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Identifying Arguments, Explanations, and Descriptions

The Surprise Quiz that Never Happens

Instructions: Determine whether the following passages contain arguments. If they do, write “argument,” and if not, write “no argument.” For the passages that don’t contain arguments, identify whether they contain explanations or descriptions. For all passages, writing in paragraphs and complete sentences, explain and justify your answer with reference to the meaning of these terms: argument, explanation, and description. Your justifications should be sufficiently detailed that they prove or demonstrate that your identification of the passages are correct. Note: a passage will contain an argument even if the author does not propose, but merely reports an argument. Here is a sample passage with an answer: The film Patch Adams was an illuminating portrayal of medical education because it highlighted the importance of treating patients as people and not just as the locations of disease. Govier, Trudy. A Practical Study of Argument, 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2001, p. 43. Answer: This passage contains an argument because the author is attempting to convince the reader that Patch Adams is an illuminating portrayal of medical education, on the basis of the premise that this film shows how important it is to treat patients as persons, not as examples of diseases. Based on the instructions given, respond to the following passages: The Surprise Quiz that Never Happens A logic teacher announces, “There will be a surprise quiz given during one of the next three class-meetings.” . . . [A student in the class claims that] such a quiz is impossible. Here’s the proof: Will the quiz be given during the third meeting of class? If it were, then the quiz wouldn’t have taken place during either of the first two classes. At the end of the second class, we’d know that the quiz must happen during the third class, so we would be able to figure out the date of the quiz in advance. So a quiz during the third class wouldn’t be a surprise. Therefore, the surprise quiz can’t happen during the third class. So will it happen during the second? We already know that it can’t happen during the third class. At the quizless end of the first class, we’d be able to figure out that there must be a quiz during the second class. Thus a quiz during the second class wouldn’t be a surprise. So it follows that the quiz couldn’t take place during the second class either. The only remaining possibility is the first class; but we know this, so that wouldn’t be a surprise either. It follows that a surprise quiz is impossible. Martin, Robert M., There Are Two Errors in the Title of This Book: A Sourcebook of Philosophical Puzzles, Problems, and Paradoxes. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002, p. 81. A Heavenly Perfume In Egypt, Persia, and Japan, orris powder was made from the dried root of the iris and used prodigiously in the art of perfumery. Orris has an odor not of iris but of violets. Until the recent development of chemical scents, most violet-perfumed products were made from orris, it being cheaper to produce than violet extract. Orris also has the ability to strengthen the odors of other perfumed substances and has been used for centuries as a fixative in the manufacture of powders and perfumes. Orris came to prominence in Europe during the excesses of the French court prior to the Revolution. It was used to mask the unpleasant smells of stale body odor prevalent in high society, since bathing was considered unhealthy. One story tells of an argument between Louis XIV and his mistress Madame de Montespan that concluded with the lady telling the king that, for all her faults, she didn’t smell as badly as he. Orris powder was employed to scent and preserve the odoriferous and often lice-infested coiffures of the French aristocracy. Orris was mixed with flour to make a stiffener, so that the hair could be molded into fanciful sculptures studded with ribbons, pearls, beads, and artificial flowers. Large quantities of Iris germanica var. florintina are grown in Mexico today for their roots, which are shipped to France for use in the cosmetic industry. Smith, Andrew. Strangers in the Garden: The Secret Lives of Our Favorite Flowers. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2004, p. 83. Why does passing an electric current through the metal filament of a light bulb produce light? The explanation is that the electrical energy makes the electrons in some of the atoms of the filament metal jump outward to an orbit with a higher energy level. This higher orbit is unstable, and after a while the electron will pop back into its original orbit; when it does this, it emits energy in the form of light. Martin, Robert M., There Are Two Errors in the Title of This Book: A Sourcebook of Philosophical Puzzles, Problems and Paradoxes. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2002, p. 165. I don’t understand why people object to using animals for medical research. First, medical research leads to our understanding of disease and disease prevention. This provides the foundation for the effective treatment of disease and the saving of lives. Even though there is the possibility that animals may suffer, researchers are always trying to minimize that suffering. If there was a choice between using animals in medical research and saving human lives or not using animals and putting human lives in jeopardy, which alternative do you think most people would support? I’ve often wondered how they get the caramel into the Caramilk chocolate bars. At first I thought they used large syringes to inject the bars with the caramel but that’s silly. I did some research and found out that they simply use moulds. They pour the top half of the chocolate into the moulds, once they are cool they fill them with caramel and then pour the bottom half of the chocolate bar. It is often said that natural peanut butter is a better option than processed peanut butter for those looking to lose weight. But if you take a look at the calorie count for 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter that contains only peanuts, compared to that of processed peanut butter that has sugar added, this claim comes into doubt. Kraft processed whipped peanut butter has 70 calories per tablespoon whereas Adams all natural peanut butter has 100 calories per tablespoon. In terms of calorie consumption, natural and processed peanut butter are not much different. Part B (50%) Instructions: Determine whether the following passages contain arguments. If so, write “argument,” and if not, write “no argument.” For the passages that contain arguments, analyze all arguments by bracketing and labeling the premises and conclusions in the passage and then diagramming them by using circled numbers, direction arrows, and brackets as shown in Units 1 and 2 of Study Guide I. If they do not contain arguments, determine whether the passages contain explanations and descriptions. For all passages, writing in paragraphs and complete sentences, explain and justify your answer with reference to the meaning of these terms: argument, explanation, and description. Your justifications should be sufficiently detailed that they prove or demonstrate that your identification of the passage is correct. Note: a passage will contain an argument even if the author does not propose, but merely reports an argument. To the extent that it is working at all, the press is always a participant in, rather than a pure observer of, the events it reports. Our decision on where (and where not) to be and what (and what not) to report have enormous impact on the political and governmental life we cover. We are obliged to be selective. We cannot publish the Daily Everything. And so long as this is true–so long as we are making choices that 1) affect what people see concerning their leaders and 2) inevitably cause those leaders to behave in particular ways–we cannot pretend we are not participants. Meg Greenfield. “When the Press Becomes a Participant.” Quoted in Joel Rudinow and Vincent E. Barry, Invitation to Critical Thinking. 4th ed., pp. 112-113. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1999. City Council should approve the proposed downtown arena for several reasons. First, the need for the arena is obvious. Once the evidence is examined it becomes clear that the existing arena is inadequate. Moreover, it will revitalize the downtown and create an opportunity of other business to benefit from the increase in traffic. The question is whether or not the city can afford to build the arena. The problem is that the arena costs will run about $450 million. The city can raise another $250 million in a ticket tax and in property taxes for the new development over a 20 year period. The developer is willing to contribute $100 million, so that leaves a shortfall of $100 million. But, $100 million in a city of our size isn’t really very much money and wouldn’t take much to raise. I think that the city can afford the new arena. Dreams are not to be likened to the unregulated sounds that rise from a musical instrument struck by the blow of some external force instead of by a player’s hand, they are not meaningless; they are not absurd. On the contrary, they are psychical [mental] phenomena of complete validity-fulfillments of wishes. Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1969 [1899]. Quoted in Critical Thinking: The Art of Argument. Rainbolt, George and Sandra Dwyer, Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2012, p. 28. When the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, the general public and scientists in the aerospace field both held high hopes. . . . But blurry images caused by a flawed mirror sent those hopes crashing to Earth. The U.S. Congress demanded an explanation for the failure. . . . Stress and health problems afflicted many NASA engineers. “It was traumatic,” says the former director of NASA’s astrophysics division, Charles Pellerin, who oversaw the launch of the Hubble. Nobody could see how to fix the problem. Well, nobody except Pellerin. He not only had insight on how to solve the problem but found the funding and resources to repair the telescope, for which he received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. But his real reward came over the next decade when the telescope provided spectacular images and important discoveries about stars, galaxies and other cosmic phenomena. What was the secret of Pellerin’s success? Dozens of other people at NASA had high IQs and world-class technical knowledge—they were, after all, rocket scientists. So what gave Pellerin the edge? What made him persist until the telescope was fixed when others felt overwhelmed by the challenge? His mind perceived reality differently. He reframed the situation as an unfinished project, not a failed one. He never lost sight of the potential for a positive outcome—a space telescope that worked. He saw how that positive future could happen as the result of technical solutions—corrective optics-package repairs performed by a crew of astronauts—that were possible with a rearrangement of funding and resources that already existed within NASA. By reassessing the situation, recognizing the potential and envisioning the repaired telescope, he was able to help orchestrate the unfolding of events that changed the future. Thatchenkery, Tojo, and Carol Metzker, “The secret to highly successful people.” Ode, Issue 34, June 2006. (accessed November 2006) Many people oppose any tax on e-commerce . . . on the grounds that e-commerce is driving, and will continue to drive the national economic expansion; that it will increase tax revenues from computer hardware and telecommunications; and that it will create millions of additional jobs. This amounts to a claim that e-commerce, without being taxed directly will nevertheless augment federal tax revenues. Yet, it is clear that the less we tax electronic business the more we must tax something else if we are to maintain a given level of government spending. Some people plausibly interpret this to mean that imposing no new tax on Web commerce will add to the disadvantages of the poor, who have less access to the internet.  Instructions:  summarizing the argument or arguments in the following passage, specifying the topic, the premises, and the conclusion or conclusions. Be sure to use indicator words to identify the topic and relationships between the premises and the conclusion or conclusions. Your summary should be sufficiently detailed so that someone who has not read the passage would have a clear and accurate understanding of the arguments you are summarizing. All food is organic. But for some reason people seem to think the “organic” label applies only to food grown without fertilizers or pesticides. The Canadian consumer has bought into the notion that “organic” foods are produced without harming the environment. Anything with chemicals is out. That idea is even in children’s books. One nature story I read to my daughter ended with the author urging children to “buy organic produce” so the environment would be healthy for butterflies. That’s so misguided. Farmers who refuse to use pesticides and fertilizers are not sin-free. Their production methods harm the precious topsoil. To grow crops without pesticides, farmers have to use intensive tillage to control weeds and diseases. Tillage has a terrible effect on the land. It leaves the soil bare. It creates and promotes soil erosion. Topsoil, rich in nutrients and organic matter, is blown or washed off the fields into ditches and streams. It’s lost forever. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, soil erosion is one of the greatest environmental threats in the world. Tillage is not benign. It is the most destructive operation that can be done to soil. Up until 15 years ago, I recall what would happen in dry, windy springs. . . . The entire landscape seemed to be on the move. The air was so filled with dust we called it a blackout. Driving could be dangerous. But spring dust storms are not so common anymore. And they are smaller than they used to be. It’s because crops on about 40% of the farmland in Saskatchewan are now seeded directly into last year’s stubble. Only one tillage operation is needed to put the seed in the ground. The stubble anchors the soil against wind and water. With minimal disturbance, the soil is healthier now than it has been since the plow was first put to the land. Conservation farmers do use commercial fertilizers and pesticides. But the fertilizers, in combination with crop rotations that include nitrogen-fixing legumes, maintain and enhance the soil’s fertility. Pesticides are applied judiciously, and at the recommended rate. Direct seeding is a better way to conserve our soil which is, after all, a non-renewable resource. Direct seeding farmers are true stewards of the land. It’s important for Canadians to recognize this and appreciate their conservation efforts. Next time you visit the market and reach for produce labelled “organic,” remember how it was produced. Is the loss of our topsoil really benefiting Mother Nature?

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