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Jessica on August 9 at 08:16AM

What is the difference between principles and premises in questions? How do they differ, and how do they effect the question?

2 Replies

Shunhe on August 10 at 05:22PM

Hi @JessW,

Thanks for the question! So a premise is just a statement that’s not supported by any other statement and is just asserted that goes on to support a conclusion. So take the following very simple argument:

Premise: It’s wet outside.
Conclusion: It must’ve rained.

“It’s wet outside” was just kind of asserted, not supported by anything else. And it supports the conclusion that it must’ve rained.

A principle, on the other hand, you can think of as basically a rule of some kind that generalizes across different cases. There’s usually a prescriptive element; in other words, it says that one state of affairs is better than another using “should” language. For example, “Thou shalt not steal” is a principle. It’s something that generalizes across different cases (across people in general) and says that you “should” or “should not” do something (in this case, steal). Oftentimes, principles are premises, though they can also be conclusions. Here’s an example of a principle as a premise:

Premise/principle: It’s wrong to hurt people.
Premise: Joe punched Martha.
Conclusion: Joe did something wrong.

And here’s a principle as a conclusion:

Premise: Bob threw a six pack ring into the ocean the other day.
Premise: A turtle swam into it and died.
Principle/Conclusion: People shouldn’t litter.

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask any other questions that you might have.

Jessica on August 11 at 06:36AM

Thank you! This was very helpful.