Rules for Logical Argument

I’m keeping this post to link to from any argument space that I control, like my Facebook wall. I prefer to argue in an objective mode, even if the subject is religion, aesthetics, or politics. I wholly reject the proposition that all categorical statements are political.

This is what I expect from all participants:

1. Clarify any special terms you are using. Do not proceed to argue until you agree on the meaning of your words.

2. Do not use logical fallacies, which includes argument against identity, explicit or coded in buzzwords like “mansplain” or “femsplain.”

3. Do not tell other people what they think or feel. As a procedural necessity, everyone must be treated as an authority over their own experience.

4. If the argument gets heated, have each person summarize the other’s point and gain their acceptance of the interpretation before moving on.

5. If you are asked if you are arguing from a certain premise, give an unequivocal answer, no prevaricating with “It’s more complicated than that” if the question must have a yes-or-no answer. You can qualify your position, but at some point, you must also commit to a premise in order to argue at all.

6. Don’t indulge in sarcasm when countering someone’s points.

7. Take the most charitable interpretation of your opponent’s statements that you can.

8. Do not ask or expect other people to do your own research for you. “Google it” is not a valid rejoinder to a request for evidence.

General Observations:

Just as in a trial it is incumbent on the prosecution to build their case, in an argument the person advancing the proposition must supply their own evidence. People hate to be exposed as wrong, so asking them to supply evidence against their position is tantamount to asking the defense to support the prosecution’s case.

Instead of calling someone out on an obscure logical fallacy, say, “That’s not an argument,” and only elaborate if necessary. (Nod to Jack Raynard on this latter idea.) Character assassination is the genetic fallacy. You cannot win a rational argument with moral superiority. It doesn’t matter if your opponent is literally the Devil.

Charitable interpretation, even charitable inference beyond the literal words, demonstrates both your cleverness and reasonableness. People will think you’re either disingenuous or not very bright if you miss alternate valid interpretations to win points in an argument.

About robertpkruger

Writer, editor, and software developer. Former president of
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1 Response to Rules for Logical Argument

  1. Michael M. Butler says:

    Concise. Thanks. I’ll do my part to pass these rules on in other contexts.

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