Practice In Identifying Arguments

INSTRUCTIONS: Determine whether each passage contains an argument. Also determine whether each passage contains a non-argument such as explanation, description, statements. Keep in mind that a passage may contain both an argument and an explanation. Write down your answers as you go through the list, and then compare them with the answers that are at the end of the list of passages. (31 passages)

1. "In the fetus, however, hormones do more than just orchestrate activity. They perform complex developmental tasks, tasks that require precise dosage and exquisite timing. They tell tissues whether they should become female or male reproductive organs, nerve cells, muscle cells, or even eyelash cells." - Catherine Dold, "Hormone Hell", Discover, September 1996, p. 54.

2. "For 88 years, the mystery of Tunguska has attracted a swarm of theories, some eminently reasonable (meteorite impact) and some considerably less so (think exploding spaceship). While the debate continues as to precisely what happened there back in 1908, compelling evidence has recently turned up that could finally put an end to most questions. Researchers have found embedded in Tunguska trees tiny particles with an extraterrestrial signature. Combined with computer simulations, the evidence points to a meteorite born of an asteroid that fragmented in the atmosphere. [Thus, the question] is no longer whether the cause was a meteorite but exactly what kind of meteorite." - adapted from Richard Stone, "The Last Great Impact on Earth", Discover, Sept. 1996, p. 60-61.

3. "Comets are fluffy in comparison with asteroids and burn up quickly in the atmosphere. For one to have produced an explosion as the one over Tunguska, it would have to have started out as a million-ton object. The vast swath of dust and gas left by such an object on its way down might well have shut down the sun or altered the climate. [Says Zdenek Sekanina of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech], 'It would have been a global catastrophe, comparable to a nuclear winter. The effect on mankind would have been so overwhelming that we could not discuss the topic, because we would not be here.'" - Richard Stone, "The Last Great Impact on Earth", Discover, Sept. 1996, p. 70.

4. "Any top-100 list [of all-time great movies] that omits "The Sting" is fatally flawed. "The Sting" won best picture and best director (George Roy Hill) for 1973 and had three "hall of fame" actors at their best: Paul Newman, Robert Redford and the late Robert Shaw. I demand a recount of the ballots." - letter to editor, Newsweek, July 20, 1998, p. 18.

5. "Sure, sure, "Citizen Kane", "Schindler's List", and "The African Queen" are all great films. But any list that includes such claptrap as "Fargo" and "Pulp Fiction" and ignores "The Ten Commandments" is, in my opinion, a joke." - letter to editor, Newsweek, July 20, 1998, p. 18.

6. "Roy Rogers was a radiant exemplar of American values - Pecos Bill as Parsifal. 'I'm the happiest cowboy in the world,' he's tell kids at live shows, 'because I'm a Christian cowboy.' He saw no irony in merchandising his knightlike purity - nor did American boys. He sold 6,000 records a week of such hits as 'Don't Fence Me In'. The Sears catalog had 12 pages of guitars and lunchboxes. He was on 2.5 billion cereal boxes." - obituary of Roy Rogers, Newsweek, July 20, 1998, p. 63.

7. "I was very pleased to read Per-Henrik Mansson's column 'Barbaresco Makes The Right Move' (Nov. 30), and I'm relieved to hear that the region's tradition will continue. Since I started collecting wine seriously 10 years ago, my favorites have always been Barbaresco and Barolo. To me, a properly produced Nebbiolo grape is heaven." - letter to editor, Wine Spectator, Jan. 31, 1999, p. 24.

8. "... given the very small number of wineries that are located in [Walla Walla], it strikes me as an egregious omission to make no mention of the Seven Hills Winery. Seven Hills Vineyard is mentioned, but the two are not synonymous. The problem perhaps exists in that Seven Hills has been the only winery in the Walla Walla appellation to actually be on the Oregon side of the border. - letter to editor, Wine Spectator, Jan. 31, 1999, p. 24.

9. "While $130 is a little steep for a bottle of wine, I can't wait to taste the Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage Cathelin 1995. Any wine that 'tastes of a garden in full bloom, of freshly plowed earth, of a stable of horses and worn saddles' is too inviting to pass up! Although I've never tasted a stable of horses, I did have some horse meat during World War II - not bad. While leather, worn or new, has never been a favorite of mine at table, I suppose it's different served as a saddle." - letter to editor, Wine Spectator, Jan. 31, 1999, p. 24.

10. [The Quinta do Noval Nacional 1931] is the rarest and best vintage port* ever made. ... What's amazing is that the wine was made with grapes grown on very young vines, most no more than 5 years old. They grew as they grow today, in a few specific parcels of Noval's 300-plus acres of vineyards high up the hillsides of the Pinhao Valley, in one of the best growing areas of Portugal's Douro Valley. None of the vines had been grafted with American rootstock to protect them from pests and diseases. Therefore, the Port was called 'Nacional', as its roots are firmly based in the soil of the nation of Portugal." - "Wines of the Century", Wine Spectator, Jan. 31, 1999, p. 32. {*Note: port is a kind of wine made in Portugal which is blended with brandy and then aged}

11. "By sparing the nation months of divisive impeachment hearings, Richard Nixon put the good of America before his personal interests. Bill Clinton's refusal to take the honorable course and resign is proof that Clinton loves Clinton more than Clinton loves America." - letter to editor, Time, Oct. 26, 1998.

12. "Died. Frank Yankovic, 83, a.k.a., America's Polka King, maestro of Midwestern dance halls for seven decades who won his first ever Grammy for the folksy musical genre .... Yankovic pumped his first accordian at age nine and soon took his signature Slovenian-style polka show on the road. Devoted fans, some known to have ripped off his clothes, won his devotion in return: he played so many one-night stands that he missed the birth of all 10 of his kids." - obituary, Time, Oct. 26, 1998, p. 31.

13. [discussing The Bellagio, a new $1.6 billion hotel in Las Vegas which includes a restaurant called 'Picasso' which is decorated with several original Picasso paintings, and an art gallery including one of Van Gogh's last paintings purchased for $47.5 million and other famous paintings:] "Why should the idea of starting an art collection in Las Vegas seem so odd? Basically because Las Vegas - the Disney World of terminal public greed - is a city in which every cultural citation is fake, so that the real thing seems out of place. The city is built on simulation, quotation, weird unconvincing displacements, in which cultural icons are endlessly but never convincingly quoted. Here is the Luxor Hotel, that huge silly pyramid with its plaster Anubises and fiber-glass Amon-Ras, its cavernous interior housing a facsimile of the Manhatten skyline. Here, under construction, is a casino in the form of the Doges Palace in Venice, complete with a small-scale version of the Campanile bearing a replica of the original's gilded angel on its vertex. Here too is Caesar's Palace, looking like the architectural dream of an illiterate Mussolini.... In a city of such overripe simulacra, whose most characteristic museum is dedicated to the memory of Liberace, what room is there for the clean, piercing, complex presence of real works of art?" - "Wynn Win?", Time, Oct. 26, 1998, p. 77-78.

14. "As we mentioned earlier, pants will shorten to become capris. Black and denim capris will be a safe investment because they can be worn with everything, from a white tank top or a cut twinset in a pale color." - "Time to start searching for all important spring trends", The Vermillion, Jan. 22, 1999, p. 23.

15. "Altough winter is wonderful because the sexy fabrics come out of the mens' closets, spring is fun because we start seeing what is under the corduroy, the flannel and the wool." - "Time to start searching for all important spring trends", The Vermillion, Jan. 22, 1999, p. 23.

16. re: the USL women's softball team: ""We've really got a lot of talented players and they are really excited about playing," said [head coach Yvette] Girouard, whose team will open up play Feb. 18 at home against the University of Tulsa. "The way they have competed this past week is all that a coach can ask."" - The Vermillion, Jan. 22, 1999, p. 18

17. "Congratulations! You are the owner of a Mr. Coffee® ECM10 Series Steam Cappuccino/Espresso Maker. This machine has been designed to provide you with an excellent tasting cup of espresso or cappuccino quickly and conveniently." - "Operating Instructions", p. 4.

18. "Espresso is a unique method of coffee brewing in which hot water is forced through finely ground espresso coffee. Popular in Europe, it is a far richer and more full-bodied brew than regular American coffee. Because of its richness, espresso is usually served in 1 1/2 to 2 ounce portions, in demitasse cups." - "Operating Instructions", p. 4.

19. "It would be impossible to go tomorrow. We owe Mrs. Jennings much more than civility, and civility of the commonest kind must prevent such a hasty removal as that." - Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

20. "Democracy and socialism are means to an end, not the end itself." - Jawaharlal Nehru

21. "History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose." - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813.

22. "To exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from life, from laws, from the education of youth, from domestic society, is a grave and fatal error. A state from which religion is banished can never be well regulated." - Leo XIII, Nov. 1, 1885

23. "O'Donoghue was sitting in my office one day when his father called from their home in upstate New York. "Michael," he told him sadly, "I have terrible news. It's your mother. She lost her toe." Without blinking, Michael asked, "Did you look behind the refrigerator?" This was not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill sick humorist." - Matty Simmons, If You Don't Buy This Book, We'll Kill This Dog: Life, Laughs, Love And Death At The National Lampoon, p. 37.

24. "The intrusion of the economic motive into sex is always in a greater or less degree disastrous. Sexual relations should be a mutual delight, entered into solely from the spontaneous impulse of both parties. Where this is not the case, everything that is valuable is absent. To use another person in so intimate a manner is to be lacking in that respect for the human being as such, out of which all true morality must spring. (...) This applies, of course, not only prostitution, but to marriage, Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood, and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution." - Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals, 1929, p. 103.

25. "In this chapter we have to ask ourselves whether, in any sense at all, there is such a thing as matter. Is there a table which has a certain intrinsic nature, and continues to exist when I am not looking, or is the table merely a product of my imagination, a dream-table in a very prolonged dream? This question is of the greatest importance. For if we cannot be sure of the independent existence of objects, we cannot be sure of the independent existence of other people's bodies, and therefore still less of other people's minds, since we have no grounds for believing in their minds except as such are derived from observing their bodies." - Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, 1912, p. 17.

26. Thrasymachus: "... [justice] is nothing else than the advantage of the stronger. [...] You are a buffoon, Socrates."

Socrates: "Have we not agreed that the rulers in giving orders to the ruled sometimes mistake their own advantage, and that whatever the rulers enjoin it is just for the subjects to perform? Was that not admitted?"

Thrasymachus: "I think it was."

Socrates: "Then you will have to think that to do what is disadvantageous to the rulers and the stronger has been admitted by you to be just in the case when the rulers unwittingly enjoin what is bad for themselves, while you affirm that it is just for the others to do what they enjoined. In that way does not this conclusion inevitably follow, my most sapient Thrasymachus, that it is just to do the very opposite of what you say?" - Plato, The Republic, Book I, 338c,d; 339d-e

27. "In the experiment described in the figure, rats were selected for increased or decreased susceptibility to dental carieson a controlled diet. As the graph shows, the rats could be successfully selected to grow better or worse teeth. Evolutionary change can therefore be generated artificially." - Mark Ridley, Evolution, Second Edition, 1996, p. 44.

28. "A proper ring species is one in which the extreme forms do not interbreed in the region [where they co-exist]. A ring species has an almost continuous set of intermediates between two distinct species, and these intermediates happen to be arranged in a ring. At most points in the ring, only one species exists. Where the end points meet, two species may be found." - Mark Ridley, Evolution, Second Edition, 1996, p. 48.

29. "Remember that this tendency from order to disorder [required by the Second Law of Thermodynamics] applies to all real processes. Real processes include, of course, biological and geological processes, as well as chemical and physical processes. The interesting question is, "How does a real biological process, which go from order to disorder, result in evolution, which goes from disorder to order?" [...] Especially such a question is vital, when we are thinking of evolution as a growth process on the grand scale from atom to Adam and from particle to people. This represents an absolutely gigantic increase in order and complexity, and is clearly out of place altogether in the context of the Second Law". - Henry M. Morris, The Troubled Waters of Evolution, 1974, p. 119.

30. "Obviously, growth cannot occur in a closed system [i.e., a system for the total amount of energy within it remains constant]; the Second Law is in fact defined in terms of [i.e., applies only to] a closed system. However, this criterion is really redundant, because in the real world closed systems do not even exist!" - Henry M. Morris, The Troubled Waters of Evolution, 1974, p. 124.

31. "So push your pesticide

'cause I don't care

'cause baby I don't scare

'cause I'm a pre-born maggot

waving two long ears" - "Human Fly", The Cramps


1. non-argument - description

2. argument (conclusion: Thus the question is.....)

3. argument (missing conclusion: the Tunguska event was not caused by a comet)

4. argument (conclusion: the first sentence. The last sentence is not part of the argument.)

5. non-argument (the author merely states their opinion, and presents no reasons for it)

6. non-argument (it's just a series of statements)

7. non-argument ('since' indicates the passage of time, not a premise)

8. non-argument (an explanation is offerred as to why the appellation was overlooked)

9. non-argument (just lots of sarcasm)

10. non-argument (an explanation is given as to why the Port was called 'Nacional' - the 'Therefore' indicates the explanans rather than a conclusion)

11. argument ('is proof that' is a conclusion indicator, the conclusion immediately following it)

12. non-argument (description of Frank's life)

13. 1 argument and 1 non-argument - (the first question provides the explanans of an explanation why starting an art collection in Las Vegas seems so odd - the last question in the passage appears to be a rhetorical question which serves as the conclusion of an argument that a real art collection does not belong in Las Vegas. The part of the passage between the two questions serves as both explanandum and premises - a strange passage!)

14. both an argument that certain capris will be a safe investment and an explanation why they will be a safe investment

15. non-argument - (an explanation of why the author believes that winter is wonderful)

16. non-argument

17. non-argument (a teleological explanation of why this machine has been designed)

18. non-argument - (an explanation of why espresso is served in small quantiites and in demitasse cups - the 'because' indicates the explanandum rather than a premise)

19. argument (conclusion: why they can't go tomorrow)

20. non-argument

21. non-argument

22. argument and explanation - argues that, and explains why, excluding the Church is a grave and fatal error

23. argument - conclusion: this was not your ordinary run-of-the-mill sick humorist

24. argument and explanation - argues that and explains why the intrusion of economic motive is disastrous

25. non-argument - explanation of why the question is of the greatest importance

26. argument - implied conclusion: Thrasymachus' view is mistaken

27. argument - ('therefore' indicates the conclusion)

28. non-argument (description)

29. argument - (implied conclusion: the theory of evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics)

30. non-argument - (the passage merely states several facts)

31. non-argument (explanation)