Two: Session Four
- Assumptions are unstated reasons, which are essential
in arriving at the conclusion.
- For example:
- Tom says, "Oh, you should take Dr. Jones. He's an
The conclusion is, "You should take Dr. Jones."
- The only stated reason is, "He's an excellent teacher."
- There is a gap between the reason and the conclusion. What
makes Dr. Jones an excellent teacher? You might assume that
what Tom thinks is an excellent teacher is the same as what
you think is an excellent teacher. In this case, what makes
an excellent teacher is the reason that is being assumed.
- Assumptions are unstated.
- Assumptions are reasons, not conclusions
- Value Assumptions: Values are ideas that people think are especially
important. Frequently when people take a position, it is based
on a value they hold. For instance, a person arguing for nationalized
health care values collective responsibility over individual
responsibility. To successfully communicate, one must be aware
of the value assumptions. Value conflicts must be dealt with
if progress is to be made.1
- Descriptive Assumptions: These are assumptions about how the
world is When looking for these missing reasons, ask whether
or not the conclusion makes sense without some unstated reason.
Identify what that reason is, and you've discovered your assumption.2
- Look for the gaps between the reasons and the conclusion. What's
missing? Often what is not stated is as important or more important
that what is stated. Don't take things for granted. Remember
the old recommendation to "read between the lines." That's what
detecting assumptions is all about.
- Regarding assumptions, Clearly identify your assumptions and
determine whether they are justifiable.
- Consider how your assumptions are shaping your point of view.