Schema Assignment Guideline Sheet
Argument Schema Assignment #4
This assignment is optional! If you complete it, it will replace your lowest schema grade.
Due Date: This first schema assignment is due by the end of the day, Monday, May 3rd. Submit the assignment by uploading your schema in a Word document in the assignment link. Please submit your assignment in a Word document, often other formats do not open. Word is available to you for free from PVCC.
Pick one quote from the set of quotes at the end of this document and write a schema of the argument contained in the passage. Submit the assignment by uploading your schema in a Word document in the assignment link.
What is a Schema?
A schema is a particular way of presenting arguments so that the arguments can be more easily understood. This is done by breaking an argument down into its premises and conclusion. The conclusion of an argument is the thing argued for in the passage, or the point that the writer of the passage is trying to convey. The premises are the reasons given in support of the conclusion; any statement in the passage that supports the believability of the conclusion is a premise.
Breaking an argument down into its premises and conclusion involves stating the distinct premises of an argument separately, followed by the conclusion, as in the following schema.
P1. Socrates is a man.
P2. All men are mortal.
C Socrates is mortal.
Here “P1” and “P2” stand for ‘premise one’ and ‘premise two,’ while the “C” stands for the conclusion. In writing a schema, it is customary to use these abbreviations so that the role of the various statements can be more easily understood. In completing your assignment of schematizing of a passage below, you should use this format as well.
As another example, consider the passage from John Stuart Mill,
“But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
In trying to clearly convey the argument in any passage, you have to first understand the argument. One way to start is to ask yourself what is the main point that the writer is trying to convey? Using this strategy then, the first thing to do is to find the conclusion. What is Mill arguing for here? Roughly, he is arguing that restricting the freedom of expression is a bad thing.
Once you have the conclusion, go through the passage and find the individual reasons given in support of the conclusion, writing them down as premises in the above described format.
In stating the premises and conclusion, what’s most important is that your schema captures the meaning of the premises and conclusion. You should try to re-phrase the premises and conclusion of the argument clearly and in your own words. If the wording of the passage cannot be stated any more simply and clearly, where its meaning is very straightforward, you can use the same wording of the passage. But this is the exception and most of the time, it’s better to rephrase the sentences in your own words, as philosophers sometimes use wordy and redundant phrasing. Stating the premises in your own words will also allow you to more clearly state the meaning of the premises, and accurately capturing the meaning is what is most important. Think of the assignment as breaking-down or distilling the meaning of the argument down to its logical parts; your schema should state only the parts that play a role in the argument.
A good schema does not merely repeat everything written in the passage. Rather, a good schema focuses on the roles particular sentences play in supporting the conclusion. The goal of the schema is to state the argument embedded in the passage more clearly than the passage itself does. So when schematizing the argument, you are not transcribing, but rather focusing on the meaning of argument exclusively and clarifying that argument by stripping away fluff and stating only the premises and conclusion. Focusing always on the meaning and the role of different parts of the passage, you may realize that the writer has said the same thing three different ways.
If the passage contains several sentences that function as premises, but they all have the same meaning, then in your schema you only have to state those different sentences as one premise. If the passage contains a separate point in support of the conclusion, that would be your second premise. So each premise should only make one point; read the premises in your schema to make sure that are not making more than one point. And if the passage makes that point several different ways, then you only need to state that point’s meaning once as a premise. This listing of premises goes on until all the points in support of the conclusion are listed.
How do you know what is the conclusion? Ask yourself, ‘what is the point of the passage?’ What is the writer trying to convince us of? The main point argued for in the passage is the conclusion of the argument. If your conclusion is also stated as a premise in your schema, then you have probably made a mistake. In good arguments, the premises should not restate or assume the truth of the conclusion. (To do so is to commit a fallacy called Begging the Question) Except in cases where the writer does in fact commit this fallacy, your schema is probably flawed if your have statements with the same meaning in both the premise and conclusion.
It is important to notice that the premises, and sometimes the conclusion of an argument, are not always explicitly stated. The conclusion can be implied, or premises hidden as unstated assumptions. Sometimes arguments rely on assumptions that are not explicitly stated in the passage. The unstated assumptions function as hidden premises that support the conclusion. If the explicitly stated premises by themselves also imply the truth of some other unstated view, then that unstated view is a hidden assumption that you should state as a premise in your schema. In other words, if the conclusion requires more than just the explicitly stated premises to be true, then it may be helpful to think about what else would have to be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion. Assumptions are not always obvious, and it is not necessary to list everything that would have to be true for the premises to support the conclusion. There are many things we take for granted, or that are reasonable to assume in most arguments, assumptions of this nature go without saying. If you think the argument relies on an assumption that is perfectly reasonable and goes without saying, you do not need to state it. But sometimes the premises of an argument imply the truth of some other proposition that may be questionable, or that, whether reasonable or not, plays a significant role in the argument. These are the kind of assumptions that function as hidden premises and that you should state as premises in your schema.
So, back to Mill’s quote. We know the conclusion already, so all we need to do is to state the reasons Mill gives in support of that conclusion.
P1. The collision of truth with error produces a livelier impression of the truth, by shedding light on why a belief is true.
P2. If the censored opinion is correct, then those who disagree with it lose the opportunity to replace their false belief with the true one as they are never exposed to the true, but censored, belief.
P3. If the censored opinion is incorrect, then those that disagree with it lose the clearer understanding of their belief which results from understanding why their belief is true.
P4. If an opinion is censored, then those that disagree with the censored view are done a greater disservice than those that agree with it.
P5. As long as an opinion is repressed, then these benefits are not gained.
C. Freedom of opinion and expression should not be restricted.
Good schemas require careful thought about the meaning of the passage and you may want to add some commentary to explain points in your schema. I welcome any commentary, but you can also let the schema speak for itself.
Is there only one right way to schematize a passage? Sometimes there is not; because there may be reasonable disagreements about the meaning and role of parts of the passage. With that said however, you do not have free reign to interpret a passage anyway you want and expect to receive a good grade. There is a meaning to the passage, some point the writer of that passage was trying to make and a way he or she argues for it. A good schema is one that clarifies the writer’s meaning by clarifying his or her argument.
The passages below are given with no context, and this can make the author’s argument more difficult to understand. It may help you get a better sense of the meaning of the passage if you go to the page in the book cited after the quotation and familiarize yourself with the context of the quotation. Also, look up any unclear terms used in the passage so that you are sure to accurately render their meaning in your schema.
Five Keys to Writing a Good Schema
Grammar and Spelling – Your schema should be free from grammatical, spelling, and usage errors. Each premise and the conclusion should be stated as a complete sentence.
Completeness – Your schema should spell-out the argument in full; it should state each premise and the conclusion. This does not mean repeating everything that is said in the passage; instead, it means clearly presenting the entire argument contained in the passage. Sometimes the argument depends on debatable assumptions that are not explicitly stated in the passage; these are called ‘hidden premises.’ Your schema should include these assumptions as premises. Not every assumption should be stated, but if the argument depends on assumptions that one might not normally assume to be true, then these assumptions should be stated as premises in your schema. Missing premises will negatively impact your grade.
Accuracy – Your schema should be faithful to the meaning of the passage, with each premise and conclusion capturing the meaning intended by the author.
Organization and Argument Order – Your schema should clearly present the argument contained in the passage. Your premises should be in an order where the premises build on one-another and lead up to the conclusion. If there is a premise (let’s call it P2.) the truth of which depends on another premise (P1.), then you should state P1. first, and then P2. In other words, if there is one premise that supports another, state the supporting premise first, and the supported premise second. The schema should make the argument as orderly and clear as it can without changing the author’s meaning. Also, each premise should make only one claim, and be stated in one sentence. If you find yourself wanting to write more than one sentence in a premise, it could be because you are trying to say more than one thing in the premise or combining two premises in one. Additionally, if you find yourself using the word ‘because’ in a premise or conclusion, you are either stating two premises in one, or stating the premise with the conclusion. Do not make an inference within one premise or the conclusion; instead, separate the claims into separate premises. Each premise should state only one thing.
Clarity – The statements making up the premises and conclusion should be stated clearly and in a way that captures the author’s meaning. Try to write your schema in such a way that the meaning of the premises and conclusion can be easily understood by your reader. It may be tempting to merely quote the sentences of the passage, without making an effort to more clearly state the author’s meaning. It is best to re-state the meaning of the premises and conclusion in a manner that is easier to understand compared to the original author’s wording. Your goal is to strip the passage down, to get at the essence of the argument by making clear its content and structure. Ask yourself, ‘what is the point of the passage?’ and that should be the conclusion. Then find everything in the passage, both explicitly stated and assumed, that supports the believability of the conclusion; state each of these supporting claims separately as premises. Try to re-state the meaning of these in a way that gets to the essence of each premise and conclusion with effective words that clearly and precisely capture the meaning of the passage. If there is no way to state the author’s meaning more clearly than it is stated in the passage, it is acceptable to use the wording given by the author in the passage. Having too many or too few premises hurts your grade.
Rubric for the Schema Assignment
Grammar and Spelling
The schema is free of errors and exhibits effective wording.
Contains one or two errors and adequate wording.
Contains two or three errors and less adequate word choice.
Contains three or more errors and some wording is confusing, vague or difficult to follow.
Contains more than three errors and the wording is generally confusing, vague or difficult to follow.
The schema contains every premise and the conclusion.
The schema is missing a hidden premise.
The schema is missing a premise.
The schema is missing two premises, or one premise and the conclusion.
The schema is missing two or more premises, or one premise and the conclusion.
The schema accurately conveys the essential parts of the argument contained in the passage. There are no parts missing, and no extraneous premises.
The schema leaves one aspect of the argument unclear or missing. The conclusion is right, but the schema has a missing or problematic premise, or contains an unneeded premise.
The schema is missing one part of the argument, contains one or two errors of interpretation, or gets the conclusion wrong.
The schema misinterprets or leaves out key premises and conveys a meaning somewhat different than that contained in the passage.
The schema misinterprets or leaves out key premises or the conclusion and conveys a meaning substantially different than that contained in the passage.
Organization and Argument Order
Premises are in order leading up to the conclusion with each part of the schema making one claim.
The schema makes one or two mistakes in the order.
The schema makes two mistakes in the order. There is an inference or more than one claim made within a premise or the conclusion.
The schema makes more than two mistakes in the order. There is an inference or more than one claim made within a premise or the conclusion. The conclusion is stated as a premise.
There are several mistakes in the order of the premises and conclusion, with the conclusion missing or stated as a premise.
Each premise and the conclusion clearly convey the meaning of an essential part of the argument. The schema is re-stated in clear language.
Most parts of the schema are clear and stated in language that does not quote directly from the passage, when the wording of the passage could be improved upon.
The schema contains one or two parts that are unclear, or borrows more from the wording of the passage when that wording could be improved upon. Parts of the schema are not stated concisely.
The schema borrows heavily from the wording of the passage when that wording could be improved upon. The wording is unclear.
The schema borrows heavily from the wording of the passage when that wording could be improved upon. Numerous premises and/or the conclusion are not stated clearly.
Suggestions for Improvement/ Common Mistakes
Below are some common problems that occur in writing schemas. If I have referenced a particular suggestion in grading your schema, (by writing ‘S #4’ or some other number on your schema,) you can find an explanation here by reading the appropriate suggestion.
Suggestion #1 Including something as a premise that is not really a premise. For something to be a premise, it must support the believability of the conclusion. While there may be many things said in a quotation, not all of them need to be in your schema. Including needless parts of the quotation hurts your grade as your schema should only include the parts that support the conclusion, and the conclusion itself. A statement does not function as a premise when it does not support the believability of the conclusion. While it may be in the original quotation, it does not lend credibility to the conclusion so you don’t need it in your schema.
Suggestion #2 Including as premises what is only adding context. This means that you have added as a premise something that is part of the context of the argument in the passage, helping the reader understand what the argument is about. But it does not function as a premise or conclusion and so you do not need it. You can change the wording in your premises and conclusion in a manner that makes it clear what is at issue in the quotation and thus makes the context clear without including a needless premise.
Suggestion #3 Rhetorical questions should never be in your schema. While they are often used in arguments to make a point, in a schema you capture the point that rhetorical question is trying to make and write is as an assertion or statement and not a question. Think about what the author is trying to convince you of in stating the question and write that meaning in the form or a statement.
Suggestion #4 Making an inference within a premise or conclusion is a major mistake. Within one premise, or the conclusion, if you find yourself wanting to say ‘because,’ ‘since,’ or any term that has a similar role of signaling an inference then you have within one statement a mini-argument. Within one statement, what follows the word ‘because’ functions as a premise because it supports the believability of what you have stated prior to the word ‘because.’ Break that statement down into two parts. If you have done this in the conclusion, then whatever you have stated after ‘because’ should stand alone as a premise. If you have done this within a premise, then break the statement down into two separate premises.
Suggestion #5 Missing premises. Leaving out premises results in an incomplete schema. Once you have your conclusion, go through the passage and anything that supports the believability of the conclusion should be stated as a premise. If you see S#5 in your graded schema, it means there is a claim that from the passage that is relevant to what you have stated, but is not included in the premises you listed.
Suggestion #6 Stating as a conclusion what is actually a premise. The key to differentiating the conclusion from premises is to figure which one supports the other. If statement A supports the believability of statement B, then statement A is a premise.
Suggestion #7 Stating as a premise what is actually a conclusion. Again, if you are unsure whether a statement is a premise or a conclusion, then ask yourself, which one supports the believability of the other. Whichever one does the supporting is the premise, whichever one is supported is the conclusion.
Suggestion # 8 If you can avoid directly quoting in the passage, you should! Your schema should strip the premises and conclusion down to its essential meaning in a way that includes all relevant detail, but that takes out needless parts and redundancies. The best way to do this is by stating the meaning of each premise and the conclusion accurately, but clearly and concisely in language that makes the meaning clear.
Suggestion #9 Stating the same thing twice is a mistake. Even if the writer states it twice, it only functions as a premise once and thus should only be in your schema once. You don’t want to state a premise twice and you especially don’t want to have the same statement as both a premise and a conclusion.
Suggestion # 10 Use complete sentences that are grammatically correct.
Suggestion # 11 Writing as a premise something that is actually the opposite of the writer’s view. Sometimes the writer of the passage will include the view he is arguing against in the quotation. You want to be clear about what is the writer’s view and differentiate this from the view he is arguing against. Failing to do this can result in your ascribing to the writer a view he does not actually hold, a view that is the exact opposite of the view for which he argues.
Suggestion # 12 Have each premise and conclusion be only one sentence and make only one point. You may be tempted to add context or explanation to a premise or conclusion. But doing so usually hurts your schema. You could end up repeating yourself or making multiple claims within one premise or the conclusion. Instead, keep each part of your schema simple and direct, saying only one thing.
Suggestion #13 The way you phrase a premise, or the conclusion, in your schema leaves out or changes the author’s meaning in a noticeable way. You may have part of the meaning, but your way of stating the claim strays from the meaning of the claim as the author intended it. Some important parts of the author’s meaning are left out. The way you phrase the premise or conclusion obscures or leaves out or creates an ambiguity about an important part of the meaning. Or, there may be some slight misinterpretation which results from the way you phrase the claim.
Suggestion #14 Include the example used in the passage. Often authors use some example, metaphor, illustration, thought-experiment, etc. These kinds of argumentative tools are most often part of the argument and function as premises towards the author’s larger point. As a premise, such examples should be included in your schema. The challenge is to include the example in a way which fits with the format of the schema, including in your schema premises the claims the make up the example. It may be tempting to think the example is not part of the argument, and view it as a non-argumentative claim that functions only to illustrate the meaning of a claim. But more often, an example is used to justify the conclusion. And anything that supports the believability of the conclusion is a premise and should be included in the other premises of your argument.
Suggestion #15 Avoiding including claims about the example in your conclusion. Examples, analogies, illustrations, etc., are most often used to substantiate a claim that goes beyond the example itself. The argument is not about the example; it is about the larger issue the example is meant to illustrate. Your conclusion should capture the author’s view on the larger concern at issue in the passage. The example is only a means the author uses to substantiate his or her conclusion, and thus the example is only a premise. In short, if your conclusion states a claim about the example, you have probably made the mistake of not addressing the larger issue of the passage. Think about the larger issue, determine the author’s stand on that issue, and that will be your conclusion.
Suggestion #16 Don’t say too little. You capture part of the author’s meaning, but the way you phrased it is too concise and stripped down. This results in loosing relevant facets of the author’s meaning. Try restating the claim of the premise or conclusion in a more developed sentence where the full meaning of the author is clear and obvious to the reader. If you have too short of a sentence where some facet of meaning is stripped away, then it creates a lack of clarity, or ambiguity where the meaning of your sentence is simply not clear. Your goal is to capture the full meaning in a clear fashion.
Suggestion #17 Capturing the logical order of the premises would help here. This means that when one premise is used to support the believability of another premise, state the one which supports before the one that is supported. Writing premises in there logical order makes it easier to see the chain of inferences which are sometimes at work in the premises of arguments.
Suggestion #18 There are some premises missing here. You have some of the key claims. But some additional premises the author relies on are left out. Ask yourself, what other claims does the author state or imply in the passage that support the conclusion of the argument?
Quotes to Choose from for Schema Assignment #4
1. “He that is nourished by the acorns he picked up under an oak or the apples he gathered from the trees in the wood has certainly appropriated them to himself. Nobody can deny but the nourishment is his. I ask then, when did they begin to be his? When he digested? Or when he ate? Or when he boiled? Or when he brought them home? Or when he picked them up? And it is plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labor put a distinction between them and common: that added something to them more than nature, the common mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right. And will anyone say he had no right to those acorns or apples he thus appropriated, because he had not the consent of all mankind to make them his? Was it a robbery thus to assume to himself what belonged to all in common? If such a consent as that was necessary, man had starved, not-withstanding the plenty God had given him. We see in commons, which remain so by compact, that it is the taking any part of what is common and removing it out of the state nature leaves it in, which begins the property, without which the common is of no use. And the taking of this or that part does not depend on the express consent of all the commoners. Thus the grass my horse has bit, the turfs my servant has cut, and the ore I have digged in any place where I have a right to them in common with others became my property, without the assignation or consent of any body. The labor that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, has fixed my property to them.” Locke
2. “Why not think that women are better able to reflect critically on masculinity and male experience than men since they do not need to imagine the perspective of the oppressed? I think there is a lot to be said for this position. Just as men are in a better position for data gathering about male experience and roles because of being directly acquainted with them; so women have a better position for critically assessing male experience since they are not as likely to be biased in favor of that experience. Men will be better at certain aspects of the study of male experience and roles and women will be better at other aspects. But in both cases, these are only initial advantages for some members of these groups. Other members of the group will still have difficulty attaining a progressive standpoint, and no one is completely blocked from attaining this standpoint just because he or she lacks certain experience. Since men are generally not discriminated against on grounds of sex, and do not suffer from unequal treatment merely because they are male, it is not easy for them to take on the critical standpoint of one who has been adversely affected by a set of discriminatory roles and practices.” May