Chapter 2

What Is an Explanation?


For most of my life, I never considered the definition of the word “explanation”—and I doubt I am alone in this. We all explain things so often, why would we need to define something we do every day?

The fact is, however, that most of us take explanation for granted. For many people, it's just something that happens. Someone asks a question, we answer it in the form of an explanation. We do not often step back and think about what makes an explanation an explanation or how we could approach it differently. Our explanations happen without much planning or editing.

It's a little like dancing. Your grace on the dance floor may mean that you take dancing for granted: it just happens when there is a rhythm. But even the best dancer can only get so far without defining specific dances, such as what makes the samba the samba and the waltz the waltz. These definitions create a standard form and shape that can be honed and refined. Only by defining the standards of the dance can we hope to improve it.

We'll begin to define explanation below by first looking at what is NOT an explanation. This will allow us to see it not as a simple shake of the hips, but as a dance that has a deliberate form, intent, and emotion.

What Is Not An Explanation

The following is a list of the various ways we can relate ideas and information. Although we will define explanation ...

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