What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘argument’?
People fighting? Or heated courtroom dramas on television?
We often use the word ‘argument’ to refer to a disagreement or conflict between people.
In fact, arguments are a crucial part of critical thinking.
As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
An important part of critical thinking is to identify, construct, and evaluate arguments. An argument is a list of statements, one of which is the conclusion and the others are the premises or assumptions of the argument.
That’s how the critical thinker works.
A critical thinker won’t just receive and accept a message as it is but will consider what the message says.
Is the message well-supported? Is the logic behind the statement sound or flawed?
In other words, a critical thinker will act on the message before taking any action.
Consider this, the human mind is full of thoughts every hour of the day. According to cognition experts, experiences between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts every day.
Thanks to the critical thinker within us, we only consider the thoughts that seem important.
Let’s look at an example of critical thinking in an ordinary situation that any of us could have faced.
You are running late for work. You get ready fast and leave the house.
Just as you’re getting out of the gate, you suddenly remember you’ve left the iron on. You go back inside and switch it off.
It’s that simple, or is it?
Did you leave it on or is it just your nervousness from running late that makes you think you did?
You go back in your mind and remember everything that you did since you woke up till you left the house.
You remember that you had ironed the shirt after taking a shower. You got dressed in haste and left the room, and indeed, left the iron on.
The example above demonstrates how a critical thinker is different from a normal thinker in their critical thinking skills including listening, analyzing, and evaluating arguments.
What Are Arguments?
You analyze and process information during the process of critical thinking. You then develop reasons and gather evidence for why you believe in an idea.
Finally, you present these beliefs and ideas to others in an argument.
Therefore, an argument is simply a way of presenting your thoughts or ideas to someone in a convincing manner.
It could be an opinion, an idea, a theory, a perspective, a conclusion, a set of actions—any thought that you want to convey with sound reasoning.
People often argue to make others consider their point. They try to make statements to support their views.
But how would you know if what someone is saying to persuade you is correct or not?
Unless you can trust the person enough to take their word without further discussion, people will need to reason with you and convince you.
They will try to make statements to support their views.
These statements together form what we call arguments.
What Is An Argument?
An argument is a group of statements where the premises are offered in support of the conclusion.
Argument: Meaning And Example
An argument takes the conversation beyond making an assertion. But why would anyone accept your assertion? Because you offer related statements to support the assertion. Further, you aim at giving a good reason to make the other person believe what you are saying is true.
Let’s try to understand argument meaning with a simple example.[AG5]
Arun was driving his car over the speed limit. He wasn’t in a hurry or didn’t have an emergency. So he had no excuse to go over the speed limit. Further, he was drunk. Thus, Arun was breaking the law.
You must have concluded that Arun was breaking the law. And how did you reach this conclusion? By offering related statements, also called premises:
Arun was driving his truck over the speed limit
Arun had no excuse to go over the speed limit
Arun was drunk
The word ‘thus’ in the statement is what we call a conclusion indicator. Conclusion indicators are often used to stress the part of an argument you want to prove or consider. Arguments can sometimes also have premise indicators.
Is There Any Standard Structure For Arguments?
Yes, there is! And that structure often includes premise and conclusion indicators. Premise and conclusion indicators are the words that differentiate premises and conclusions in arguments. These words in the statements are highly important for clarity in the message.
Here’s a list of the most common conclusion and premise indicators:
But why argue in the first place?
It’s obvious that people argue. And here are the four main reasons why they do:
- To get clarity in your thinking. Often, you, as an individual or a group receive loads of information that needs to be properly interpreted. Arguments can help you learn about issues before taking any action
- To explain or defend your actions or beliefs. Everyone has a reason for what they say or do. However, the reasons are not clear sometimes. With a proper argument, you can shed light on the reasons behind your thoughts and actions and make them explicit
- To make judgments or solve problems. The world is filled with controversies. Most of us frequently come across situations that question our previous beliefs. Arguments are a good way out of chaos to help facilitate decision-making.
- To make fun. Yes, you read that right! Participating in debates can be an intellectually stimulating process. After all, an argument isn’t always serious and deliberative. You must have experienced often, people arguing over relatively unimportant issues.
How To Evaluate Arguments In The Workplace?
This is the point you are arguing to prove; the point that is being made. When making a claim, make sure you are relevant. In other words, make claims related to the subject or issue at hand.
On what ground are you making the claims? The reason, facts, or statement that supports your claim is the evidence. You will find supporting evidence from outside sources such as quotes or published work.
No, it’s not the warrant that police issue before arresting someone. The warrant, when evaluating arguments, forms the bridge between the claim and the related evidence. In other words, it’s the logical reasoning that you make to relate the evidence to the claim or conclusion. It goes in a step-by-step and clear manner.
Let’s go back to Arun’s example again:
Arun was driving his car over the speed limit. He wasn’t in a hurry or didn’t have an emergency. So he could have maintained the speed limit, but he didn’t. Apart from that, he was drunk. Thus, Arun was breaking the law.
Here, the warrant can be the statement: “Arun had no excuse to drive over the speed limit.”
These are concessions that you may have to make to limit what someone might be able to claim.
If you want to learn the ABCD of arguments, you should join Harappa’s Thinking Critically course. The ABCD framework from the course arms you with the tool you can use in evaluating arguments for Accuracy, Believability, Clarity, and Deficiency. The framework not only strengthens the arguments but also makes them more logical.
Join the course today and take your first step in learning about arguments and critical thinking.
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