Analysis of an Argument
The following appeared in a report presented for discussion at a meeting of the directors of a company that manufacturers parts for heavy machinery.
The falling revenues that the company is expected to face coincide with delays in manufacturing. These delays, in turn, are due in large part to poor planning in purchasing metals. Consider further that the manager of the department that handles purchasing of raw materials has an excellent background in general business, psychology, and sociology, but knows little about the properties of metals. The company should, therefore, move the purchasing manager to the sales department and bring in a scientist from the research division to be manager of the purchasing department.
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, your may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counter examples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate in conclusion
In response to a coincidence between falling revenues and delays in manufacturing, the report recommends replacing the manager of the purchasing department. The grounds for this action are twofold.
First, the delays are traced to poor planning in purchasing metals. Second, the purchasing manager’s lack of knowledge of the properties of metals is thought to be the cause of the poor planning.
It is further recommended that the position of purchasing manager be filled by a scientist from the research division and that the current purchasing manager be reassigned to the sales department. In support of this latter recommendation, the report states that the current purchasing manager’s background in general business, psychology, and sociology equip him for this new assignment.
The recommendations advanced in the report are questionable for two reasons.
To begin with, the report fails to establish conclusively a causal connection between the falling revenues of the company and the delays in manufacturing. The mere fact that falling revenues coincide with delays in manufacturing is insufficient to conclude that these delays caused the decline in revenue. Without compelling evidence to support the causal connection between these two events, the report’s recommendations cannot be acted upon.
Second, a central assumption of the report is that knowledge of the properties of metals is necessary for planning in purchasing metals. No evidence is stated in the report to support this crucial assumption. Moreover, it is not obvious that such knowledge would be required to perform this task. Since planning is essentially a logistical function, it is doubtful that in-depth knowledge of the properties of metals will be itself by helpful in accomplishing this task.
A manufacturing organization would be using not only metals but also a number of other materials such as chemicals, fuel etc. The organization cannot have a separate purchasing manager for each of the materials it uses.
In conclusion, this is a weak argument. To strengthen the recommendation that the manager of the purchasing department be replaced, the author will have to demonstrate that the falling revenues were a result of the delays in manufacturing. Additionally, the author will have to show that knowledge of the properties of metals is a prerequisite for planning in purchasing metals.
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