Other Indicator Words
“Thus,” “therefore,” “consequently,” “accordingly,” “hence,” and “as a result,” all pretty clearly have the same function as “so.” When any of them occurs at the beginning of a statement, you can be very confident that you are looking at a conclusion, and therefore that you are looking at an argument. Later on we’ll talk about why “probably,” in one sense does, but in another, does not, have the same function.
“Since,” “because,” “as,” “inasmuch as,” and “for,” are also words whose function, from the point of view of argument analysis, is important to appreciate. Each of these words functions to point to a premise. And if you are looking at a premise, then you are looking at an argument as well, since you can’t have a premise without having a conclusion.
(What was the conclusion of the argument made in that last sentence?)
Because of these words, it can be absurdly easy to spot some arguments. For instance, every time you encounter
P, since Q and R,
Since Q and R are true, P follows,
P, for R and S
There is no doubt that we have an argument, and that P is the conclusion in each case.
(Well, that’s true as long as “since” is operating to mean “because” in a logical sense and not a causal sense, or to have a temporal sense –we’ll talk about that in the next chapter.)
This is great! Because in some cases, this means you don’t even have to think about what you are talking about in order to have insight into the fact that it is an argument, or to begin the analysis. Consider some more examples:
P and Q, so R,
P, but not both Q and S, therefore R,
P and Q, consequently R.
It’s easy enough to spot that here a conclusion-indicating word is giving it away –for free. There’s just no room for doubt as to which letter is standing in the space where the conclusion would be, thanks to the magic of “so,” “therefore,” and “consequently.”
But not all arguments have these shortcuts built into them. Sometimes, you actually have to read and understand the passage in order to make a decision as to whether it makes the best sense to read it as making an argument or as doing something else. What else it might be doing is the subject of the next chapter, “Arguments and Non-Arguments.”