# The UVic Writer's Guide

*Syllogisms *

A **syllogism** is a means of breaking down an argument into three simple, related
terms:
- All UVic students receive grades;
- I am a UVic student;
*therefore*
- I receive grades.

There are three parts to a syllogistic argument. The **major premise **is the first, general statement: "All UVic students receive grades."
The **minor premise **is the second, specific statement: "I am a UVic student." The
**conclusion **is the logical resolution of the two premises: "I receive grades."
To be an effective argument, both premises of the syllogism must
be true, and they must also relate logically one to the other.

Arguments of this kind tend to fail because the general premise
is not valid:

- All students like pizza.
- Hassan is a student,
*therefore*
- Hassan likes pizza.

The assumption that all students like pizza is invalid (if nearly
true).

Improperly used, the syllogism is a handy device for producing
charmingly erroneous conclusions like this one:

- Slugs crawl on the ground;
- I can crawl on the ground;
*therefore*
- I am a slug.

While this conclusion may be true in a metaphorical sense, it
does not follow logically from the first two statements because
the two premises are not logically connected.

Topics About Logic and Argument

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria,
1995

*This page updated September 24, 1995*