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Critical Reasoning - Of Opinions and Facts

Today, we would like to discuss with you one of our most debated critical reasoning questions. It is an absolutely brilliant question – not just because the correct option fits in beautifully but because the other four options are also very well thought out. It is easy to write the incorrect four options such that the student community will be split between 2 options – the correct one and one of the four incorrect ones but when the jury is split between 4 or all 5 options, that’s when we know that we have come up with an absolute masterpiece. Of course, in such questions, a lot of effort is needed to convince everyone of the correct answer but it is well worth it.

 

This question brings an important point to the fore – the correct option in strengthen/weaken question is the one that supplies new information but in most cases, the new information has to be a fact, not an opinion. Let’s explain this in detail with the help of this question.

 

Question: According to recent research, a blindfolded person whose nostrils have been pinched so that smelling is impossible will have great difficulty in differentiating a bite of an apple from a bite of a raw potato. This clearly demonstrates that taste buds are not the only sense organs involved in determining the taste of a piece of food.

Which of the following premises, is an assumption required by the argument?

(A) All people agree that an apple and a potato differ in taste.

(B) There are no other senses involved in tasting other than taste, smell, and sight.

(C) The word “taste” can be used to describe an experience that involves sight or smell or both.

(D) The research was based on experiments that were conducted on a broad spectrum of the general population.

(E) People who have been blindfolded and whose nostrils are pinched can differentiate a bite of an apple from a bite of an onion more easily than they can differentiate a bite of an apple from a bite of a raw potato.

 

Solution:

 

Argument:

– If you remove sight and smell, people will have great difficulty in differentiating a bite of an apple from a bite of a raw potato.

Conclusion: Taste buds are not the only sense organs involved in determining the taste of a piece of food.

 

We will look at the options one by one:

 

(A) All people agree that an apple and a potato differ in taste.

Note that usually, people’s opinion will not count for much. Facts are the ones which are important. The only opinion we care about is the author’s. We cannot strengthen/weaken the author’s opinion by giving similar/dissimilar opinions of other people.

Say, the conclusion of an argument is:

Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest actor of the 21st century.

The premises would perhaps list his great performances, talk about his acting prowess, his Oscars and so on.

Can you strengthen the conclusion by saying that “My friend also believes that he is the greatest actor.”? No. You cannot strengthen your opinion by giving the opinion of other people. You need to give facts to strengthen your view.

So this option is already suspect. It is giving you the opinion of people “All people agree that an apple and a potato differ in taste.” So it doesn’t seem to be the right choice.

 

Anyway, let’s try to negate (A) just to be sure since this is an assumption question.

 

Negation: Not all people agree that an apple and a potato differ in taste.
This means there is at least one person who does not agree that an apple and a potato differ in taste. Perhaps he feels that the experience of eating an apple – the smell, the look, the sweetness etc is the same as the experience of eating a potato. It is still possible that taste buds are not the only sense organs involved in determining the taste of a piece of food. Even after we negate (A), the conclusion is possible so (A) is not an assumption.

 

Think of it in another way: During the research, blindfolded people with pinched noses found it very hard to differentiate the taste. One person comes up and says that he himself cannot differentiate between the two while looking and smelling. Does it mean that senses other than taste buds are not involved? No. There could be many other people who feel that they can easily differentiate between an apple and a potato taste. So other senses could be involved and (A) is not your answer.

 

(B) There are no other senses involved in tasting other than taste, smell, and sight.

This is not an assumption. All we are saying is that taste buds are not the only sense organs involved in determining the taste of a piece of food. Any other organs could be involved including smell and sight.

 

(C) The word “taste” can be used to describe an experience that involves sight or smell or both.

This option highlights a very basic thing that needs to be true for our conclusion to hold. When we conclude: taste buds are not the only sense organs involved in determining the taste of a piece of food, how do we define “taste”? Taste buds, we know, tell us whether the food is salty/sweet/sour etc. But how do we say that “taste” is not defined by only these features? We are assuming that taste is defined by not just how the food sits on our tongue but by other features such as sight/smell too. If this option were not true, then we would have needed only taste buds to find the taste of food. Hence, our conclusion would fall apart. Hence, (C) is the correct answer.

 

(D) The research was based on experiments that were conducted on a broad spectrum of the general population.

The conclusion does not say that for people of most classes/regions, taste buds are not the only sense organs involved in determining the taste of a piece of food. It is acceptable if the research was conducted on a few people and it was determined that other senses are involved. Even if some people found it difficult to differentiate between the two things, we can say that other senses are involved.

 

(E) People who have been blindfolded and whose nostrils are pinched can differentiate a bite of an apple from a bite of an onion more easily than they can differentiate a bite of an apple from a bite of a raw potato.

This option tells us that apples and onions are more different on the tongue than apples and potatoes. This is out of scope and is certainly not an assumption.

 

Answer (C)

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