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Recognizing Arguments

Chapter Outline

Following are the main learning objectives from the chapter.

What is an Argument?

(See p. 25-27)

In understanding the concept of an argument, students should . . .

A. distinguish the meaning of the term argument as a quarrel or dispute from its meaning in critical thinking;

B. recognize that an argument is composed of premises and conclusions;

1. understand that premises are intended to provide evidence for the conclusion of an argument;

2. understand that a conclusion is the statement in an argument which is supported by the premises.

C. be able to distinguish statements, sentences that can sensibly be regarded as either true or false, from non-statements;

1. understand that a sentence can express more than one statement;

2. understand that statements can be expressed as a phrase or an incomplete clause;

3. understand that not all sentences contain statements;

4. recognize rhetorical questions and how to interpret them as statements;

5. recognize ought imperatives and distinguish these from commands or requests.

Identifying Premises and Conclusions

(See pgs. 29-33)

While learning to identify premises and conclusions, students should . . .

A. be able to identify and use premise and conclusion indicator words to identify premises and conclusions in arguments;

1. understand that indicator words are often ambiguous and do not always function as premise and conclusion indicators;

2. understand that not all arguments contain indicator words;

B. understand and be able to apply the five tips on finding the conclusion of an argument discussed on p. 31;

C. be able to distinguish simplearguments (arguments containing a single conclusion) from complexarguments (which contain at least one subconclusion);

1. be able to identify subconclusions and understand that subconclusions act as supporting premises for the main conclusion of a complex argument;

D. be able to identify when a passage contains independent conclusions and understand the importance of representing such passages as containing independent arguments.

What is Not an Argument

(See pgs. 38-43)

A. Students should be aware of the nonargumentative uses of language and be able to distinguish these from arguments. To this end, students should be able to . . .

1. identify when the purpose of a passage is simply to report or convey information about a subject;

a. distinguish a report of an argument from an argument;

2. distinguish an unsupported statement of belief or opinion from the conclusion of an argument;

3. distinguish conditional statements from arguments;

a. identify the antecedents and consequents of conditional statements;

4. identify when a passage is intended to simply illustrate or provide examples of a claim and distinguish these cases from attempts to support a conclusion in an argument;

5. distinguish explanations from arguments;

a. understand that explanations are attempts to show why some statement is true, where arguments are attempts to show that some statement is true;

b. identify the explanans and the explanadum of an explanation.

B. Students should also become familiar with and understand the importance of the Principle of Charity when coming to terms with the views of others. Students should lean to apply the following standards:

1. Never attribute to an arguer a weaker argument when the evidence reasonably permits us to attribute to him or her a stronger one.

2. Never interpret a passage as a bad argument when the evidence reasonably permits us to interpret it as not an argument at all.