Arguments Examples And Explanations

Explanations, Arguments, and Examples:

Whenever you try to convince anyone of anything, you use an argument, and example, or an explanation.

Explanations are descriptions of events which have causal links. When someone asks me why I teach Philosophy, I explain the reasons why. I might say that I teach philosophy because I love the subject, because I think it is a useful and important skill, and because I enjoy the challenges of teaching. I am not trying to convince my audience. Instead, explanations are meant to help them understand my choices, actions, feelings, beliefs, etc..

Arguments are intended to convince my audience that my contention is correct. An argument has contentions, premisses, and objections. It is meant as an objective statement of a position which I would like others to agree to. Thus, I might try to argue that teaching philosophy is the greatest job (my contention). In that case, I would not tell you that I love the subject, because that is irrelevant to anyone but me, and is unlikely to convince you that teaching philosophy is better than being a movie star. I might try instead to argue that teaching philosophy is the best job because it allows one to be paid for what is arguably one of the most pleasant experiences we can have- thinking. This supporting statement has two premisses- teaching is good because I get paid, premiss1. Thinking is a joyful and pleasant experience, Premiss2. Getting paid to do what is joyful and pleasant is the mark of a great job, premiss3. A good argument has support for each premiss, and also has multiple premisses.

Examples are stories that you tell in order to illustrate your contention. In trying to convince you about how great teaching philosophy is, I might tell you of my weekend where I spent hours reading a book about moral philosophy, describing in detail how much I enjoyed it. Or I might use a more general (less personal) example about some rich and famous person who became a philosophy teacher late in life, only to discover that this was the greatest job he had ever had. I might tell you a story of how learning philosophy helped student x improve his thinking, helped her make sense of her life, or made him see things in a different way. This has some persuasive power because of its emotional appeal and aims at creating insight.

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