Distinguishing Argument and Explanation in a Reflective Context

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This exercise is more difficult than it looks. Your job is to distinguish arguments from explanations in each of the following items. Recall the specific differences between arguments and explanations from your notes and earlier reading before you begin. Some items can be seen both ways, as argument or explanation, much like a figure ground image. Allow a couple of minutes for the harder ones. Once you start to see the distinction in the examples, you should feel more confident of your answers. [Exercise set courtesy of Dr. Randy Mayes.]

The following passages present arguments or explanations. To determine whether each situation presents an argument, explanation, or both consider the context described. Feel free to provide contextual descriptions where necessary to clarify or reinforce your interpretation.

  1. [Scene: Driving by Chico’s with a friend on your way to another store.] Look how full Chico’s parking lot is. I wonder if they’re having a sale.

  2. If Chico’s parking lot is full, then they must be having a sale. Fred told me that it was, so I guess they are.

  3. [Scene: A boss enters an area of work cubicles at 9:15 on a regular work day. Notices Cristen absent.] Cristen must be sick.

  4. It’s going to rain because the weather lady said so.

  5. The Dogs must be having trouble filling the stadium. They’re cutting ticket prices.

  6. When the cat scratches at the door it is because she wants to come in.

  7. Why shouldn’t I dis her? That woman has been dissin’ me my whole life.

  8. Men are superior to women because they are stronger.

  9. The fact that men are stronger than women and strength is a kind of superiority proves that men are superior to women.

  10. Catholics are leaving the church in record numbers because they don’t trust priests anymore.

  11. Super balls bounce because they are made of bouncy stuff.

  12. You should have called me last night, you jerk! You called Eric!

  13. Justin pulled off Janet’s top at the halftime show to give her some publicity. You know she needs it.

  14. I wouldn’t be a vegetarian if you paid me. Meat is just too yummy.

  15. Rumford’s just saying I cheated on you to get me into trouble.

  16. Of course I’m going to keep the wallet. There’s money in it.

  17. Talking on the cell phone while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. People are less capable of avoiding an accident when using a cell phone than when they are legally drunk.

  18. [Scene: Edna is reading in the her New Yorker Magazine that researchers have found that SUVs are less safe than smaller cars. The author then writes: SUVs are more dangerous than smaller cars because drivers of SUVs aren’t afraid of getting into accidents.

  19. I think Bob might be afraid of ghosts. He told me he would never spend the night in a graveyard.

  20. I see nobody is in class today. It must have been canceled.

  21. Milton is afraid of clowns because one killed his dad.

  22. That’s not a bicycle. It has three wheels.

  23. I can’t stand philosophy. I took a philosophy class once and the teacher was an idiot.

  24. Old people are crabby because they live with a lot of pain.

  25. Sally is drinking 1% milk because she thinks she’s fat.

  26. This food tastes terrible. It must have been made by the university’s food service.

  27. I think Mary Lou really likes me. She threw more snowballs at me than anyone else.

  28. That test was so unfair. I studied for at least an hour and I still got a C.

  29. You should come with me to the fitness center. You said you’ve been getting more headaches lately and you can’t sleep. That’s probably because you’re stressed out and not getting yourself tired enough to go to sleep. Some exercise will make you feel better.