Very often, using the natural language we try to convince others of our point of view, in our opinion, on a given topic. And the reverse: very often, the others try to convince us of the validity of your point of view on an issue. In other words: the argument is a commonplace in our lives. In this sense, we are always at risk of being manipulated by our partner, through the use of reasoning fallacious: what are some practical principles by which we can distinguish a good argument from a bad one? There are, and in this post we look at ten basic rules of a good argument.
These ten rules are extracted from the work of Vicenzo Lo Cascio Grammar of argumentation : strategies and structures (Alliance, 1998). Before discussing them, we need to clarify briefly some of the terms on which these principles apply. This is timely, because we often use terms like “argument”, “test”, “reasoning”,… in a way almost interchangeable, which makes it difficult for us to grasp when an argument is well constructed.
What Cascio tells us that in an argument, we can distinguish three elements:
- A thesis or opinion, that is what we want to convince our interlocutor.
- An argument, which as we said Wikipedia is a “proof or reason to justify something as true or as reasonable action”: that “something” to justify it is our thesis or opinion
- A general rule (what we usually call “reasoning“) that allows us to bind our view with the argument that we propose.
With these clarifications in mind, step to comment on the ten rules for an argument, ideal (pp. 296-305). To show them, I will use the examples that he proposes to us the proper Cascio: they are simple examples, which allow you to see clearly the violation of the rules much more clearly than other examples of arguments more specific (of the field scientist or technician, for example):
First rule: the parties involved in the argument should not create impediments in the possibility of expressing doubts or reservations.
Example: On the question of divorce I do not want to talk. As I said, I think that the bond of marriage is indivisible. (With this, the speaker has blocked any possibility of discussion on the desirability or not of divorce)
Second rule: he Who expresses an opinion should be willing to defend it if asked.
Example: divorces by opportunism, the facts prove it; I assure you I, is typical of him (With these last two sentences, the speaker is reluctant to give more explanations about your opinion of the subject is divorced by opportunism)
Third rule: An attack on an argument, you must focus on the thesis that has set the protagonist, not to divert the discourse, without presenting the thesis in a different way and without acting in a way that will give the antagonist a different thesis of which it is held.
Example: you Say that for you it is good to divorce because you are unhappy, but it is not fair that the human being thinks only of himself and not worry about the neighbour (The topic about the selfishness of the human being does not come to story: diverts attention from the discussion of the thesis “I Want to divorce because I am unhappy”)
Fourth rule: A thesis must be defended only with arguments related to it and not to have relations with another.
Example: Say you’ve got to drogarte because you are unhappy, but you have not thought about what to tell the neighbors (The speaker should defend the thesis that the subject should not get high by appealing to their unhappiness independently of the fact that the neighbors have or don’t have something to say)
Fifth rule: A person must accept the consequences and the existence of the premises left implicit and, in consequence, you must accept that you will attack on the ground of them.
Example: Mary will not come out because lluieve. But if every time that it rain not out, in this village – where it rains constantly – would always be at home (it Is assumed that Mary never leaves the house when it rains, which does not have to be true: it is a weakness of the argument that can be put in evidence by the listener)
Sixth rule: A thesis may be considered defendidad properly if it is based on artumentos belonging to a common starting point.
Example: I Am sure that he will divorce, because seven years ago they are married (The thesis of that the divorce is safe you could only defend yourself if, indeed, the subjects were legally married and not live together as a couple in fact)
Seventh rule: A thesis can be considered to be defended properly if the defense develops with the use of arguments that reflect and respect the practice of argumentation honest.
Example: it Is wrong to make micho sport; it has such an eminence in medicine, Milan (it Is proposed as a guarantee of the thesis the opinion of a supposed expert that no more data)
Eighth rule: The arguments used in a discussion ought to be or to have become valid by making explicit some of the assumptions that were implied.
Example: The neighbor is a gypsy, as it carries pins (Not only the gypsies lead pin, and lead pin does not make one in gypsy: it is a false argument that is based on assumptions implied by the speaker)
Ninth rule: A defense losing you must have as a consequence that the subject that argues you agree to change your position, while a defense winner must have the consequence that the listener change his position and remove his doubts about the thesis defended by the speaker.
Example: I have Not tried to defend myself because I didn’t want to put you in an embarrassing situation (don’t want to acknowledge the possible validity of the arguments of others, the speaker is not willing to open up the possibility of change of opinion)
Tenth rule: The formulation of the thesis and of the arguments must be as clear and understandable as possible.
Example: don’t help because that would cost money (it is Not clear whether the lack of support is due to lack of money or the fact that the support takes a gast and does not wanted to invest the money in one).
We may find more or less rules according to the author, but I believe that they are sufficiently clear to serve as an entry point to the complex mechanisms of argumentation. All impose on one another in a more or less pronounced some of the proposed rules, it is practically inevitable due to the amount of different situations in which we are forced to argue. However, how much the more we separate ourselves from the principles of good argumentation, the more we will be shifting from simple carelessness to the open manipulation.
And now some questions for you: do you know some different principles that make what is a good argument?; are you aware of when (and how much) you walk away from the principles of a good argument, and why?
Lo Cascio, Vincenzo. Grammar of argumentation : strategies and structures. Madrid: Alianza, 1998.
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