Reading Reflection #4: Ambiguity and Assumption

  1. How does the book define “ambiguity” and why is it important to identify any ambiguous terms before evaluating an argument?
    • The book defines ambiguity when the meaning is so uncertain in the context being examined that further clarification must take place before judging the adequacy of the reasoning. It is important to identify ambiguous terms so that the readers fully understand what the writer is intending in their work. Without knowing the full meaning, you may miss the point and create opinions that may not be correct. 
  2. Why are dictionary definitions of key terms and phrases used in an argument often not sufficiently helpful in determining their meaning?
    • Dictionary definitions fail to tell you specific properties that are crucial for the understanding of them. Dictionary definitions consist of synonyms, examples, and incomplete specifications of criteria for particular essays. At times, you must read in-between the lines and take what you know about the topic to help define ambiguous words.
  3. ARQ stresses that not all ambiguous terms or phrases are equally important. How do you determine which ones are the most important to identify?
    • To identify the most important ambiguous terms, determine if the term may have two or more alternative meanings that both make sense in the context of the argument. You can substitute the alternative meaning into the reasoning structure and see if it changes the meaning in how the reason supports the conclusion.
  4. How do value and descriptive assumptions differ?
    • Value assumptions are taken-for-granted beliefs about desirability of certain competing values, how the world should be, while descriptive assumptions are defined as beliefs about the way the world was, is, or will be.
  5. Why is it important for people to be aware of what values they and others are assuming (a.k.a. of their value assumptions) when they argue about a social issue? Provide an example.
    • It is important to understand your own values along with others to ensure you are not jumping to conclusions or misunderstanding the context of the reasons. With social issues, people become very passionate about these specific issues and when you don’t understand one another values the issue at hand can become bigger and possible incorrect conclusions can arise. An example may include drug abuse. You must state your reasons logically and clearly to help the readers understand the reason and conclusion rather than misunderstand and cause conflict.
  6. Why do so few experts (such as politicians, scientists, professors, and television pundits) make value priorities explicit? Should individuals expressing their opinions on a social controversy make their value priorities explicit? Why should or shouldn’t they?
    • I believe that experts choose not to make their value priorities explicit because they are often judged by others and when they state something and a large group of people disagree, then their expertise and credibility are questioned. I believe that each situation is different. I think the more power and influence an individual has then the more people should and will know about them, with that I think they should be more open and honest about their value priorities.
  7. Look at the table of “Typical Value Conflict and Sample Controversies” on page 57 of ARQ. Try to think of one more to add to this list, and an example of when the two values conflict.
    • One example to workplace harassment / bullying is speaking up or staying quiet.