Main Difference – Argument vs Explanation
Argument and explanation are two main concepts in academic fields such as philosophy, logic, and research. However, many people fail to notice the difference between these two concepts since both of them have similar functions; both arguments and explanations consist of a series of statements that further explore a phenomenon. An argument is a series of statements presented in support of an idea, action or theory. An explanation is a series of statements that explains the causes, context, and consequences of a given phenomenon. The main difference between argument and explanation is that arguments mainly consist of evidence whereas explanations mainly consist of causes and consequences.
This article covers in detail,
1. What is an Argument? What is the function of an Argument?
2. What is an Explanation? What is the function of an Explanation?
3. Key Differences Between Argument and Explanation
What is an Argument
In a general context, we use the term argument to refer to an exchange of diverging or opposite views, especially a heated dispute or fight. However, in philosophy and logic, it refers to a series of statements typically used to persuade someone of something or to present reasons for accepting a fact. Evidence is the main component that is used to achieve this purpose. For example, imagine that a person wants to convince others that his favourite football team is the best – How will he argue for the greatness of team? He’ll use their past records, achievements of the players, past victories, etc. to prove his point. Even a more serious, scientific argument is won by the same method. Therefore, evidence or proof is the main element in an argument.
An argument is a claim; it claims how we know something. For example, suppose that your boss is an hour late for a meeting; you make the claim that he must have forgotten about the meeting. Let’s analyse this situation according to logic.
Argument: Your boss has forgotten about the meeting.
Evidence: He was an hour late for the meeting.
Your argument or claim that the boss must have forgotten about the meeting can be proved by the evidence – his absence or delay. However, another person can also question this evidence and argue against your claim.
What is an Explanation
An explanation is a statement or set of statements that clarify or explain a phenomenon. An explanation explains why and how something happened. Thus, it contains causes, and consequences. For example, if you are asked to explain why dinosaurs are extinct, you have to clarify the causes for the extinction; there is no need to present evidence to prove that dinosaurs are extinct. In other words, there is no need to prove your claim in an explanation.
Let’s take the same situation we discussed above to clarify the difference between argument and explanation. Imagine that your boss is late for a meeting because he forgot the meeting.
Fact: Your boss is late for a meeting.
Explanation: He has forgotten about the meeting.
Here, explanation presents the cause for the ‘established fact.’ There is a certainty that the incident or the established fact (being late for the meeting) was caused by the reason given by the explanation. However, the relation between evidence and argument (or fact) is more uncertain in an argument.
Difference Between Argument and Explanation
Argument is a series of statements typically used to persuade someone of something or to present reasons for accepting a fact.
Explanation is a statement or set of statements that clarify or explain a phenomenon.
Argument attempts to convince someone of something.
Explanation attempts to clarify something.
Argument mainly consists of evidence.
Explanation mainly consists of causes or consequences.
“Argument terminology used in logic” By Farcaster – PowerPoint slide based on argument terminology (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
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