SOCI 2P00 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Relativism

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9 Nov 2012
Chapter 5: What are the Value and Descriptive Assumptions?
Assumptions are:
o Hidden or unstated (in most cases)
o Taken for granted
o Influential in determining the conclusion
o Potentially deceptive
To fully understand an argument, you must identify the assumptions
General Guide for Identifying Assumptions
Look for both value and descriptive assumptions in the movement from reasons to the
An assumption is a belief, usually unstated, that is taken for granted and supports the explicit
Value Conflicts and Assumptions
The differing values that stem from different frames of reference
Value assumption -> a taken-for-granted belief about the relative desirability of certain
competing values
From Values to Value Assumptions
A value assumption is an implicit preference for one value over another in a particular context.
We use value preferences and value priorities as synonyms
Recognition of relative support for conflicting values or sets of values provides you with both an
improved understanding of what you are reading and a basis for eventual evaluation of
prescriptive arguments
Value assumptions are very contextual; they apply in one setting, but we make quite a different
value priority when the specifics of the prescriptive issue change
The Communicator’s Background as a Clue to Value Assumptions
Find out as much as you can about value preferences usually held by a person like the writer or
You as a critical reader or listener can often quickly discover value preferences by thinking about
the probably assumptions made by a person like the communicator
It isn’t necessarily true that because a person is a member of a group, she shares the particular
value assumptions of the group
Consequences as Clues to Value Assumptions
In prescriptive arguments, each position with respect to an issue leads to different
consequences or outcomes
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