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Thread: Moral Reasoning... the difference between an argument and an explanation.

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    Moral Reasoning... the difference between an argument and an explanation.

    Hey guys, I'm having a hard time figuring out what's going on in some of these passages.
    Has anyone taken a class like this? Analyzing arguments and what makes them an argument?

    I have three passages I'm supposed to analyze: is each an argument, an explanation, both, or neither?
    Keep in mind I have no idea if my professor is trying to trick me, because one of them seems like it may be a trick question.

    ---

    A generation ago, my college peers and I would buy a pint of ice cream and down a shot (or two) of peach schnapps to process a breakup. Now some college students feel suicidal after the breakup of a four-month relationship. Either ice cream no longer has the same magical healing properties or the ability to address hardships is lacking in many members of this generation.
    (From “A prescription for helping millenials grow up,” by Brooke Donatone, Washington Post 7 January 2014, E4.)

    I thought this was an argument. I ask why I should believe that the ability to address hardships is lacking in our generation, not what the cause of that lack of ability is.

    [Michael Moore] favored raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, arguing that the cost to companies would be more than compensated for by the savings to society.
    “If the person living next to you is making $40,000 a year, what are the chances he’s going to break into your house and steal your color TV? None, right? Unless he’s a kleptomaniac,” he said.
    (From a 1997 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about filmmaker Michael Moore.)

    Totally unsure on this one. Leaning toward explanation. I feel like he may be tricking me because he literally uses the word "arguing." But is it an explanation? What is being explained? Or is this whole thing an argument? What's the conclusion I'm supposed to accept?

    “An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.” –Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition.
    I thought this was an argument, but my friend is telling me it may also be an explanation. The way I see it is this:
    1. An empty head is not really empty.
    2. An empty head is stuffed with rubbish.
    3. It is difficult to force anything into an empty head.
    (1 + 2) --> 3

    ---

    Any thoughts?
    I feel like I may just be overthinking things. This class is easy to understand in lecture, but when it comes to applying it myself, I get totally lost.


    Will totally +rep if you can give me some insight.

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    1) Seems like an argument because of the phrase "magical healing properties" (the author positions you to consider whether elements of the supernatural can actually be associated with icecream- somewhat absurd in the context of food?) and the word "lacking" suggests the author has a definite point of view in the passage. Also, I'd consider the use of an anecdote as a soft persuasive device.
    2) Seems like an explanation. The use of language appears relatively neutral with the words "favoured", "arguing" and "said". The wording is as if the author is presenting the argument of another individual, neither supporting nor refuting the argument in question.
    3) Seems more like a statement, neither an explanation nor an argument. It sounds somewhat similar to an epigram. The author states that a head is filled with rubbish, but gives no support as to how or even why this is the case. We can only take their word for the fact that it is difficult to force something into another person's head.
    Last edited by mt5o5bd; 02-11-2014 at 11:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mt5o5bd View Post
    1) Seems like an argument because of the phrase "magical healing properties" (the author positions you to consider whether elements of the supernatural can actually be associated with icecream- somewhat absurd in the context of food?) and the word "lacking" suggests the author has a definite point of view in the passage. Also, I'd consider the use of an anecdote as a soft persuasive device.
    2) Seems like an explanation. The use of language appears relatively neutral with the words "favoured", "arguing" and "said". The wording is as if the author is presenting the argument of another individual, neither supporting nor refuting the argument in question.
    3) Seems more like a statement, neither an explanation nor an argument. It sounds somewhat similar to an epigram. The author states that a head is filled with rubbish, but gives no support as to how or even why this is the case. We can only take their word for the fact that it is difficult to force something into another person's head.
    The reason why I currently think the last one is at least an argument is that I feel that propositions 1 and 2 give reason to believe 3.
    I currently don't believe it's hard to force information into an empty head because it is empty. He says this is not the case, and that I should believe him because an 1) an empty head isn't really empty and 2) an empty head is full of rubbish. These premises don't need to necessarily be correct, they just need to be acceptable. Or conditionally acceptable, I guess.

    But then I also see it as an explanation because he could be saying "It is difficult to force anything into an empty head because an empty head is not empty, it's full of rubbish."
    In that case, propositions 1 and 2 are the explanans and 3 the explanandum. And it could make sense if that's what he means.

    I feel like the wording is a little ambiguous for 3, which makes it difficult to analyze.

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    Is this philosophy? Keep in mind that whilst I passed one of those subjects (Third Class honours), I did badly it in it compared to all my other subjecs, though I scored in the top of my state at English. Premises and conclusions do my head in. I'm also definitely not sure if you'd need to state that it's difficult to force anything into something filled with rubbish.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mt5o5bd View Post
    Is this philosophy? Keep in mind that whilst I passed one of those subjects (Third Class honours), I did badly it in it compared to all my other subjecs, though I scored in the top of my state at English. Premises and conclusions do my head in. I'm also definitely not sure if you'd need to state that it's difficult to force anything into something filled with rubbish.
    Hahaha, it's called PHIL201, but it doesn't really feel like philosophy.
    But thank you for your help, maybe I just need to talk things out.

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    Arguments is all philosophy is really about...
    The mindscrew is only beginning...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mt5o5bd View Post
    Arguments is all philosophy is really about...
    The mindscrew is only beginning...
    Well I'm lucky I only have to take 2 philosophy classes, then. Ain't about this shit.

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