Critical Thinking & Information Literacy
Across the Curriculum
Recognizing Concealed Claims
Philosophy 115 Assignment 7:
There are lots of ways that people try to convince us by the way that they say
something rather than by what they say. The aim of this assignment is to help
students recognized claims that are concealed by various literary devices.
NOTE: The characterizations of concealed claims and the examples below have been
taken from Richard Epstein’s Critical Thinking (Wadswortth, 1999).
Students are instructed to look through newspapers and magazines to find examples of
various kinds of concealed claims. Advertisements are often full of these. Students
should cut out the examples they find to turn in and to discuss with the rest of the class.
The Great Slanter Hunt
A slanter is a literary device that attempts to convince by using words that conceal a
dubious claim. Look through the news papers and magazines provided and find examples
of each of the following:
1. Loaded Question: This is a question that conceals a dubious claim that
should be argued for rather than assumed. Giving an answer to a loaded question requires
one to rely on that dubious claim. Example: When did you stop beating your wife?
2. Euphemism: A euphemism is a word or phrase that makes something
sound better than a neutral description. For example, rebels fighting to overthrow a
government might be called “freedom fighters.” In this case, the concealed claim is
that the rebels are good, and their fight is justified.
3. Dysphemism: A word or phrase that makes something sound worse than a
neutral description. For example, rebels fighting to overthrow a government might be
called “terrorists.” In this case, the concealed claim is that the rebels are bad,
and their fight is unjustified.
4. Up-player: A word or phrase that exaggerates the significance of a
claim. For example, when a person says “Oh my god, I had a horrible emergency! I
just ran out of hairspray!” The concealed claim here is that running our of
hairspray constitutes an emergency.
5. Down-player: A word or phrase that minimizes the significance of a
claim. For example, imagine a person who says “I did cheat a little, but it was
only by looking at my notes. I didn’t copy someone elses work.” The concealed
claim is that cheating by looking at your notes is not as wrong as cheating by
copying off someone.
6. Proof Substitute: A proof substitute is a word or phrase that
suggests the speaker has proof, but no proof is actually offered. Suppose, for
example, someone asserts “Research shows that men and women have different
brain structures.” If the speaker does not actually cite any study, and does
not give any supporting evidence, then they have not offered any evidence for
7. Innuendo: An innuendo is a thinly concealed negative claim that is
implied by what the speaker does say. Imagine, for example, a political candidate that
says, “I agree that my opponent is telling the truth this time.” This suggests that
the candidate’s opponent has a history of lying.