One difficulty is that the neighbour is attributing causal reasoning to his dog. Really, the neighbour is explaining why he puts the feather in the dog’s collar. Presumably, prior to this the dog did chase birds, so the neighbour is relying on the introduction of what is taken to be a key element that changes the behaviour (of course, the neighbour may not be serious and we may choose not to attribute an argument here). In the second “argument,” we really just have the assertion “birds do chase other birds” with no reasons given for this. So, we can pass over this as a non-argument. b) [From “The Corrosion of the Death Penalty,” www.globeandmail.com, 21 May 2002, p. A18] This month, the Governor of Maryland temporarily banned the death penalty in his state, over concerns that gross racial disparities exist in the way it is used. Illinois has had a moratorium on the death penalty for two years, after its governor said the risk of executing the innocent was unconscionably high. These states are opening their eyes to the obvious. Race matters in who is put to death. Between 1977 and 1995, 88 black men were executed for killing whites; just two white men were executed for killing blacks. Two years ago, a federal Justice Department study found that white defendants were almost twice as likely as black ones to be given a plea agreement by federal prosecutors that let them avoid the death penalty. Of the 13 on death row in Maryland, nine are black. Only one of the 13 was convicted of killing a non-white. The principal claim for which evidence is provided is that “Race matters in who is put to death.” From this, we can see being implied the hidden conclusion that the governors of Maryland and Illinois are correct to ban the death penalty over concerns about racial disparities. The reasoning involved fits the scheme for general causal reasoning. (We take this as general rather than particular because the writer is not concerned with any particular instances.) Basically, the writer shows a correlation between black defendants and the likelihood of facing the death penalty. Of course, it is a big step from this to say that a defendant’s being black causes him to be more likely to face execution, but we must also ask how such causal claims could be supported and whether we see that support here. The argument scheme in question can be represented as follows: P1= Being a black defendant is correlated with an increased likelihood of facing the death penalty. P2= The correlation is not due to chance. P3= The correlation is not due to some mutual cause, Z. C= Being a black defendant causes someone to be more likely to face the death penalty. To assess the example, we need to ask whether the premises are corroborated by the information provided. The two claims—that between 1977 and 1995, 88 black men were executed for killing whites while just two white men were executed for killing blacks, and that a federal Justice Department study found that white defendants were almost
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