Good Reasoning Matters! A Constructive Approach to Critical Thinking,
© Oxford University Press Canada, 2012
the missile homes in on is our vanity. And vanity, as the sages tell us, is the most
universal human trait. . . . Flattery almost always hits its target because the target—
you, me, everybody—rises up to meet it. We have no natural defense system against
This passage contains an argument that can be summarize have defined an argument d as
Flattery works like a heat-seeking missile, only what it homes in on is our vanity.
Vanity, as the sages tell us, is the most universal human trait.
Flattery almost always works (i.e. hits its target).
magazine, 2 June 2003, p. 4] As a single father who, when married, held
down a demanding job and fully participated in child rearing and household chores,
I was offended by Pearson’s fatuous attempt to mine the worn-out vein of humour
about useless males. She defines a husband as “a well-meaning individual often
found reading a newspaper.” None of the fathers and husbands I know come
anywhere close to this stereotype. I was dismayed that Time would publish such
tired pap and think it’s funny or relevant.
This passage contains no premise or conclusion indicators. The only possible evidence
offered for a conclusion is the claim that none of the fathers and husbands they know
come anywhere close to the definition Pearson proposes. As this would be a weak
argument (for how could the reader know that such premises are true?), this is better
classified as an expression of opinion.
[From a Letter to the Editor, in
, May 1998, which is a comment
on an article on the aviator Amelia Earhart, who disappeared on a flight over the
Pacific in July 1937] I was sorry to see Elinor Smith quoted, impugning Amelia’s
flying skills, in the otherwise excellent piece by Virginia Morell. Smith has been
slinging mud at Earhart and her husband, George Putnam, for years, and I lay it
down to jealousy. Amelia got her pilot’s license in 1923 (not 1929 as Smith once
wrote) and in 1929 was the third American woman to win a commercial license.
There is an attempt to develop an argument here, supporting the memory of Earhart by