Can We Please Argue ?


“I feel that I’m not entitled to have an opinion unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who are in opposition. ” - Charles T. Munger

In this modern social media world, everyone has an opinion on everything. People argue to justify their position and belief. I would imagine what would world look like without arguments or dissents. But Arguments are essential to learn perspectives and to know we all don’t know a lot. But arguments we make today do not have a productive output but to display of power over knowledge.

People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument – Will Rogers

Some people argue to where they are ready to go to war. But what is important derived value from arguments are (if any)

- Humility to learn from others perspective
- One will learn that there are other ways to see things
- It takes lot of courage to have a point of view and still be receptive of others inputs.
- Enables Abstract thinking ( more on this later )

There is not lot you derive from arguments unless you have healthy intent. In general, the ground rule for an argument to begin, it has to have either arise out of genuine curiosity or should happen for immediate need. Anything else, is sheer waste of time and has potential to break the relationship or hurting sentiments.

What is not an Argument ?

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. - Richard P. Feynman

Arguments are best avoided when you can. But if you cannot, we should be able to identify what are not considered arguments

  • Abuse is not considered Argument. Name-calling, commenting on personal appearance/ body shaming fall under this category.
  • Physical / Verbal fights are not argument.
  • Mere denials are not valid arguments. If you or anyone respond to a statement with “No”, it is not valid. Arguments needs evidence or reason.

When we observe this patterns in an argument, it is better to figure a way to stop it or give the victory and move on. We all have better things to do in life.

Structure of an Argument

But if you want to argue for perceived benefits, argument in logic has a structure. You need to structure your arguments so it is clear and make a specific point with lot of thoughts to it. This structure comes to fore in every argument.

  • Argument If your neighbor yells at you for parking your car in their driveway is not considered argument. Argument is a statement with a demonstration or proof. Not emotions but an objective statement. E.g - “The vehicle has four wheels, so it is a car”
  • Premise Preposition which gives the proof, or a reason for a position you stand for.
  • Conclusion One you derive based on the premise you established before

E.g You are driving motorcycle, so you should wear helmet. |——-Premise——–| |——Conclusion——–|

How to end an Argument ?

In general, once argument starts it is hard to stop. It is because you start with a premise and to justify it you will place an argument. This will start a chain of arguments which will be hard to retract. We now know arguments are not fights but, to find the truth or to attain a compromise. Can we stop an argument ? Skeptics are never satisfied, until you rule out all the possibilities and convince everyone.

Can we convince everyone ? No. Few are delusional and few are not interested to listen in. Every argument should focus on people who are open to engage, willing to listen and understand us. People who are in extreme ends are willing to argue from their view point and look into things that favor their side of arguments. They don’t look to argue from other’s point of view.

But there are few options to get an argument to a stop,

  • Weaken the premise. E.g - Ice cream in that shop is bad, so don’t buy there We are not clear if all ice creams are bad or what bad means here, it is less tasty, or they are not organic or homemade.
  • Assurance With trust, people agree. If you assure them of good service, they will be persuaded by your argument and buy your product. If you assure that you will find better accommodation, your partner will agree to last minute hotel booking.
  • Evaluative Terms When you use evaluative language, like “safe”, “risky”, “dangerous”, “good”, “bad” you are specific about defining what is safe or risky but by using these words, you make your opponents hard to refute your position. You bring in vagueness to the statement. This will provide a great starting point for middle ground.
  • Diffuse You anticipate the counter argument and diffuse them. This will make the opponents hard to find another reason to refute. For E.g - Although he comes late to the practice, he is a star player so we should consider.( you anticipated the late arrival issue and you gave the compelling reason why we should consider him)

Things you should NOT do while in Argument

Stephen King writes: “One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose.”

When you watch bad movies, you start appreciating good ones. Likewise, by knowing things that you should not do, you learn to do the right things. If we are arguing to win, we behave like there are no rules and mention Everything's is fair in love and war. But I disagree. Fairness is key element if you are to grow up in life and be mature. We need to know what is not permitted in an argument. As you grow up, you need to know which fights are worth fighting for. After reading below, start to notice these in many political, personal, religious arguments.

Here is a list of fallacies of argument,

  • Arguments from Consequences
    • ‌Just because a proposition leads to some unfavorable result does not mean that it is false. Similarly, just because a proposition has good consequences does not all of a sudden make it true
  • Putting up a Straw Man
    • ‌ A straw man argument is usually one that is more absurd than the actual argument. For example, “My opponent is trying to convince you that we evolved from monkeys who were swinging from trees”(obviously this is misrepresenting the idea of evolutionary biology, which states that humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor)
  • Appeal to Irrelevant Authority
    • ‌To determine truth from untruth we must rely on evidence and reason. But sometimes, we rely on authority without reasoning out. For E.g - Professors in Germany showed such and such to be true ( Instead of blind faith, one should analyze evidence)
  • Equivocation
    • Changing the meaning of a word during the argument. For E.g How can you be against faith when we take leaps of faith all the time, with friends and potential spouses
  • False Dilemma
    • Argument presents 2 possible options and makes sure everything falls within that, when you may possibly have a 3rd option. For E.g - In war you are either with us or against us (But in reality you might have a 3rd option which is being neutral)
  • Not a cause for a cause
    • For E.g - The recent earthquake was due to people disobeying the king is not a good argument.
  • Appeal to Fear
    • Instead of providing proof to show the repercussions, we play on the fear of the audience. For E.g: I ask you all to vote for me. If other one wins, he will raise taxes and you all lose job
  • Hasty Generalization
    • For example, asking ten people on the street what they think of the president’s plan to reduce the deficit can in no way be said to represent the sentiment of the entire nation.
  • Appeal to Ignorance
    • ‌It is impossible to imagine that we actually landed a man on the moon, therefore it never happened. Responses of this sort are sometimes wittily countered with, That’s why you’re not a physicist.
  • No True Scotsman
    • ‌The fallacy was coined by Antony Flew in his book Thinking about Thinking. There, he gives the following example: Hamish is reading the newspaper and comes across a story about an Englishman who has committed a heinous crime, to which he reacts by saying, “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day, he comes across a story about a Scotsman who has committed an even worse crime; instead of amending his claim about Scotsmen, he reacts by saying, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”
  • Genetic Fallacy
    • ‌Of course he supports the union workers on strike; he is after all from the same village (rather than evaluating the argument based on its merits)
  • Guilt by Association
    • ‌discrediting an argument for proposing an idea that is shared by some socially demonized individual or group
  • Affirming the consequent
    • ‌People who go to university are more successful in life. John is successful; hence he must have gone to university. ( which may not be true. He may be home-schooled too)
  • Appeal to Hypocrisy
    • ‌The appeal to hypocrisy may be invoked when a person attacks another because what he or she is arguing for conflicts with his or her past actions
    • *‌E.g This man is wrong because he has no integrity; just ask him why he was fired from his last job,” *
  • Slippery Slope
    • You refute something saying it can bring series of unfavorable events without mentioning the probability or context
    • ‌E.g - We shouldn’t allow people uncontrolled access to the Internet. The next thing you know, they will be frequenting pornographic websites and, soon enough our entire moral fabric will disintegrate and we will be reduced to animals
  • Appeal to Bandwagon
    • It is the argument that Because group of people believe in something then it must then be true
    • For e.g - All the cool kids use this hair gel; be one of them.
  • Ad Hominem
    • Attack the person’s character rather than what he/she is saying
    • *You really don’t care about the poverty but only looks for votes *
  • Circular Reasoning
    • Idea of restating instead of proving
    • For E.g - President is a great speaker, because he talks effectively to people.Here “Great Speaker” and “talks effectively” means same. Instead of proving why he is a great speaker, you simple restate he speaks effectively
  • Composition and Division
    • Example for Composition , Because every single player is a star player, this team will win for sure. While it is true, they are star players, but when they play as a team it is definitive that they win
    • For example of division, Our team is unbeatable. Any of our players would be able to take on a player from any other team and outshine him. While it may be true that the team as a whole is unbeatable, one cannot use that as evidence to infer that each of its players is thus unbeatable.


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