A RULEBOOK FOR ARGUMENTS ANTHONY WESTON PDF

This is just stuff in the book that I found personally valuable or interesting at the time of reading. What is your conclusion? Remember that the conclusion is the statement for which you are giving reasons. The statements that give your reasons are your premises.

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This is just stuff in the book that I found personally valuable or interesting at the time of reading. What is your conclusion? Remember that the conclusion is the statement for which you are giving reasons. The statements that give your reasons are your premises. Short arguments are usually developed in one or two paragraphs. Put the conclusion first, followed by your reasons, or set out your premises first and draw the conclusion at the end.

In any case, set out your ideas in an order that unfolds your line of thought most clearly for the reader. Each sentence of a passage prepares the way for the next one, and the next one steps smoothly up to bat. No matter how well you argue from premises to conclusion, your conclusion will be weak if your premises are weak. Avoid abstract, vague, and general terms.

Airy elaboration just loses everyone in a fog of words. Use the least amount of words necessary to convey a point. Do not argue the conclusion without identifying and understanding their reasons. Logic depends on clear connections between premises and between premises and conclusion. It remains essential to use a consistent term for each idea.

If none of the premises can be supported, then there is no argument at all. Use the most accurate words, and simplify as much as possible. For large generalizations, you will need multiple references. Even a large number of examples may still misrepresent the set being generalized about. Choose the examples that are the most representative of the generalization, which may require a little extended thought.

Some people see numbers— any numbers— in an argument and conclude from that fact alone that it must be a good argument. Numbers take as much critical thinking as any other kind of evidence. Counter-examples are examples that contradict your generalization. No fun— maybe. Look for them on purpose and systematically. It is the best way to sharpen your own generalizations and to probe more deeply into your theme. For your own arguments: the more accurate you can be with your selection of these words, the less people can legitimately refute you and the more confident you will be in defending your statements.

Most importantly, you will be consistently projecting a greater sense of accuracy and thus you will convey validity to others, especially over time. Arguments by analogy do not require that the example used as an analogy be exactly like the example in the conclusion. Our bodies are not just like cars, after all. Analogies require relevant similarities. Take note of the main point of an analogy and consider the details. In the car example, the point was not to compare the physical makeup of cars and humans; the point was regarding the upkeep of complex systems, and thus was valid.

Instead, we must rely on others — more informed people, organizations, surveys, or reference works which tell us much of what we need to know about the world, or at least provide a basis for our intuitive perceptions and beliefs, thus we must backtrack the sources for our claims as necessary.

This is especially good to keep in mind for authoritarian arguments. Also, be willing to explain the quality of your own sources. Yes, doctors likely have better judgment relative to the general population, but it is a fallacy to assume that simply because they are medical experts they also must be experts on other subjects.

If you must rely on a source that may have limited knowledge in this way, acknowledge the problem. Let your readers or hearers decide whether imperfect authority is better than none at all.

People who have the most at stake in a dispute are usually not the best sources of information about the issues involved. Consult and compare a variety of sources to see if other, equally good authorities agree.

The evidence for a claim about causes is usually a correlation— a regular association— between two events or kinds of events. Since a variety of explanations for a correlation are usually possible, the challenge for a good correlation-based argument is to find the most likely explanation.

It is possible, of course, that the Bermuda Triangle really is spooked and that is why ships and planes disappear there. If an explanation is obviously less likely than another, the burden of proof lies with its claimant. The simpler and more logical physical explanation should generally be accepted until otherwise proven. Plenty of happy people are not married, of course, and plenty of married people are unhappy.

It does not follow that marriage has no effect on happiness on average. One correlation is not the whole story. The question in such cases is about the relative weight of different causes. Reading, for instance, surely does lead to open-mindedness. But open-mindedness also leads to reading … which creates more open-mindedness in turn.

There are no chance factors in chess. Therefore, chess is a game of pure skill. There is no way to admit the truth of these premises but deny the conclusion. Arguments of this type are called deductive arguments. A properly formed deductive argument is an argument of such a form that if its premises are true, the conclusion must be true too.

Properly formed deductive arguments are called valid arguments. Still, when strong premises can be found, deductive forms are very useful. And even when the premises are uncertain, deductive forms offer an effective way to organize arguments. Therefore, [sentence q]. Therefore, q. Drivers on cell phones do have more accidents. Therefore, drivers should be prohibited from using cell phones.

To develop this argument, you must explain and defend both of its premises, and they require quite different arguments. In outline this argument might be put: Either we become close to others or we stand apart.

If we become close to others, we suffer conflict and pain. Since this is such a jolly little conclusion, maybe I should add that hedgehogs are actually quite able to get close without poking each other. They can be together and comfortable too. Be ready to be surprised. Be ready to hear evidence and arguments for positions you may not like. Be ready, even, to let yourself be swayed. True thinking is an open-ended process.

You may have to try several different conclusions— even quite varied conclusions— before you find your best basic argument on a topic. Even after you have settled on the conclusion you want to defend, you may have to try several forms of argument before you find a form that really works well.

Once you have spelled out your basic idea as an argument, it will need defense and development. Each premise therefore becomes the conclusion of a further argument that you need to work out. Too often, when we make arguments, we concern ourselves only with the pro side: what can be said in support.

Objections tend to come as a shock. In this way, you also make it clear to your eventual audience that you have done your homework, that you have explored the issue thoroughly and hopefully! Do your premises or conclusion need to be changed or re-developed to take account of the objections? If you are defending a proposal, it is not enough to show that your proposal will solve a problem. You must also show that it is better than other plausible ways of solving that same problem.

Considering alternatives is not just a formality. The point is not just to quickly survey a few boringly obvious, easily countered alternatives and then re-embrace your original proposal. Look for serious alternatives, and get creative. You might even come up with something quite new and potentially better. Almost all initial proposals have alternatives — always consider them. Launch straight into the real work. No windy windups or rhetorical padding.

NO: For centuries, philosophers have debated the best way to be happy. Get to your point. YES: In this essay I will try to show that the best things in life really are free. If you are making a proposal, be specific. Specify and simplify basic claims; only elaborate on more complex claims. Similarly, if you are making a philosophical claim or defending your interpretation of a text or event, begin by stating your claim or interpretation simply.

Take the time to sketch the whole counter-argument, not just to mention its conclusion as you rush by to defend your argument. Maybe you know exactly what you mean. Everything seems clear to you.

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