A premise or premiss[a] is a statement that an argument claims will induce or justify a conclusion. In other words, a premise is an assumption that something is true. In logic, an argument requires a set of (at least) two declarative sentences (or "propositions") known as the premises or premisses along with another declarative sentence (or "proposition") known as the conclusion. This structure of two premises and one conclusion forms the basic argumentative structure. More complex arguments can use a series of rules to connect several premises to one conclusion, or to derive a number of conclusions from the original premises which then act as premises for additional conclusions. An example of this is the use of the rules of inference found within symbolic logic.
- Socrates is mortal because all men are mortal.
It is evident that a tacitly understood claim is that Socrates is a man. The fully expressed reasoning is thus:
- Because all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, Socrates is mortal.
In this example, the independent clauses preceding the comma (namely, "all men are mortal" and "Socrates is a man") are the premises, while "Socrates is mortal" is the conclusion.
- In logic, premise and premiss are regarded as variant spellings of the same word, premise being the more common spelling. Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) argued that premise and premiss are two distinct words, writing "As to the word premiss,—in Latin of the thirteenth Century praemissa,—owing to its being so often used in the plural, it has become widely confounded with a totally different word of legal provenance, the 'premises,' that is, the items of an inventory, etc., and hence buildings enumerated in a deed or lease. It is entirely contrary to good English usage to spell premiss, 'premise,' and this spelling...simply betrays ignorance of the history of logic."
- Room, Adrian, ed. (2000). Dictionary of Confusable Words. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 177. ISBN 1-57958-271-0. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- Peirce Edition Project, ed. (1998). The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings. 2. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. p. 294. ISBN 0-253-21190-5. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- Audi, Robert, ed. (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-521-63136-X.
Argument: a sequence of statements such that some of them (the premises) purport to give reasons to accept another of them, the conclusion
- Gullberg, Jan (1997). Mathematics : From the Birth of Numbers. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 216. ISBN 0-393-04002-X.
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