For each of the following passages, determine whether it does or does not contain an argument, and give reasons for your judgment. If the passage does contain an argument, indicate the conclusion. Answer to exercises marked; with an * are provided in the bad: of the book. 1. People normally believe what others tell them unless there is reason to be suspicious. This reliance on other people is called depending on testimony.
Answer: There is no argument here. The first sentence is a factual statement and the second offers an informal definition.
*2. The sun was setting on the hillside when he left. The air had a peculiar smoky aroma, the leaves were beginning to fall, and he sensed all around him the faintly melancholy atmosphere that comes when summer and summer romances are about to end.
3. To know any claim with certainty, you have to know you are awake. To know you are awake, you have to prove you are awake. Nobody can prove that he is awake. Therefore, no one can know any claim with certainty.
Answer: This passage does contain an argument. The conclusion is that no one can know any claim with certainty. The other three sentences are premises, put forward to support that conclusion.
*4. If a diet does not work, then that is a problem. But if a diet does work, there is still a problem, because the diet will have altered the dieter's metabolism. An altered metabolism as a result of dieting means a person will need less food. Needing less food, the person will gain weight more easily. Therefore, dieting to lose weight is futile.
5. Jane was a better tennis player than Peter.
Answer: This passage does not contain an argument. There is merely a statement that one person is a better tennis player than another. No support is provided for the claim made.
*6. "A computer then calculates the patient's bone density. Readings are compared to those of a standard for people of the same age, sex and body type." (Advertisement "Unraveling the Mystery of Soft Bones," in the New York Times Magazine, June 20, 1999)
7. Every loyal citizen must demonstrate his loyalty to the state by taking an oath. To be credible, that oath must be sworn on a religious text. No atheist can swear an oath on a religious text. So we can see that no atheist can demonstrate his loyalty to the state. (Adapted from the seventeenth-century philosopher John Locke.)
Answer: This passage contains an argument. The indicator word "so" precedes the conclusion, which is that no atheist can demonstrate his loyalty to the state. Note: in identifying this statement as the conclusion, adapted from John Locke, we are not implying that the statement is true.
8. Mathematics is not the queen of the sciences, because it is not a science at all.
Answer: This passage does contain an argument. The first part of the sentence is the conclusion, and the rest, following the word “because” supplies a reason for that conclusion.
*9. "The reaction of many people when they first hear a description of the psychopathic personality is that they have known a few people who fit the bill-fellow workers, classmates, acquaintances, bosses, even perhaps, unfortunately, a spouse." (Robert J. Weyant, "The Psychopathology of Politics," Humanist Perspectives, Winter 2005, p. 23.)
* 10. "If all goes well, the reactor and the steam generators in a nuclear power plant of the pressurized-water variety maintain a stable, businesslike relationship such as might obtain between two complementary monopolies. The reactor can be thought of as selling heat to the steam generators." (Daniel Ford, Three Mile Island: Three Minutes to Meltdown [Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1982])
11. "You not only need to control it (toxic radioactive substances) from the public, you also need to keep it away from the workers. Because the dose that federal regulations allow workers to get is sufficient to create a genetic hazard to the whole human species. You see, these workers are allowed to procreate, and if you damage their genes by radiation, and they intermarry with the rest of the population, for genetic purposes it's just the same as if you irradiate the population directly."(Quotation from medical physicist John Gofman, cited in Leslie Freeman, Nuclear Witnesses [New York: Norton, 1982])
Answer: This passage contains an argument. The conclusion is, "You also need to keep toxic radioactive substances from the workers." The support is signaled by the presence of "Because" at the beginning of the second sentence.
12. "If you want to be successful in business on a long-term basis, you must match your operational expertise with an ethical code of conduct practiced in every phase of your business.” (Jacqueline Dunckel, Good Ethics, Good Business [Vancouver: Self-Counsel Press,1989], p. 2)
Answer: This passage does not contain an argument. It offers practical advice on what is needed for long-term business success, but does not provide any premises offering reasons to back up that advice.
*13. "Like our ancestors of a thousand years ago, we still war and pray and worry about who our children will marry .We still laugh at bad jokes and loud farts and scary noises that turn out to be nothing. We flirt and steal and mourn our dead. Nothing there has changed. But when you look at today's science and technology-how the solar system is put together, the wonders of refrigeration, antibiotics, the theory of evolution, liver transplants, the structure of the atom, nylon, television-we are very different. Our powers are different. Our global consciousness is different. Our wealth, both intellectual and material, is different." (Editorial in the Globe and Mail, January 6, 1999)
14. "I shall pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now; let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." (Attributed to Stephen Grellet, cited in The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations [London: Penguin Books, 1960], p. 179)
Answer: There is an argument. The premise is that I shall pass through this world but once; this premise is expressed in the first sentence and again, in slightly different words, in the last part of the second sentence in “I shall not pass this way again.” The conclusion is that any kindness I can do should be done at once, not deferred or neglected.
*15. "Never cease loving a person and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low could still be saved, the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle again." (Soren Kierkegaard)
16. "Knowledge is happiness, because to have broad deep knowledge is to know true ends from false and lofty things from low."(Helen Keller, 1880-1968, The Story of My Life)
Answer: This passage contains an argument. The conclusion is the first parts of the sentence, “knowledge is happiness.” The premise is expressed in the rest of the sentence.
17. "On March 15, 2004, France's Jacques Chirac signed a law banning large symbols of religious affiliation in public schools. The law is based on a report of the French Stasi Commission, set up to reflect on the application of laicicite, or secularism. Officially, the law is on the grounds that 'ostentatious' displays of religious affiliation violate the secular nature of the public school system, as France is a secular society. Only large, visible religious symbols such as Muslim head scarves, Sikh turbans and Jewish yarmulkes are banned, while small Christian crosses are deemed acceptable, as are small Stars of David. It is widely acknowledged that the primary focus of the law is the Muslim headscarf called The hijab." (Letter to the editor, Humanist Perspectives Spring 2005, by Caroline Colijn.)
Answer: This passage does not contain an argument.
*18. "Soldiers who wish to be a hero/Are practically zero/ But those who wish to be civilians/Jesus, they run into the millions." (Anonymous poem, quoted in an advertisement placed by Penguin Canada in the Globe and Mail, March 22, 2003)
19. "Every morning we wake up. How do we do it? What is happening when awareness dawns? Why do we need to be conscious? Where are we when we sleep or when we die?" (Excerpted from "What is Consciousness?" Globe and Mail, March 10, 2003)
Answer: This passage does not contain an argument. It consists of a series of questions.
EXERCISE 2: PART A
For each of the following passages, state whether it does or does not contain an argument. If you think that the passage does contain an argument, briefly state why and identify its conclusion. If you think that the passage is not an argument, briefly state why.
* 1. The cause of the confusion was an ambiguous exit sign.
2. It is not essential to be tall to be good at basketball. This point is quite easy to prove. Just consider that basketball teams often have players of average height who make contributions to the game through fast running and expert passing.
Answer: This passage contains an argument. The conclusion is the first statement. The sentence, "This point is quite easy to prove," indicates that support for the conclusion is coming, and the reason is provided in the third sentence.
*3. Good health depends on good nutrition. Good nutrition requires a budget adequate to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables. Therefore, good health requires a budget adequate to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables.
*4. "If Rudolph Guiliani did one good thing for the arts while he was mayor of New York, it was to give the usual arguments on behalf of scandalous art so many chances to be aired that it soon became clear how unsatisfying they are." (Judith Shulevitz, "Shock Art: Round Up the Usual Defenses," New York Times Book Review, March 23, 2003)
*5. It is not strictly true that all human beings are either male or female. That's because some human beings are born with mixed sexual characteristics.
6. "Don't despair. It doesn't help ... and you don't have time." (E-mail advice to a medical student, cited in the Globe and Mail, May 23, 1995)
Answer: This passage contains an argument; two reasons are given for the conclusion, which is that one should not despair. Why not? First, because it would be unhelpful; second, because there is not enough time.
*7. Due to pride some people find it easier than others do to admit that they are wrong. You can see that this is true. It works this way: their pride is based on a deep conviction of personal worth. As a result of their conviction that they are worthy people, they can admit to flaws without being threatened.
8. It is well known that dolphins, whales, and elephants communicate with each other. In fact, even bees communicate with each other. So you can see that human beings are not the only animals that communicate.
Answer: This passage contains an argument for the conclusion that human beings are not the only animals that communicate with each other. The premise state that dolphins, whales, elephants, and even bees communicate with each other.
9. Only if they are meticulous about cleanliness and preventive measures can hospitals hope to prevent the spread of disease on their premises. The local hospital is not meticulous about cleanliness and preventive measures. So we can expect that it will not manage to prevent the spread of disease on its premises.
Answer: This passage does contain an argument. The conclusion is that the local hospital will not manage to prevent the spread of disease on its premises. The indicator word "so" precedes the conclusion. The first two sentences are premises.
*10. Because she was an only child, she did not develop the independence necessary to care for herself. For example, even at the age of 7, she was unable to put on her own skates.
11. Background: The following is taken from a column by Martin Levin, called "Forget them not." (Globe and Mail, Book Reviews, March 22, 2003) Levin is discussing the book The Story of My Father, by Sue Miller. The work is about Miller's father and his difficulties with Alzheimer's disease. Indeed, Miller's style ... is just the model to remind us how precious is identity, and how contingent. She knows that her father's fate could foreshadow her own; she has terrifying dreams about him, feels guilty, helpless, angry, struggles with the memoir. But she writes about the gathering darkness with a deftness that somehow turns grief into grace. fittingly, the last word of The Story of My Father is consoled.
Answer: This passage does not contain an argument. It offers a favorable description of Miller's writing style. *12. If a person knows in advance that his actions risk death, then when he voluntarily takes those actions, he accepts a risk of death. These conditions surely apply to mountain climbers. Therefore, people who climb mountains have accepted a risk of death.
13. "The only way you could license nuclear power plants and not have murder is if you could guarantee perfect containment. But they admit they're not going to contain it perfectly. So licensing nuclear power plants is licensing murder." (John Gofman, in Leslie Freeman, Nuclear Witnesses [New York: Norton, 1982])
Answer: This passage contains an argument. The conclusion is "Licensing nuclear power plants is licensing murder." The first two statements are premises put forward to support that conclusion.
*14. Background: The following passage is taken from Edward C. Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. Banfield is describing life among peasant people in a small Italian village called Montegrano, as it was in the early 1950s. "In part the peasant's melancholy is caused by worry. Having no savings, he must always dread what is likely to happen. What for others are misfortunes are for him calamities. When their hog strangled on its tether, a laborer and his wife were desolate. The woman tore her hair and beat her head against a wall while the husband sat mute and stricken in a corner. The loss of the hog meant they would have no meat that winter, no grease to spread on bread, nothing to sell for cash to pay taxes, and no possibility of acquiring a pig the next spring. Such blows may fall at any time. Fields may be washed away in a flood. Hail may beat down the wheat. Illness may strike. To be a peasant is to stand helpless before these possibilities." (Edward C. Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society [Chicago: Free Press, 1958], p. 64)
*15. Background: This passage is taken from the essay "On Liberty," by the nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill, who defends freedom of speech. The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is light, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. If wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
16. Background: This passage is taken from a letter by the eighteenth-century philosopher Jean- Jacques Rousseau. Because my life, my security, my liberty, and my happiness today depend on the cooperation of others like myself, it is clear that I must look upon myself no longer as an isolated individual but as part of a larger whole, as a member of a larger body on whose reservation mine depends absolutely ... (Jean Starobinski, "A Letter from Jean-Jacques Rousseau," New York Review of Books, May 15, 2003)
Answer: This passage does contain an argument. The conclusion is that one is not an isolated individual but rather a member of a larger society. The premise is that one's life, security, liberty and happiness depend on the cooperation of other people.
17. Background: In the period 1979-1982, Nestle, a multinational corporation manufacturing chocolate, cocoa, coffee, and infant formula, was accused of overly aggressive advertising of infant formula in developing countries. Critics charged that because mothers in these countries were vulnerable to pressure to copy a Western way of life, they were encouraged to switch unnecessarily to infant formula instead of breast-feeding their babies. Due to unsanitary conditions, use of formula frequently caused illness or even the death of children. No one questions that marketing of infant formula in the Third World can pose serious problems. Everyone, including the infant formula industry, agrees that breast-feeding provides the best and cheapest nutrition for babies. Also, mothers who are lactating are less likely to conceive. Breast-feeding also helps to space out births. Therefore, marketing practices should not induce mothers who otherwise would be willing and able to breastfeed to switch to the bottle. (Herman Nickel, "The Corporation Haters," reprinted in Eleanor MacLean, Between the Lines [Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1981], p. 91)
Answer: This passage contains an argument. The conclusion is, "Marketing practices should not induce mothers who otherwise would be willing and able to breast-feed to switch to the bottle." The second, third, and fourth sentences are the premises.
* 18. "One immediate retort to the idea that a market society without governing institutions is a decent society is that a market society includes economic organizations, particularly monopolies and cartels, which are in fact governing institutions. The coercive power of monopolies is no less than that of political institutions. Thus the idea that a market society is free of institutions that have the power to humiliate people is a fairy tale." (Avashai Margalit, The Decent Society. [Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, p.21)
* 19. "The kids are rarely overpowered by life's adversities because they set up safety valves to release the mental anguish caused by their personal hang-ups. Lucy, for example, flaunts her femininity so she can cope with life more easily. Charlie Brown eats peanut butter sandwiches when he gets lonely. And Frieda wheedles compliments to restore her faith in herself and in her curly hair. Snoopy, unashamed, straps himself to his doghouse and mentally shrugs off most anything he can't handle." (From Jeffrey H. Loria, What's It All About, Charlie Brown? [Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publishers, 1968], p. 12)