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GRE Argument Essay: Woven Baskets Characterized By A Particular Distinctive Pattern - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: ‘Woven baskets characterized by a particular distinctive pattern have previously been found only in the immediate vicinity of the prehistoric village of Palea and therefore were believed to have been made only by the Palean people. Recently, however, archaeologists discovered such a "Palean" basket in Lithos, an ancient village across the Brim River from Palea. The Brim River is very deep and broad, and so the ancient Paleans could have crossed it only by boat, and no Palean boats have been found. Thus it follows that the so-called Palean baskets were not uniquely Palean.
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.’
Based on the very fact, that the Brim River is broad and deep, the author insists, that only by boat can one across the river. As no boat has been found in Palean so far, therefore, the only plausible explanation of a unique Palean basket being discovered in Lithos has to be that the basket belongs to Lithos. In other words, it was, from the author’s perspective, impossible to carry a Palean basket to Lithos without boat.
The first hidden assumption made by the author is the river never dry up, or not being frozen at any time, or the water lever has been remained the same as always, under all of which circumstances human beings are not able to walk across the river. So we need more evidence to show whether the Brim River changes to be possible to cross by walking. If any document or other geological materials indicate that the Brim River had once been dried up, then it will certainly weaken the author’s claim.
The second hidden assumption is the author assumes the Brim River had been shaped before the particular basket came to being. We have to, therefore, identify both of the forming time of the Brim River and the Palean basket. If the Brim River formed before the basket, it definitely strengthens the author’s claim. Otherwise, such basket being carried to Lithos without boat is consequently reasonable.
Another crucial assumption, according to the author’s argument, is Palean people and only Palean people could ever carry the basket to Lithos. From the fact that no boat was found in Palean, the author derived an inference that such basket was impossible to be carried to the rival village. However, we need to see whether there’s a boat as old as the basket in Lithos. If the answer is yes, then the basket was probably carried by Lithos people when they sailed to Palean for trade, and accidentally brought the distinctive basket back to Lithos. In that case, the claim raised by the author was weakened.
Lastly, the author preconceived that the basket must have been brought by human beings. However, natural force also could be involved in the translocation of the basket. One single basket found in Lithos was hardly able to exclude the non-human factors as a cause of that. It’s perhaps the waves pushing it to the bank near Lithos. Thus, given that the more Palean baskets were discovered in Lithos, the more likely the basket belongs to Lithos. Of course it should be concluded when the above three assumptions turn out to be true. ________________________
Your first argument is completely reasonable. It is a good idea to try to find the general form of such arguments, however, so that you don't feel obliged to list off, in this case, every alternative to there having been a deep and wide river separating Palea from Lithos. Here, for instance, you could just say that the argument assumes that the river was always uncrossable save by boat. Note, however, that your emphasis here should be on identifying specific evidence, rather than specific assumptions; in your first paragraph, you prioritize the task of identifying assumptions, and only identify one specific type of evidence. Your second argument, which also emphasizes an assumption of the argument, and which concerns the possibility of basket-making predating the existence of the river, is very much like the first argument, and does not really merit separate treatment (this is especially the case if you find it difficult to specify the kind of evidence that would be needed to test the assumption).
In your next argument, you consider the possibility that the basket might have been transported by a non-Palean boat, which is a reasonable point. In this case you need, you say, evidence of the existence of such a boat, which certainly would help. Of course, the absence of such evidence would not prove that such a boat never existed (just as the absence of a Palean boat doesn’t prove no such boat ever existed). What you are really imagining here is the possibility of trade between the two towns, and you would not need to know the exact way in which travel between towns was carried out (Paleans could have travelled upstream to a fordable part of the river) if there existed evidence of such trade (Palean pots in Lithos; Lithosian jewelry in Palea; a family on either side of the river with both Palean and Lithosian blood).
Finally, you don't consider the possibility of any evidence that would strengthen or demonstrate the truth of the argument, which I think would be a helpful addition to your essay. (All we know about the basket is that it has the same pattern as Palean baskets. Presumably the basket doesn't have a sign on the bottom saying "Made in Lithos," but is it of exactly the same shape, color, and material as the Palean baskets?)