Arguments fail for one or more of a variety of reasons:
a) unacceptable, inaccurate, or irrelevant premises
b) faulty linkages (fallacies of logic) between premises and the conclusion(s), which fail by virtue of deviation from rules of logic
c) unsupported or irrelevant conclusions, or correct conclusions that are not logically supported by the argument presented (ignoratio elenchi)
An explanation is any statement that renders something comprehensible by describing the relevant structure, or operation, or circumstances. This post, for example, is an explanation and not an argument. Explanations could include an explication of the operation of the internal combustion engine, or the homicidal activities of Cho Seung-hui. An explanation is different from an argument in structure, components, and intention. Whereas an argument can commit the fallacy of circularity, an explanation cannot.
Explanations point to links between general laws and observed effects. Ideally, explanations confer an understanding of causes, contexts, and consequences of processes, phenomena, states of affairs, objects, terminology, etc. Explanations have been variously subdivided into Deductive-Nomological, Inductive-Statistical, Functional, Historical, Psychological, Reductive, Teleological, and Methodological.
Explanation is one of the three aims of scientific research (the others being exploration and description). Although scientific theories must logically connect empirical observation to explanation and prediction, scientific hypotheses, theories, and laws are not arguments per se. Arguments concerning values and ex-scientific metaphysics fall within the realm of philosophy.
The early philosophers concerned themselves with metaphysics. However, after scientific method was applied to examination of the physical (natural) world, scientific explanations rendered much of metaphysical speculation irrelevant and superfluous. So, philosophers ceased to speculate about metaphysical questions for which science had provided a highly acceptable explanation and the scope of metaphysics (ontology) shrank.
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