, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 283-303

First online:

On the Rationale for Distinguishing Arguments from Explanations

  • Matthew W. McKeonAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Michigan State University Email author 

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Even with the lack of consensus on the nature of an argument, the thesis that explanations and arguments are distinct is near orthodoxy in well-known critical thinking texts and in the more advanced argumentation literature. In this paper, I reconstruct two rationales for distinguishing arguments from explanations. According to one, arguments and explanations are essentially different things because they have different structures. According to the other, while some explanations and arguments may have the same structure, they are different things because explanations are used for different purposes than arguments. I argue that both rationales fail to motivate a distinction between arguments and explanations. Since these are the only rationales for distinguishing arguments from explanations that I am prepared to take seriously, I don’t see why we should exclude explanations from being arguments.


Arguments Explanations Reasons