I was trying to define false balance [Wikipedia] in my own words.

False balance (aka bothsidesism): a media bias which perpetuates misinformation; a premise [which maintains] that two sides of an argument are somewhat balanced when, in fact, one side significantly outweighs the other.

I added "which maintains" (in brackets above) because it seemed to lack something, at the time, but I'm not sure that a premise can maintain anything, based on their definitions (both Lexico).

By premise, I meant more of an idea than a statement; something more common, less academic:


a statement or idea that you accept as true and use as a base for developing other ideas.


I have found "premise maintains" online, of course (about 2,980 results, including ones for premise meaning property). As suspected, the most popular usage I found was "based on the premise that" (about 25,500,000 results returned).

Question: Is a "premise which maintains" (esp. in the given context) a correct usage, semantically?

BTW, I do believe that books can explore, and mountains can soar, and lamps can abhor… Not really that last one. Everything can't do everything.

What the heck is this about? Am I in an array now or what? (I'm 5 out of the 7 search results returned. That answers that. Not idiomatic.)

How to create an array from single table data with parent and ...https://stackoverflow.com › questions › how-to-create-a... 21 hours ago — Re: "a premise which maintains that…" Can a premise maintain? Why are White Americans in the Southern region of the USA much more ...

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    @KannE: I'm always up for self-referential utterances - but would it be oxymoronic if I claimed that of late I like to alliterate a little rather than a lot? :) Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 16:14
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    The media bias is what's maintaining the premise. 'a media bias which perpetuates misinformation [to maintain a false premise] that two sides of an argument...'
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 22:25
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    That's literally fake news and colloquially the exact opposite, as that phrase is its own antithesis. When you say False Balance, I think of knock-off tennis shoes. It's called spinning the narrative and is not confined to news media or presidents. My nephew was told that the ice-cream truck only plays the music when it's out of ice-cream; calling the mother ship. Another term is lies. - What's wrong with the term misinformation ?
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 3:05
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    The premise maintains is certainly used in academic writing. Are you looking only sample usage in dictionaries?
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 12:28
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    No, premises don’t maintain. A premise is already a “maintenance.” You wouldn’t say the maintenance maintains or the argument argues or the claim claims. Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 4:32

3 Answers 3


Can a premise maintain? I'm not sure that a premise can maintain anything,

Yes, it most certainly can.


"The kettle boiled". Clearly kettles do not boil - but we all know that the meaning is "The water in the kettle boiled."

A premise [which maintains] is therefore an example of (probably) metonymy and perfectly valid, and means "The bloke who wrote the premise maintains..."

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    I don't think any metonymy is needed at all. Frankly, I don't see the objection to this construction at all. Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 18:01
  • Premises are at least sentences (if stated in language instead of logic). If you think sentences can maintain something, then so can premises. On the other hand, it's not at all clear what maintain means with such a subject, aside from 'say' or 'mean', so it's hardly an important claim, true or false. Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 18:52
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    The OP is describing a situation where general practice is to proceed as if a particular premise is true. It is quite possible for this to be the case without anyone formally articulating the premise. Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 19:07
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    Mistaking language for thought is a fault line that philosophy has mined for millennia. The Greeks figured if you didn't speak Greek, you couldn't think properly. Moderns are no better. Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 17:03
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    Nu, what's the matter with taking a position? Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 22:47

Anthropomorphisms such as this are generally discouraged in academic works unless they are already in wide usage and do not cause confusion. "These results suggest ..." is generally accepted. "This premise maintains ..." who knows?

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    I've never been aware of any such constraint in formal texts. Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 14:16
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    @Kanne: After reading It results in ambiguity or misleading communication and thus should be avoided in APA style in one of your links above, I've made a "non-edit" to this answer so I could reverse my over-hasty downvote. DaveClark - in principle I think I should have only cancelled the downvote, and not converted it to an upvote unless and until you edit your text to include those links provided by Kanne as suggested. But I may not pass this way again, and you still might edit the links in (or someone else might do it for you, but not me at this time! :) Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 11:56
  • @KannE: I assumed nothing about the OP's work, merely stating the case in academia, as I myself understand it, as an example.
    – DaveClark
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 17:40

Judging by usage (Google Books), using maintains after premise appears to be acceptable. It's not ambiguous or confusing and provides an alternative to the usual verbs like assert, say, affirm, hold, state, etc. While I probably wouldn't have thought to use maintains after premise, when I read it in these examples, it doesn't strike me as too unusual or out of place. (In one of the works below I came across "this premise claims", which could be the subject of another ELU question.)

...it was found advisable to set up a premise in the nature of a definition of vocational education at the junior college level. This premise maintains that the expression vocational education refers to ... California Journal of Secondary Education, vol. 16 (1941)

The argument's first premise maintains that it is possible for an act to harm a person while they are alive even if the act has no effect on that person's conscious experience. The argument's second premise maintains that if it is possible for an act to harm a person while they are alive even if the act has no effect on that person's conscious experiences, then frustrating a person's desires is at least one way to harm a person. ... The argument's third premise maintains that if frustrating a person's desires is at least one to harm a person, then it is possible for an act to harm a person even if the act takes place after the person is dead. David Boonin; Dead Wrong: The Ethics of Posthumous Harm

The minor premise maintains that P does occur. W. Clark et al.; Principles of Comparative Politics

This premise maintains two things. Emanuel Rutten; A Critical Assessment of Contemporary Cosmological Arguments

... but the strong version of the premise maintains that the net flow of environmental goods (e.g. food) and bads (e.g. pollution) across either... D. Mollica and T. Campbell; Sustainability

The second premise maintains that if a proposition is epistemically justified a priori, then its justification depends on intuition. Steven Hales; Relativism and the Foundations of Philosophy

But then, if moral reasons are non-instrumental, as Joyce's first premise maintains, it is at best doubtful that moral reasons are authoritative, as Joyce's second premise maintains. R. Joyce and S. Kirchen; A World Without Values

The first premise of the argument maintains that commonsense mental states like beliefs and desires can be viewed as... The second premise maintains that ... D. Murphy and M. Bishop; Stich and His Critics

Folk psychology, the First Premise maintains, underlies our everyday discourse about mental states and processes, and terms like "belief" and "desire" can be viewed as theoretical terms in this folk theory. Stephen Stich; Deconstructing the Mind

Blumer's third premise maintains that all meanings for individuals and groups "occur through a process of interpretation." Doreen Anderson-Facile; Dueling Identities: The Christian Biker

This premise maintains that the private decision to authorize military force does impose risk ... William Feldman; Privatizing War: A Moral Theory


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