Michael Daniel 9-18-2006 ARQ, Chapter 3 Thesis: In order to evaluate an argument you must identify and evaluate the

conclusion and reasons that are given to support that conclusion. When somebody makes a conclusion they need to give supporting reasons in order to create an argument. You can sometimes identify the reasons in a statement by looking for phrases such as, “as a result of,” “because of the fact that,” “in view of,” and “for the reason that.” There are different kinds of reasons that people will give to back up their opinion. One kind of reason is evidence. Evidence consists of facts that come from empirical evidence found by experts, direct experience, statistics, analogies and metaphors. Descriptive conclusions are usually supported by evidence. A descriptive conclusion is a conclusion that makes an observation about the world. The example used in the book is that college women smoke more than college men. The reasons for that conclusion were based on statistical evidence. Another reason that people will give to support a conclusion are general statements or they will describe their beliefs or principles. This is usually only done in prescriptive arguments. The example given in the book is a paragraph stating that grade inflation is a good reason to eliminate grades completely. The reasons for that conclusion were not evidence but they amounted to one opinion stacked on top of another. The book recommends using a highlighter to mark conclusions in a book. We should also circle indicator words, underline reasons, write notes in margins, label conclusions and reasons in the margin and use numbers to refer to reasons and

conclusions in margin notes and then use those numbers to go back and create a diagram of the logic later. The book states that, “Weak reasons create weak reasoning.” Another signal of weakness is weak-sense critical thinking. When somebody is creating arguments on the spot in order to defend a previously held position or becomes emotional when asked to give reasons for their opinion then they are using weak-sense critical thinking. When we communicate we need to be clear about what our conclusions and reasons are. I think that the book’s treatment of ‘weak-sense’ critical thinking is not useful. There is nothing wrong with creating arguments for a belief on the spot. All arguments are created somewhere; they may as well be created during a conversation as any other time and place. You can’t fault them for defending a conclusion that they previously hold. When people give a conclusion they almost always give a conclusion that they currently and have previously hold. Everybody has certain opinions that they will become emotional about. Just because somebody gets emotional about something does not mean that their argument is weak. For example, suppose somebody’s dog died. Suppose that this person tells me that they miss their dog and I asked them to support that conclusion by saying, “Why should I believe you when you tell me that you miss your dog?” In that situation I would be engaging in what the book calls ‘strong-sense’ critical thinking. Most people would become emotional in response to my ‘strong-sense’ critical thinking and if that were to happen then my friend who lost her dog would be engaging in ‘weak-sense’ critical thinking.