紫陌纤尘o0 发表于 2010-3-21 21:22:41


本帖最后由 紫陌纤尘o0 于 2010-10-11 10:04 编辑


What is not an argument?

We’ve just seen a description of what an argument is and why, so now may be a good time to take a look at some things which are not arguments. Premises, propositions and conclusions — the pieces of arguments — may usually be easy to spot. But arguments themselves aren’t always so easy, and very often people will offer things which they claim are arguments but definitely are not.

Too often, you will hear something like these:
1. God exists and the Bible is true!
2. Ronald Reagan was the best President we ever had!
3. Global warming is a great danger to life and civilization.
None of these are actually arguments; instead, they are all just assertions. They could be transformed into arguments if the speaker were to offer evidence in support of their claims, but until then we don’t have very much to go on. One sign that you just have a strong assertion is the use of the exclamation points.

Arguments vs. Hypotheticals

One common pseudo-argument which you will probably encounter too often is the hypothetical proposition. Consider the following examples:
4. If the Bible is accurate, Jesus was either a lunatic, a liar, or the Son of God.
5. If you want to improve the economy, you have to lower taxes.
6. If we don’t act quickly, the environment will be damaged beyond repair.
These all look like arguments and, because of that, it isn’t uncommon for them to be offered as if they were arguments. But they aren’t: they are simply conditional statements of the if-then type. The part following the if is called the antecedent and the part following the then is called the consequent.


170For the past five years, consumers in California have been willing to pay twice as much for oysters from the northeastern Atlantic Coast as for Gulf Coast oysters. This trend began shortly after harmful bacteria were found in a few raw Gulf Coast oysters. But scientists have now devised a process for killing the bacteria. Once consumers are made aware of the increased safety of Gulf Coast oysters, they are likely to be willing to pay as much for Gulf Coast as for northeastern Atlantic Coast oysters, and greater profits for Gulf Coast oyster producers will follow.



152The following is a letter to the head of the tourism bureau on the island of Tria.

"Erosion of beach sand along the shores of Tria Island is a serious threat to our island and our tourist industry.
In order to stop the erosion, we should charge people for using the beaches. Although this solution may annoy a few tourists in the short term, it will reduce the number of people using the beaches and will raise money for replenishing the sand. Replenishing the sand, as was done to protect buildings on the nearby island of Batia, will help protect buildings along our shores, thereby reducing these buildings' risk of additional damage from severe storms. And since the areas along the shore will be more attractive as a result, the beaches will be preserved and the area's tourist industry will improve over the long term."


In none of the three cases (#4-6) do we see the premises which would supposedly support the conclusion. If you want to try to create a genuine argument when you see such claims, you have to focus on the antecedent of the conditional and ask why it should be accepted as true. You can also ask why there is any connection between the hypothetical in the antecedent and the proposition in the consequent.


To better understand the difference betweeen an argument and a hypothetical proposition, look at these two very similar statements:
7. If today is Tuesday, tomorrow will be Wednesday.
8. Because today is Tuesday, tomorrow will be Wednesday.
Both of these statements express similar ideas, but the second is an argument while the first is not. In the first, we have an if-then conditional (as you can see, sometimes the then is dropped). The author is not asking readers to make any inferences from any premises because it is not being claimed that today is, in fact, Tuesday.
But statement #8 is an argument because “today is Tuesday” is being offered as a factual premise. From this claim, it is being inferred — and we are asked to accept this inference — that tomorrow is therefore Wednesday.

通过这两个例子,我们可以具体地知道hypothesis和argument的区别。前者是可以提出alternative conditions的,而后者是有factual premise。

Another type of pseudo-argument can be found in the following examples:
9. You must do your duty to God, your Creator.
10. We must stop the government from interfering with people’s private property.
11. People must make sure that international corporations don’t get too much power.
None of these are really arguments, either — in fact, they aren’t even propositions. A proposition is something which can be either true or false, and an argument is something offered to establish the truth value of the proposition. But the statements above are not like that. They are commands, and cannot be true or false — they can only be wise or unwise, justified or unjustified.



Arguments vs. Commands, Warnings & Suggestions

Similar to commands are warnings and suggestions, which are also not arguments:
13. You should take foreign language classes while at college.

Something that is sometimes confused with an argument is an explanation. Contrast the following two statements:
14. I am a Democrat, so I voted for the Democratic candidate.
15. She didn’t vote in the Republican primary, so she must be a Democrat.
In the first statement, no argument is being offered. It is an explanation of an already-accepted truth, that the speaker voted for the Democratic candidate. Statement #13, however, is a bit different — here, we are being asked to infer something (“she must be a Democrat”) from a premise (“She didn’t vote...”). Thus, it is an argument.


7The following appeared in a letter to the editor of the Clearview newspaper.

"In the next mayoral election, residents of Clearview should vote for Ann Green, who is a member of the Good Earth Coalition, rather than for Frank Braun, a member of the Clearview town council, because the current members are not protecting our environment. For example, during the past year the number of factories in Clearview has doubled, air pollution levels have increased, and the local hospital has treated 25 percent more patients with respiratory illnesses. If we elect Ann Green, the environmental problems in Clearview will certainly be solved."

这道题目说应该选举Ann Green,因为他是Good Earth Coalition的成员,而接下来却没有人和与Good Earth Coalition有关的陈述。

Statements of belief and opinion are also often presented as if they were an argument. For example:
16. I think that abortion is a horrendous procedure. It violently kills a young, innocent human life and the extent of abortions in this country constitutes a new holocaust.

There is really no argument here — what we have are emotive statements rather than cognitive statements. No effort is made to establish the truth of what is said nor are they being used the establish the truth of something else. They are expressions of personal feelings. There is nothign wrong with emotive statements, of course — the point is that we must understand when we are looking at emotive statements and that they are not genuine arguments.


Of course, it will be common to find arguments which have both emotive and cognitive statements. Often, the statements in #16 might be combined with other statements which would constitute an actual argument, explaining why abortion is wrong or why it should be illegal. It is important to recognize this and learn how to disengage the emotional and value claims from the logical structure of an argument.


It is easy to be distracted by language and miss what is really going on, but with practice you can avoid that. This is especially important not just when it comes to religion and politics, but especially in advertising. The entire marketing industry is dedicated to using language and symbols for the purpose of creating particular emotional and psychological responses in you, the customer.

They would rather you just spend your money than think too much about the product, and they design their advertising based on that premise. But when you learn how to set aside your emotional responses to certain words and images and get right at the logical — or illogical - heart of what is being claimed, you’ll be a much better informed and prepared consumer.

228The following appeared in a newsletter from a political organization.

"In order to promote economic growth in the city, city residents should vote 'yes' on the state government's proposal to build a new expressway linking the outlying suburbs directly to the city center. A direct link to the city center will enable downtown businesses to receive deliveries more frequently, so that downtown retailers will no longer run out of stock and city manufacturers will not be affected by shortages of materials. Booming businesses will attract qualified workers from all over the state, workers who will be able to take advantage of the new expressway to commute to work in our city. In addition to these advantages, hundreds of workers will be employed to build the expressway, further stimulating the local economy!"

23A recent sales study indicated that consumption of seafood dishes in Bay City restaurants has increased by 30 percent over the past five years. Yet there are no currently operating city restaurants that specialize in seafood. Moreover, the majority of families in Bay City are two-income families, and a nationwide study has shown that such families eat significantly fewer home-cooked meals than they did a decade ago but at the same time express more concern about eating healthily. Therefore, a new Bay City restaurant specializing in seafood will be quite popular and profitable.


sunflower_iris 发表于 2010-3-21 23:39:14


BackerShu 发表于 2010-4-6 15:49:15


这一点不是很明白楼主的意思~~ 尤其是些argument的他因的时候,不都是一种可能性的事情吗?


spna1234 发表于 2010-4-28 11:51:35

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