reach its main conclusion; the second is the argument's main conclusion. (E) The first is a premise which the argument uses to draw a subconclusion; the second is a subconclusion which the argument uses to reach its main conclusion.

The answer above is (A). The first sentence in bold is a subconclusion - one used to reach another conclusion in the second to last sentence. The second is a principle, or premise, used to reach this main conclusion.

Practice[edit]

Groceries are generally more expensive in Alaska than in other places because most of the groceries must be transported to Alaska from faraway places. The long transportation incurs costs, which pass on to consumers at Alaskan grocery stores. This means that if individuals move to Alaska, they will probably pay more for groceries each month.

1. The argument above proceeds by

(A) suggesting an alternative course of action to avoid an undesirable result (B) establishing a general fact and then applying that principle to a given set of facts (C) using an analogous situation to illustrate the problems with pursuing a given end (D) showing that certain measures, if followed, would lead to unacceptable conclusions (E) appealing to authority to establish what it seeks to prove


All too often contemporary academics criticize the government and public policy, but make no effort on their own behalf to change it. Such academics have no right to make such criticism. After all, one who willingly lets a malfeasance be inflicted upon them is not within his or her right to lament the results of that malfeasance.

2. The statement in bold plays which one of the following roles in the argument?

(A) a factual basis for articulating that malfeasance is currently being inflicted by the government (B) an example of the type of criticism given by contemporary academics (C) a general principle which allows the conclusion of the argument to be drawn (D) an illustration of a key problem for which the passage proposes a solution (E) evidence for an opposing claim which is subsequently dismissed

Comments[edit]

Answers to Practice Questions[edit]

1. (B)

The “general fact” is that things cost more in Alaska. Applied to individuals moving, the principle serves to impel the conclusion that more money need be spent on groceries.

2. (C)

The second sentence is the conclusion of the argument, which states that academics have no right to criticize the government. The rationale for this is found in the third sentence - that academics do not make any effort to change things, and that absent such an effort, they have no right to complain.