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Winning an Argument

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Since I teach philosophy, I am sometimes asked about how to win an argument. Being a philosopher, I always engage in a philosophical discussion rather than providing tips on how to destroy with “facts” and “logic.” In philosophy, an argument is a set of claims. There are two types of claims in an argument: one conclusion and one or more premises.  The conclusion is the claim that is supposed to be supported by the premises. A premise is a claim given as evidence or a reason for accepting the conclusion.  As such, to make an argument requires making a point (conclusion) and backing it up with evidence or reasons (premises). When assessing an argument there are two main factors to consider: the quality of the premises and the quality of the reasoning. When assessing the quality of reasoning, the question is: Do the premises logically support the conclusion? If the premises do not logically support the conclusion, then the argument is flawed, and the conclusion should not be accepted based on the premises provided. The conclusion may be true, but a flawed argument gives you no logical reason to believe the conclusion because of that argument. If the premises do logically support the conclusion, then you would have a good reason to accept the conclusion, on the assumption that the premises are true or at least plausible. When assessing the quality of the premises, the question to ask is: are the premises true (or at least plausible)?  While the testing of premises can be a rather extensive matter, it is reasonable to accept a premise as plausible if it meets three conditions. First, the premise is consistent with your own observations. Second, the premise is consistent with your background beliefs and experience. Third, the premise is consistent with credible sources, such as experts, standard references, and textbooks. In terms of winning, the constructing of a philosophical argument in isolation is like playing solitaire—winning is not beating someone else. A. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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