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GRE Argument Essay: The Following Appeared In A Health Magazine Published In Corpora - With Free Essay Review.
Prompt: ‘The following appeared in a health magazine published in Corpora.
"Medical experts say that only one-quarter of Corpora's citizens meet the current standards for adequate physical fitness, even though twenty years ago, one-half of all of Corpora's citizens met the standards as then defined. But these experts are mistaken when they suggest that spending too much time using computers has caused a decline in fitness. Since overall fitness levels are highest in regions of Corpora where levels of computer ownership are also highest, it is clear that using computers has not made citizens less physically fit. Instead, as shown by this year's unusually low expenditures on fitness-related products and services, the recent decline in the economy is most likely the cause, and fitness levels will improve when the economy does."
Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.’
First of all, the author claims that using computers has not made citizens less physically fit, since overall fitness levels are highest in regions of Corpora where levels of cumputer ownership are also highest. Therfore, the author necessarily assumes the high level of cumputer ownership means the level of usage. However, the author does not consider the possible that for some families, all family members have their personal computers but they do not use their computers all the time, whereas in some families, there is only one computer, but everyone use it heavily and spend a lot of time on that computer. In this case, when the assumption proved unwarranted, many people have their own personal computers but barely use their computers all the time, and the level of computer ownership does not necessarily reflect the usage, then, the author’s claims would be false, and there would be no grounds for the claim.
Moreover, the author argues that the decline in the economy is most likely the cause of the decline in fitness, and fitness levels will impove when the economy does, because it is shown that this year’s expenditures on fitness-related products and services are low. However, this argument only make sense on the basis of the assumption that the drop of expenditures on fitness-related products and services contribute to the decline in the fitness. It is possible that people do not need to buy new fitness-related products in order to exercise, they can just go for a walk in their neighborhoods, or the city newly built some public facilities that citizens can work out there instead of paying to go to gyms. If these alternatives are valid, and the assumption is proved unwarranted, then, the decrease in expenditures on fitness-related products and services would have nothing to do with the decline in fitness levels or the decline in economy. Therefore, the conclusion that fitness levels will improve when the economy does is false, because the conclusion has no grounds.
To sum up, in order to evaluate the validity of the author’s argument, we need to make sure these assumptions including levels of cumputer ownership relfect levels of usage, and the decline in economy contributes to the decline in fitness.
You correctly identify an important assumption of the argument in your first paragraph, although your articulation of that assumption, in the second sentence, is a bit imprecise (e.g., "means" is the wrong word). Your statement of the possible implications of the assumption for the argument is not completely accurate. You say that if the assumption proves unwarranted, "then the author’s claims would be false." If the assumption proves unwarranted, then the author's argument would be illogical, but the claim itself (that the decline in fitness has nothing to do with computer usage) could still be true. The larger argument, that the decline is due to economic problems, might therefore still be true, but we might think that the argument has been weakened by the failure of the argument to logically undermine the reported case made by "experts."
Your second argument is also reasonable. Of course, when you offer alternative explanations for the decline in expenditure on fitness products, you are doing something that is not necessarily required. But you could argue, at a more abstract level, that the author of the statement assumes that such a decline has only one possible explanation. As you know, there are many possible explanations for that kind of decline; it could even be a consequence of the decline of fitness levels rather than a cause of that decline. Indeed the argument as a whole seems to assume that there must be one cause alone for the decline in fitness. It suggests that the decline in the economy is "most likely the cause" not "most likely one of the causes." But who knows what else might have happened to the poor Corporans in the twenty years since the original study. Maybe they just got old.
Saying that the argument depends on the assumption that effects have only one cause is to say something a bit more abstract and less obvious than the kind of thing that is normally said in response to these essays. It is not a bad idea to try to introduce an element of the less-than-obvious into your essay. Another example: Note that the argument also assumes that the elimination of the cause of a problem is enough to eliminate a problem: when the economy improves, fitness levels will improve. Note that this argument would be weakened if the assumption that the decline in fitness had but one cause proved unwarranted, but even if the decline in the economy is the one and only cause, that does not mean that fitness levels will certainly improve if and when the economy does. In that time, people may get used to a sedentary lifestyle and no longer have an interest in the use of fitness-related products and services, or they may be so old, or so obese, that the task of recovering their former fitness levels would appear Herculean.
I'm not sure what the right answer to your question in the comments below is. I think you need to keep working on a number of areas, including the precision with you articulate your thoughts.