Arguments vs Non Arguments

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    Distinguishing Arguments from

    Non-arguments

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    An argument is a claim defended with reasons.

    More precisely, a passage is an argument if and only if:

    (a) it is a group of two or more statements

    (b) one of those statements (the conclusion) is claimed or

    intended to be supported by the other(s) (the premises).

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    Notice three important things that follow from this

    definition:

    1.Arguments consist entirely of statements, i.e., sentences that itmakes sense to regard as either true or false. Questions,

    commands, exclamations, and other kinds of nonstatements

    cannot be parts of arguments. (Keep in mind, however, that

    rhetorical questions should be treated as statements.)

    2. No single statement, however long, complex, or controversial,

    is an argument. Arguments always consist of at least two

    statements.

    3. Nothing counts as an argument unless it is claimed or intended

    that one statement fo l lowsf romone or more other statementsin the passage. In other words, a passage is an argument only

    if the speaker or writer intends to offerevidenceorreasons

    why another statement should be accepted as true.

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    Five kinds of passages that are sometimes confused with

    arguments are:

    reports

    unsupported statements of belief or opinion

    Illustrations

    conditional statements

    explanations

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    The brain is the master control center of the body. It has threemain divisions: the cerebrum, the cerebellum and the brain stem.

    This passage is a report.

    A report is a statement or group of statements intended simply to

    convey information about a subject.

    Keep in mind that reports of other people's arguments should be

    regarded as reports rather than as arguments.

    After defeating the Chinese in the Opium War, the Britishacquired Hong Kong as its colony. On July 1, 1997, theUnited Kingdom ceased its control of Hongkong andturned it back China

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    1. Begin each day with a prayer. 2. Work hard. 3. Love yourfamily. 4. Make light of your troubles. 5. Follow the Golden Rule.6. Read from the Bible. 7. Show kindness. 8. Read worthwhile

    books. 9. Be clean and pure. 10. Have charity in your heart. 11.Be obedient and respectful. 12. End the day in prayer. Thesetwelve rules, the "Quaker Dozen," were written long ago in afamily Bible. But I believe they still fit today's problems.(Adapted from Olive Ireland Theen, "Grandfather's QuakerDozen," in William Nichol, ed.,A New Treasury of Words to Live

    By, 1959)

    This passage is an unsupported statement of belief or opinion.

    An unsupported statement of belief or opinion is a statement or

    set of statements in which the speaker or writer expresses his or

    her personal opinion, but offers no reasons or evidence to back

    up that opinion.

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    Almost all groups agree in holding other groups to beinferior to themselves. The American Indians looked upon

    themselves as the chosen people, specially created bythe Great Spirit as an uplifting example for mankind. OneIndian tribe called itself "The Only Men"; another calleditself "Men of Men"; the Caribs said, "We alone arepeople." (Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1935)

    This passage is an illustration.

    An illustration is a passage intended to provide examples that illustrate or

    support a claim, not to provide convincing evidence that the claim is true.

    The three examples cited in this passage are clearly insufficient tosupport the author's claim that "almost al lgroupsagree in holding other

    groups to be inferior to themselves." This indicates that the passage is

    intended to illustrate the author's claim, rather than to prove it.

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    If Hal comes to the party than Sarah will come to the party.

    This passage is a conditional statement.

    A conditional statement is an if-then statement. It is an assertion that

    such-and-such is true i fsomething else is true.

    Conditional statements are not arguments because arguments alwayscontain at least two statements and conditional statements consist of

    only a single statement: " Statement A is true on the condition that

    statement B is true."

    In the passage above, the speaker or writer isn't asserting that Hal will

    come to the party. Nor is she asserting that Sarah will come to the party.Rather, she is asserting that Sarah will come to the party prov ided that

    Hal comes to the party. This is a single statement, and thus is not an

    argument.

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    I speak English because my parents sent me to boarding school

    in London.

    This passage is an explanation.

    An explanation is a statement or set of statements that seeks to

    provide an account of why something has occurred or why

    something is the case.

    In this passage, the speaker or writer isn't trying to provethat he

    can speak English (that's obvious from the fact that he is

    speaking English!). Rather, he is trying to explain whyhe speaks

    English.

    In other words, arguments seek to provide evidence or reasons

    thatsomething is the case; explanations seek to explain why

    something is the case.

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    For the person who called and said Larry Bird was betterthan Michael Jordan, wake up. No one was ever better

    than Michael Jordan, not even Kareem in his glory andnot even Dr. J (From a newspaper call-in column)

    Is this passage an argument or not an argument?

    If it is not an argument, is it a report, an unsupportedstatement of belief or opinion, an illustration, a conditionalstatement, or an explanation?

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    For the person who called and said Larry Bird was better thanMichael Jordan, wake up. No one was ever better than MichaelJordan, not even Kareem in his glory and not even Dr. J

    (From a newspaper call-in column)

    Non-argument (unsupported statement of belief oropinion).

    In this passage, the speaker simply asserts his opinion; he

    makes no effort to defend it.

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    When a democratic society is correctly understood to be one inwhich the people live under constitutional government withuniversal suffrage and with the securing of human rights,

    economic as well as political, for all citizens, it must then berecognized that a democratic society is not yet fifty years old inthis country

    (Mortimer J. Adler, The PaideiaProposal, 1984)

    Is this passage an argument or not an argument?

    If it is not an argument, is it a report, an unsupportedstatement of belief or opinion, an illustration, a

    conditionalstatement, or an explanation?

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    When a democratic society is correctly understood to be one inwhich the people live under constitutional government withuniversal suffrage and with the securing of human rights,

    economic as well as political, for all citizens, it must then berecognized that a democratic society is not yet fifty years old inthis country

    (Mortimer J. Adler, The PaideiaProposal, 1984)

    Argument.

    The writer is giving a reason to support his claimthat democracy is less than fifty years old in the United

    States.

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    If a claim or position is being set forth and no other explicit orimplicit statement is used to support it, then the spoken or writtenmaterial in question is not an argument

    (T. Edward Damer,Attacking FaultyReasoning, 4th ed., 2001)

    Is this passage an argument or not an argument?

    If it is not an argument, is it a report, an unsupported

    statement of belief or opinion, an illustration, a conditional

    statement, or an explanation?

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    If a claim or position is being set forth and no other explicit orimplicit statement is used to support it, then the spoken or writtenmaterial in question is not an argument

    (T. Edward Damer,Attacking FaultyReasoning, 4th ed., 2001)

    Non-argument (conditional statement).

    The writer is simply making an if-then statement, not

    giving reasons why some other statement should be

    believed.

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    Women my age know whom to blame for our own self-loathing, eating disorders and distorted body image:

    Barbie. So we're raising our vulnerable, body-consciousgirls to beware the perpetually pointy-toed goddess withthe impossible body and perfect face

    (Amy Dickinson, "Measuring Up," Time, November 20,

    2000)

    Is this passage an argument or not an argument?

    If it is not an argument, is it a report, an unsupported

    statement of belief or opinion, an illustration, a conditionalstatement, or an explanation?

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    Women my age know whom to blame for our own self-loathing,eating disorders and distorted body image: Barbie. So we're

    raising our vulnerable, body-conscious girls to beware theperpetually pointy-toed goddess with the impossible body andperfect face

    (Amy Dickinson, "Measuring Up," Time, November 20, 2000)

    Non-argument (explanation).

    The writer isn't seeking to prove that women her age are raising

    their vulnerable, body-conscious daughters to beware of Barbie;rather, she's offering an explanation why they are doing so.

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    Although you usually cannot eliminate the personalfeelings that are influencing your perceptions, you can

    become aware of them and try to compensate for theirbias. For instance, if you are asked to evaluate a group ofpeople, one of whom is a good friend, you should try tokeep these personal feelings in mind in order to makeyour evaluation as accurate as possible(John Chaffee, The Thinker's Way, 1998)

    Is this passage an argument or not an argument?

    If it is not an argument, is it a report, an unsupported

    statement of belief or opinion, an illustration, a conditionalstatement, or an explanation?

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    Although you usually cannot eliminate the personalfeelings that are influencing your perceptions, you can

    become aware of them and try to compensate for theirbias. For instance, if you are asked to evaluate a group ofpeople, one of whom is a good friend, you should try tokeep these personal feelings in mind in order to makeyour evaluation as accurate as possible(John Chaffee, The Thinker's Way, 1998)

    Non-argument (illustration).

    In this passage, the words "for instance" signal us that the

    author is trying to illustrate a claim, not to prove it.

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    In his bookNatural Theology, which set forth the standardacademic and theological wisdom of the early nineteenthcentury, William Paley had compared nature to a watch. If you

    chanced upon a watch lying alone on the ground, he wrote,and then examined its intricate structure, you could not helpconcluding that it had been made by an intelligent designer. Itcouldn't possibly be the product of mere chance. And yet, thenatural world exhibits much more complex order than anywatch. Thus, Paley concluded, there has to be an intelligentdesigner responsible for nature's fine arrangement(John F. Haught,Science and Religion, 1995)

    Is this passage an argument or not an argument?

    If it is not an argument, is it a report, an unsupportedstatement of belief or opinion, an illustration, a conditionalstatement, or an explanation?

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    In his bookNatural Theology, which set forth the standardacademic and theological wisdom of the early nineteenthcentury, William Paley had compared nature to a watch. If you

    chanced upon a watch lying alone on the ground, he wrote,and then examined its intricate structure, you could not helpconcluding that it had been made by an intelligent designer. Itcouldn't possibly be the product of mere chance. And yet, thenatural world exhibits much more complex order than anywatch. Thus, Paley concluded, there has to be an intelligentdesigner responsible for nature's fine arrangement(John F. Haught,Science and Religion, 1995)

    [This is the end of the tutorial] X

    Non-argument (report).

    In this passage, the writer is reporting someone else's argument,not endorsing it as correct. Thus, the argument is a report rather

    than an argument.