ARG-013

The following appeared in a letter from the owner of the Sunnyside Towers apartment complex to its manager.

"One month ago, all the showerheads in the first three buildings of the Sunnyside Towers complex were modified to restrict maximum water flow to one-third of what it used to be. Although actual readings of water usage before and after the adjustment are not yet available, the change will obviously result in a considerable savings for Sunnyside Corporation, since the corporation must pay for water each month. Except for a few complaints about low water pressure, no problems with showers have been reported since the adjustment. Clearly, modifying showerheads to restrict water flow throughout all twelve buildings in the Sunnyside Towers complex will increase our profits further."


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


In the letter, the owner of the Sunnyside Towers apartment complex predicts a dramatic profit increase for Sunnyside Corporation. His/her prediction relies heavily on the seemingly pleasing results from showerhead modifications in the first three buildings of the Sunnyside Towers complex. In those buildings, the maximum water flow has been restricted to one-third of what it used to be. While this may be the case, close scrutiny reveals that the conclusion lacks critical support and therefore we need more evidence to help evaluate the argument.


The first piece of evidence that is in need revolves around the actual consequences brought about by modifying the maximum water flow. More specifically, I need to know what the exact water usage readings are before and after the adjustment. Will people take longer showers now that the water flower is restricted? If it turns out that people are taking a longer shower due to the reduce water pressure, then a decrease in water usage is not safely guaranteed and therefore the writer’s final prediction is open to doubt. However, if it turns out to be the other way around, then the prediction is strengthened instead. In addition, while the arguer claims that few problems with showers have been reported since the adjustment, we still need to know whether one-month period of time is too short for all problems to have emerged; whether any problems or complaints have been concealed or even suppressed. Any evidence proving that the report is invalid will serious challenge the author’s conclusion; otherwise it is shored up.

Witnessing the seemingly positive result of the showerhead adaptation, the author further recommends a wider application of the adaptation to all the twelve buildings in the Sunnyside Towers complex. However, before reaching that conclusion, we need to know whether such a generalization is hasty. The current few complaints might derive from the possibility that people who were not satisfied with the adaptation in the first three buildings went elsewhere for shower. Therefore, we need to ask whether it is possible that once we implement the author’s proposal and modify all the showerheads throughout all twelve buildings in the Sunnyside Towers complex, is the corporation going to lose the customers? If it will unfortunately suffer from a great loss of customers, then the prediction in the argument is unreasonable; in other circumstances it is not.

Even if people accept the showerhead modifications, we need to know whether such modification surely leads to a growth in profits remains an unanswered question. While we are informed that the corporation pays for water each month and therefore the water fee may decline due to the showerhead adjustments, we have no information concerning the modification expenses. Simply speaking, how do the savings resulting from the adjustments compare to the expense of adjusting them? If the savings are slight, then we cannot expect profits to rise and the author’s recommendation should therefore be rejected; but if the savings are significant, then the proposal should be encouraged.

To draw a conclusion, we need further proof to form a better evaluation of the argument. Only after weighing all of the evidence which serves to weaken the argument as well as those supporting the argument, can we come to a decision about the soundness of this argument.


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