Arguments and Explanations

Arguments and Explanations
Paper details:
Under exercise only numbers: 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20 need to be done. Please follow the instructions under exercises.
1.4 Arcaiments and Explanatioi‘us 19 I
premise of the enthymematic argument. The unstated falsehood of the first p
component is the conclusion of the argument. To illustrate, the distinguished
political philosopher John Rawls admired Abraham Lincoln as the president
who most appreciated the moral equality of human beings. Rawls frequently 7_
quoted Lincoln’s enthymematic argument, ”If slavery is not wrong, nothing is
wrong.” It is of course wildly false to say that nothing is wrong-from which it
follows that it is equally false to say that slavery is not wrong.”
1.4 Arguments and Explanations
Passages that appear to be arguments are sometimes not arguments but
explanations. The appearance of words that are common indicators-such as
because,” ”for,” and ”therefore”-cannot settle the matter, because those words
are used in both explanations and arguments?r We need to know the intention
of the author. Compare the following two passages:
1. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor
rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where
your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ‘ V
-Matt. 7:19
2. Therefore is the name of it [the tower] called Babel; because the Lord
did there confound the language of all the earth.
-Gen.11:l9
The first passage is clearly an argument. Its conclusion, that one ought to
lay up treasures in heaven, is supported by the premise (here marked by the
word “for”) that one’s heart will be where one’s treasure is laid up. The sec-
ond passage, which uses the word ”therefore” quite appropriately, is not an
argument. It explains why the tower (whose construction is recounted in
Genesis) is called Babel. The tower was given this name, we are told, be- 1
cause it is was the place where humankind, formerly speaking one lan-
guage, became confounded by many languages}c The passage assumes that
Samuel Freeman, ”John Rawls, Friend and Teacher,” Chronicle of I-iigher Education,” 13
December 2002. And Bruno Bettelheim, a survivor of the N azi death camps at Dachau and
Buchemvald (and a distinguished psychiatrist), wrote: ”If all men are good, then there
never was an Auschwitz.”
lThe premise indicator ”since” often has a temporal sense as well. Thus, in the lyric of the
famous old song, ”Stormy Weather,” the line ”Since my man and I ain’t together, keeps
rainin’ all the time,” is deliberately ambiguous, and richly suggestive. (Music by Harold
Arlen, words by Ted Roehler, 1933.)
1The name ”Babel” is derived from the Hebrew word meaning” to confound”-that is, to
confuse by mixing up or lumping together in an indiscriminate manner.