Editorial: The threat of harsh punishment for a transgression usually decreases one's tendency to feel guilt or sh...

David on October 8, 2015

How is this a critical assumption?

Question 15 relies on an assumption to make the argument. How does B provide that assumption over C?

1 Reply

Melody on October 15, 2015

Here we have a strengthen with necessary premise question. Remember that a premise is necessary for a conclusion if the falsity of the premise guarantees or brings about the falsity of the conclusion. First we check to see if the answer choice strengthens the passage, and then, if it does strengthen, we negate the answer choice to see if its negation makes the argument fall apart. If the answer choice does both those things then it is our correct answer.

Conclusion: increasing the severity of the legal penalties for transgressions may amplify people's tendency to ignore the welfare of others.

Why? We are told that the threat of harsh punishment for a transgression usually decreases one's tendency to feel guilt or shame for committing that transgression and the tendency to feel such guilt reduces a person's tendency to commit transgressions.

What's the issue here? Somehow we are making a conclusion about ignoring the welfare of others, while we were never given any information to that effect.

Let's first look at answer choice (B): "At least some actions that involve ignoring the welfare of others are transgressions."

If we are to follow the reasoning in the argument, the threat of harsh punishment will decrease one's tendency to feel guilt for committing a transgression. A decreased sense of this guilt will most likely increase a person's tendency to commit transgressions since this guilt acts to reduce a person's tendency to commit transgressions.

Now, if we take the information given to us in answer choice (B) to be true, then if at least some of the actions that involve ignoring the welfare of others are transgressions, then it is true that increasing the severity of the legal penalties for transgressions, i.e. increasing the threat of harsh punishment, could increase people's tendency to ignore the welfare of others since this act will increase a person's tendency to commit transgressions and some acts that involve ignoring the welfare of others are transgressions.

Negation: No actions that involve ignoring the welfare of others are transgressions.

Does this make the argument fall apart? Yes.

If none of the actions that involve ignoring the welfare of others are transgressions, then the argument cannot connect it's premise to the conclusion. There is no information at all about how ignoring the welfare of someone is at all pertinent to the argument.

Thus, answer choice (B) is the correct answer.

Now, let's look at answer choice (C): "People who are concerned about threats to their own well-being tend to be less concerned about the welfare of others."

Does this strengthen? No.

Answer choice (C) is irrelevant. We have been given no information about people who are concerned about threats to their own well-being. Thus, any information about them does nothing for our reasoning. We are trying to connect why the fact that a decreased sense of guilt will most likely increase a person's tendency to commit transgressions leads us to concluding that this may also lead to an increase in people's tendency to ignore the welfare of others.

Thus, answer choice (C) is incorrect.

Hope that helps! Please let us know if you have any other questions.