Tips on Arguing: How to Construct an Argument
TIPS ON HOW TO WIN YOUR ARGUMENTS
TIP 1- Know how to construct (or deconstruct) an argument:
Whether you hear it in the courtroom or in the bedroom, all sound arguments are comprised of the same elements: (1) a conclusion; (2) its premises. In plain English: (1) the point you’re trying to make and (2) the evidence or reasons supporting that point. I know this sounds basic, but when you listen to most people engaged in a heated argument, they either have no idea what point they’re trying to make, lose sight of that point, or offer absolutely nothing to support their point.
So first things first: Ask yourself what you’re trying to prove or what the other person is trying to prove. Next, come up with reasons that serve as your evidence to support your point and analyze the supporting reasons your opponent is using to support his conclusion. The study of argumentative logic, syllogisms, and logical fallacies (all of which will be discussed in future editions) offer little value without fully understanding this basic structure of an argument.
The easiest way to attack an argument is to deconstruct it and analyze its parts. This process should also be used to evaluate the strength of your argument. Ask yourself, what point you or your opponent is trying to make—what are the conclusions? Once you’ve figured that out, take a close look at the reasons (premises) supporting those conclusions.
Let’s use the following statement I overheard the other day as an example: “Fast food is bad for you because it’s high in fat.” The conclusion in this example is “fast food is bad for you.” The premise (reason supporting the conclusion) is “fast food is high in fat content.” Without getting too deep into syllogistic analysis, the argument can be broken down even further as follows: (Premise #1) Fast food is high in fat. (Premise #2) Foods that are high in fat are bad for you. Therefore, (Conclusion) Because fast food is high in fat, it’s bad for you.
Once we’ve deconstructed the argument, we can try to attack it by verifying the accuracy or conciseness of its premises.
Premise # 1 says that fast food is high in fat. Is that true? Is all fast food high in fat? Are there any fast food items that are low in fat?
Premise # 2 says that foods that are high in fat are bad for you. Is that also true? Are all foods with high fat content bad for you? Don’t we need some fat in our diets to survive? How much is too much fat content? If fast food restaurants removed all fat from their food, would fast food then be good for you? If there are currently items on the fast food menu with 0% fat, are those healthy options?
Maybe not all fast food is bad for you. Or perhaps, there are other factors attributing to fast food’s reputation for being a poor dining option aside from fat content. That being said, I think it’s safe to attack the all-encompassing argument that all fast food is bad for you because it’s high in fat content.
Now I’m not an advocate for fast food, and the overall consensus pretty much supports the conclusion that fast food is not great for your body, but I’ve used the above example to demonstrate how one can attack most any argument if you can poke holes at weak premises that fail to accurately support a conclusion.
Most real life arguments are not as black and white as the above referenced example. Your wife may start yelling at you because you came home too late from work, or your boyfriend might get mad because you got caught looking at another guy. Regardless of what the issue is, try to break down the other person’s argument by clarifying what point they’re ultimately trying to make and whether or not their premises support that point or conclusion. In the heat of battle, most conclusions are either not clear, or more often than not, not concisely supported by the arguer’s premises. Feel free to ask your opponent what point they’re trying to make, or simply suggest a conclusion for them (e.g. “So what you’re trying to tell me is …”). Watch how fast most arguments can be defused once the actual point of the debate is exposed and the premises are either unrelated or fail to support that point.
That being said, pick your battles wisely or you might end up celebrating your victory by sleeping on the couch.
At the Law Office of Francisco Cieza, P.A., we fight for your justice. Let us fight your battles in the courtroom against those who have wronged you. Give us a call (305) 200-8748.