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Changing Minds

Aristotelian argument
Disciplines > Argument > Aristotelian argument

Aristotle was one of the foremost thinkers of the classical world, and his approach to
logic and thinking is still in use today. This page picks out from other pages on
argumentation and logic those that have particular import for Aristotle.

Three ways to persuade: logos, pathos and ethos.

Aristotle's 13 fallacies: There are more now, but Aristotle set out the basics.

Aristotle's Ethics: Values from the classical world.

Aristotelian logic is described in his books Prior Analytics and De Interpretatione. His
collected works on the subject are known as the Organon.

Three Ways to Persuade

Disciplines > Argument > Three Ways to Persuade

Ethos | Pathos | Logos | See also

Aristotle, perhaps the most famous arguer, described three routes to change the mind of
the other person.

Ethos uses trust, and focuses first on the speaker. showing the speaker as a person of
integrity and good character.

The reputation of a person depends on their past, and what is known and spoken about
them. Note that although there is usually a close relationship between reputation and

reality, this is not always so. Politicians, for example, guard their reputation carefully,
yet many still have skeletons in the closet.
Leveraging reputation often means reminding others of your illustrious past, perhaps
through stories of your successes, of how you have helped others and been able to see
the truth where others have not.

Character paints you as a three-dimensional human, even with a few flaws (though these
should not be important to the audience). It shows you as being subject to the same
problems and pressures as other people. It says 'I am like you'. It also shows you as a
person of virtue, who stands by their good values.

Credibility, depends both on expertize and how this is portrayed. If you want people to
believe you, you must first show that you believe yourself.
To use credibility, position yourself as an expert. Talk as if you cannot be challenged.
Show how others look up to you. Use powerful gesture, eye contact and so on to
position yourself as a leader.

Pathos appeals to the emotions of the listener, seeking to excite them or otherwise
arouse their interest.
An effective way of arousing passions is in appeal to values. Tell stories of poor values,
for example where innocent people are harmed. Use Ethos to show your own values and
how you put others before yourself. You can also work with their goals and interests or
even challenge their beliefs.
Language has a significant effect on emotion, and hot and cold key words (fire, child,
anger, smooth, etc.) can trigger senses and feelings.

Logos focuses first on the argument, using cool logic and rational explanation, as well
as demonstrable evidence.

Science and scientific proof are based on the use of empirical evidence. If you argue
without evidence, a scientist would dismiss your argument as metaphysical (literally,
outside the physical world).
Evidence cannot be refuted, as courts of law seek to demonstrate. If you show, then it is
very difficult to deny without calling into question the validity of the evidence

Evidence can include statistics, pictures and recounted experience (especially first
hand). Pathos may also be evoked when giving evidence as you give it an emotional
spin. Ethos is also important to establish the credibility of the witness.

Reason uses rational points that call on accepted truths and proven theories. Where
evidence does not exist, reason may still prevail. A common tool in reasoning is to link
two items together, for example by cause and effect.
Reasoning often uses syllogisms, that include a major premise, a minor
premise and a conclusion based on the combination of the two premises.

Aristotle's Ethics
Explanations > Values > Aristotle's Ethics

Aristotle made note (and Plato agreed) that moral virtue is about the exercise of control
over natural feelings, and that good values is indicated through the use of good
judgment in finding an effective balance between extremes. Aristotle thus had a
personal value of moderation.
In his Nicomachean Ethics, he gave examples:

VICE (Defect)


VICE (Excess)

Cowardice (too little



Rashness (too much


Foolhardiness (too little



Cowardice (too much


Insensibility (too little

Meanness or Stinginess
(too little giving)
Niggardliness (in giving
out large sums of money)

Temperance Self-indulgence (too

much pleasure)

Prodigality or
Wastefulness (too much

Magnificence Tastlessness and

Vulgarity (giving out
large sums)

Undue Humility (too little


Proper Pride Empty Vanity (too much


Inirascibility (too little


Good Temper Irascible (too much


Shamelessness (too little



Bashfulness (too much


Friendliness Flattery

The Five Canons of Rhetoric

Disciplines > Argument > The Five Canons of Rhetoric

The Romans, as well as the Greeks were interested in argument and rhetoric. The five
canons of rhetoric appear in Cicero's first century Latin text, Rhetorica ad Herennium,
which contained four books that detail the rhetorical approach of the day, and was
highly influential for many subsequent centuries:
1. Invention: Finding ways to persuade.
2. Arrangement: Putting together the structure of a coherent argument.
3. Style: Presenting the argument to stir the emotions.
4. Memory: Speaking without having to prepare or memorize a speech.
5. Delivery: Making effective use of voice, gesture, etc.


Disciplines > Argument > Five canons of rhetoric > Invention

Description | Discussion | See also

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the necessity of persuasion means we must
first discover the best way to persuade in each situation.
Target analysis

The first step of invention is to understand the target(s) of persuasion. Identify who they
are, segmenting them into subgroups as necessary. Identify their needs, interests and
goals around the persuasive situation. Include yourself in this as well!

Secondly, consider what information you need to persuade these people. Do you need
hard evidence? The testimony of others? Photographs?

Thirdly, decide how you will present your evidence. In particular consider each
of Logos, Pathos and Ethos. Consider also whether you need a formal setting, such as a
courtroom, or something informal, such as a walk or a discussion in the bar.

Finally, consider the context, timing and duration of your argument (also known
as kairos). A long argument is necessary in some cases, but will tire people and
'unpersuade' them in others. Sometimes a person is best spoken to in the morning.
Sometimes they are more receptive in the afternoon. A classic time is over a meal.

In many situations, we jump in with both feet and try to 'wing it', making things up as
we go along. We often default to our preferred style and use patterns of persuasion that
may have worked for us in the past (or not).
Invention is going slow to go fast. By doing sound research and deep thinking first
about both their and your situation, you have the basis to build a solid argument. You
will also be able to present it in a way that will achieve your persuasive goals.
In the original Latin text, this is 'inventio'.

Disciplines > Argument > Five canons of rhetoric > Arrangement

Description | Discussion | See also

Arranging an argument is like structuring an essay (which is, of course, arranging an
1. Introduction (exordium)

Start with an introduction that positions both your argument and, if appropriate,
yourself. Provide the context in which you are speaking, including some background
information. Grab their attention, showing that this argument is important to them. Ask
them to listen carefully, as this will be to their advantage.
Also show that you are the best person to be talking with them on this subject. Establish
your credibility. Show that you are really on their side and can be trusted.
2. Statement of fact (narratio)

Present the basic facts of the case, clearly and with enough information that they can be
accepted as independent facts, and not just your observations. Be neutral in your
presentation, taking the part of a witness or a concerned bystander, rather than a person
with a passionate interest in one side of the argument.
In Classical Greek arguments, this stage is also used to demonstrate the speaker's ethos,
or ethical standing.
3. Confirmation (confirmatio)

The next stage is to give the case for your position. Construct a persuasive argument as
to what should be believed and done. This is where the full power and methods of
rhetoric are employed. Use varioustypes of reasoning, create yourself an unassailable
In confirming your position, do take care to align it carefully with the needs, values and
goals of your audience. If you do not do this, they may well ignore you and be building
their own refutatio rather than listening to your case.
4. Refutation (refutatio)

After building up your own castle, the next stage is to attack the stronghold of any
opposing arguments. Using similar reasoning methods, you now take apart any
alternatives to your confirmatio, one brick at a time. When opposing arguments are but
rubble, there is nothing else left to believe but your original argument.
Refuting other arguments need not mean being unkind or unpleasant. You can show
how much you accept and respect the other person or people involved. You can start
with appreciation of them as people and of their reasoning for their case. Then show
how they are sadly mistaken. If possible, show how they can better achieve their needs
through your preferred choices.

5. Conclusion (peroratio)

End your argument with a summary of what you have said, reminding your audience of
the key points along the way. If you want them to do something afterwards (rather than
just agree with you), describe these carefully and ensure you get their full agreement.

This is a classic way of arguing: build your position and knock down that of the
opposition, albeit with attention to ethical concerns. It still is relevant today, but can
easily suffer from a them-and-us battle. The most effective way to use this approach is,
as far as you can, to blend in respect and concern for people who oppose you. Seek to
expand the pie so everyone gets more, rather than assume a fixed amount 'I win-you
lose' situation.
In the original Latin text, this is 'dispositio'.

Disciplines > Argument > Five canons of rhetoric > Memory

Description | Discussion | See also

When you are going to persuade someone of something, take time to remember enough
of the argument to be able to present the full story without hesitation or omissions. If
you want to spellbind them, you must fully learn the spell.
You seldom need to learn everything by heart, but it can be a very good idea to at least
learn your opening lines by heart and then know very clearly all of the points of your
If you have problems remembering things, do not worry, help is at hand. There are
many practical memory methods described within this website.
The secret of speaking is often in the rehearsal. Even great orators spend much time
behind closed doors perfecting each of their speeches. The more important the speech,
the more time you should put into its preparation, including a full dress rehearsal (or

When an actor performs in a play, they do not read from the script. To do so would spoil
the performance terribly. They would not be able to use their hands and body fully. They

would look like a person reading from a piece of paper, rather than a person who
transforms the audience to a separate reality.
Persuading is like acting. The performance depends on you not having to spend time
thinking about what to say -- your spare cognitive effort should be spend on shaping it
to the situation, going with the flow of moment, responding to your audience to ensure
you are in perfect tune.
In the original Latin text, this is 'memoria'.


Disciplines > Argument > Five canons of rhetoric > Delivery

Description | Discussion | See also

To deliver a good persuasive argument, you have to go beyond words. Communication
means using every means at your disposal, which includes body language as well as
voice tone and texture.
Use emphasis in words and body language to draw attention to key points. Put emotion
into your voice.
You can also make good use of props in your delivery, utilizing images and simple
artifacts, from cups to cupboards. Use props with drama, synchronizing them with key
points of speech. Dramatically bring them out from a hidden place and return them
when they are no long of relevance.

By one study at least, words can make up a small proportion of a face-to-face
communication. And by any chalk, much of personal communication occurs through
visual and auditory channels (and sometimes tactile ones too).
In the original Latin text, this is 'actio' and 'pronuntatio'.
Argument Structure

Disciplines > Argument > Argument Structure

Premise | Conclusion | Inference | See also

Arguments are the basis of persuasive communication. They are combinations of

statements made that are intended to change the minds of other people.
All arguments have structure, which can be either deliberately designed or may be
discovered through analysis. At its simplest, an argument has premises and a

A premise (or premiss) of an argument is something that is put forward as a truth, but
which is not proven. Although it is not proven, it is assumed to be true (although how
universally accepted this truth is may be another matter).
It is hot in here.
This is a beautiful car.
The people of this town are angry.
If you want to attack another person's argument, you can challenge the truth of their
premises. If you are making an argument, you should be ready to defend any of your
own premises. The more complex the premise, the more opportunity there is to
challenge it, so if you expect challenge, keep your premises both short and noncontroversial.
As premises are the building blocks of the argument, there may well be two or more
premises in any argument.

The conclusion (or claim) is the statement with which you want the other person to
agree. It is drawn from the premises of the argument, of which there may be many.
We need to get out.
You should buy this car.
The new housing should be sited elsewhere.
A useful way of spotting a conclusion is that it may well be a statement of necessity,
saying what must or should happen. It may well be framed to persuade the other person
to do something or make some decision.

Between the conclusion and the premises are further statements which translate the
premises into the conclusion. This is the reasoning process, and in a formal argument
uses careful logic (in informal arguments, emotional reasoning and assumptive leaps
may well be used).
A particular aspect of logical argument is that inferential statements have true-false
qualities -- that is, they are either true or false and nothing in between. Thus a sentence
can contain many statements.
If we stay here, we will not only get uncomfortable, we will also start to smell.
There are other people interested in this car who will be here later.
If we don't do something, the peasants will revolt.
Inferential arguments seek to prove. Thus commands, explanations and other statements
may not directly add to the inference, although they may be a useful component of
Look at this. (command)
The people are angry because we did not listen to them. (explanation)
I hate it when cars don't start. (emotion)
Brockriede's Six Argument Characteristics

Disciplines > Argument > Making the argument > Brockriede's Six Argument
Inferential leap | Perceived rationale | Competing claims | Uncertainty
regulation | Confrontation risk | Shared frame of reference | See also

Wayne Brockriede, an early 20th century pioneer of argument theory, described six
commonly-found aspects of arguments.

Inferential leap
This is a change in beliefs, either leaping to a new one or deepening an existing one.
What makes an inferential leap notable is that it goes outside the realms of strict logic. It
goes beyond syllogisms. It is making an inference rather than developing an argument.

As a belief, it is leaping, moving to a position without taking carefully understood steps

along the way.
Logical argument effectively acts as a closed system, with boundaries outside of which
the argument cannot go without breaking the rules. However, there are still possibilities
and perceptions outside this area. To reach outside the logical box, then, needs belief.
Many arguments are framed as invitations to leap. The person on the other side of the
divide is clearly convinced and says 'It's great over here. Just jump. Trust me!' Although
persuader conviction can be effective, it may not be enough for the rational listener.

Perceived rationale
Many arguments are framed as being rational, with logical progression from facts and
accepted truths to new truths. Yet the logic we often use is flawed and may even include
inferential leaps, disguised as obvious conclusions.
The critical factor that persuades is whether what is being said is perceived as being
rational. When the speaker acts as if their argument is rational and maybe also believes
it so, then the listener may be persuaded by the sound of what is said rather than the
underlying logic.
Fallacies often appear and may be accepted as truth. This is in the nature of fallacies -if they were obvious to all and easily rejected, then they would not be identified and
named as fallacies. Almost by definition, fallacies are often perceived as being rational.

Competing claims
The claim is a critical part of Toulmin's argument model, and is the statement that the
persuader wants the other person to accept. When people are arguing, they may make
claims that conflict, such that only one may be accepted as each assumes the other's
claim is false. When each assumes their claim to be legitimate, then conflict becomes
highly likely as each frames the other as making an illegitimate claim.
Sometimes the problem with competing claims is that they really do conflict. However
the problem may also lie in the assumption by arguers that no other claims are
legitimate (while, in fact, many claims may be simultaneously legitimate). In particular,
when claims are bounded by belief, then two arguments may have clear space between

Uncertainty regulation
The previously noted problems often appear and consequently lead to conflict with
degeneration of arguments into further lack of logic and increasing emotional

This leads to a question of what behavior is allowed, what rules of argument are allowed
and, most of all, who will stand as referee, interpreting the rules with intelligence and
applying just discipline to ensure fair play all round.
However, when the argument and the methods used are firmly regulated then there is
less likelihood of coming to a conclusion, agreed or otherwise, unless one person gives
up and concedes, which effectively means nobody has persuaded anybody of anything.
The paradox is that argument should reduce uncertainty but may only serve to increase
it as more information and perceptions appear and are left unresolved. A result of this is
that people may be unwilling to argue as they feel their views will not be treated fairly.

Confrontation risk
As a result of the uncertainty, confrontation is often perceived as a risk. When we are
open with our views there is a possibility of our being proved wrong, that other may
attack or penalize us and that we could lose social status or worse. In short, the possible
costs and losses from argument leads us to avoid it unless we feel confident that we will
be treated fairly.
This is one reason why arguments with peers are more common than with superiors.
With people at the same level, you can have an argument and no matter who wins, there
are few personal implications. There is a sharing of the risk as options are openly
explored. When arguing with a superior, many feel they must accept claims without
challenge, lest they are punished for insubordination.

Shared frame of reference

A person's frame of reference is the lens through which they perceive the world,
creating meaning and assuming truth. This is a complex process where everything from
beliefs to studies lead to a system of filters that shape how we see the world.
It is not unsurprising that two people will have quite different frames of
reference. The argument problem occurs when one person uses their
personal frame of reference to describe or assess something. The extent to
which the other person agrees (or not) will be based largely on the extent to
which their frames of reference overlap.
Categorical Propositions

Disciplines > Argument > Categorical Propositions

Definitions | Four types | Opposites | See also

Classical logic makes great use of the principle of putting things into categories,
or classes. Categorical propositions tell you things about these categories.

Categorical term

A categorical term is something that will be categorized, such as 'dog' and 'cat'. It is
usually a collective statement such as 'all dogs' or 'some dogs'.
Categorical proposition

A categorical proposition is simply a statements about the relationship between

categories. It states whether one category or categorical term is fully contained with
another, is partially contained within another or is completely separate.
A dog is an animal
Some dogs are friendly
No dog is a cat
Propositions may have quality: either affirmative or negative.
They may also have quantity: such as 'a', 'some', 'most' or 'all'. The 'all' quantity is also
described as being universal and other quantities particular.
Predicate and subject

The first term in the proposition is the subject. The second term is the predicate.
Some dogs (subject) are friendly (predicate)

A categorical term is said to be distributed if the categorical proposition that contains it

says something about all members of that categorical term. It is undistributed if the
categorical proposition that contains it says does not something about all members of
that categorical term.

Four types
There are four types of categorical proposition, each of which is given a vowel letter A,
E, I and O. A way of remembering these is: Affirmative universal, nEgative universal,
affIrmative particular and nOgative particular. To be more correct, A and I letters came
from the Latin affirmo, and E and O from the Latin nego.




Quantity Distributi Distributi

on of X
All X is Y

No X is Y

Some X is

Some X is
not Y

Affirmative Universal Distributed



Universal Distributed Distributed

Affirmative Particular


on of Y


Undistribut Undistribut

In this classification, 'some X is some Y' is I and 'some X is not some Y' is O, although
it can be argued that these may be treated as an additional two variants.

There are several types of opposition used in categorical propositions. These can be
traditionally placed in the Square of Opposition.

<-- Contraries -->




<-- Subcontraries -->

Contraries cannot both be true, but both can be false.

Subcontraries cannot both be false, but both can be true.

Subaltern pairs can both be true or both be false.

Contradictories cannot both be true and cannot both be false.

Opposites are also described in the converse, obverse and contrapositive.


The converse of a categorical proposition is categorical proposition where the predicate

and subject of the original proposition are exchanged. Note that the quantity does not
move with the subject or predicate.
No dogs are cats --> No cats are dogs
Some dogs are friendly creatures --> Some friendly creatures are dogs
All dogs are animals --> All animals are dogs
The converse of any true E or I proposition is also true (making it a useful test). A and O
converses are seldom true.

The obverse of a categorical proposition has predicate term replaced with its
complement and quality of the proposition reverse.
All dogs are animals --> No dogs are not animals
No dogs are not dangerous --> All dogs are dangerous
The obverse of all types of true categorical proposition are also true.

The contrapositive of a categorical proposition is formed by taking the complement of

both subject and predicate and then reversing them.
All dogs are animals --> All non-animals are not dogs
Some dogs are friendly --> Some non-friendly creatures are not dogs
The contrapositive of any true A or O proposition is also true (making it a useful test).
Contrapositives of E and I propositions are seldom true.

Critical Discussion

Disciplines > Argument > Critical Discussion

Confrontation | Opening | Argumentation | Closing | See also

Van Eemeren and Grootendorst (1984) describe the purpose the critical discussion as
having the purpose to resolve a conflict of opinions by means of rational argumentation
and describe the process as follows:

At the Confrontation stage, a dispute appears where the one person advances a 'point of
view', whilst the other person casts doubt on that point of view or puts forward an
opposing point of view.

At the Opening stage, the two parties agree to seek resolution by expressing opposing
points of view, and undertake to resolve the conflict by advancing opposing rational

During the Argumentation stage, each side puts forward arguments to support his or her
own point of view, and each takes turns questioning and criticizing the arguments put
forward by the other side.
The rules for the argumentation stage are as follows:
1. Parties must not prevent each other from advancing or casting doubt
on standpoints.
2. Whoever advances a standpoint is obliged to defend it if asked to do
3. An attack on a standpoint must relate to the standpoint that has
really been advanced by the protagonist.
4. A standpoint may be defended only by advancing argumentation
relating to that standpoint.
5. A person can be held to the premises he leaves implicit.
6. A standpoint must be regarded as conclusively defended if the
defense takes place by means of the common starting points.

7. A standpoint must be regarded as conclusively defended if the

defense takes place by means of arguments in which a commonly
accepted scheme of argumentation is correctly applied.
8. The arguments used in a discursive text must be valid or capable of
being validated by the explicitization of one or more unexpressed
9. A failed defense must result in the protagonist withdrawing his
standpoint and a successful defense must result in the antagonist
withdrawing his doubt about the standpoint.
10.Formulations must be neither puzzlingly vague nor confusingly
ambiguous and must be interpreted as accurately as possible.

Closing stage
A successful critical discussion ends in the Closing stage with the resolution of the
initial conflict of opinions. It is generally considered as a win-lose argument which
means that one party is deemed as successful while the other is not.
Practical Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Practical Reasoning

Necessary condition schema | Critical questions | See also

Douglas Walton (1990, 1997) has described a simple schema and set of questions by
which reasoning may be rationally undertaken.

Necessary condition schema

Walton describes a Necessary Condition Schema based on a set of premises by which
practical reasoning may be achieved:

Goal Premise: My goal is to bring about A.

Alternatives Premise: I reasonably consider on the given information

that bringing about at least one of [B0,B1,...,Bn] is necessary to bring
about A.

Selection Premise: I have selected one member Bi as an acceptable,

or as the most acceptable, necessary condition for A.

Practicality Premise: Nothing unchangeable prevents me from

bringing about Bi as far as I know.

Side Effects Premise: Bringing about A is more acceptable to me than

not bringing about Bi.

Conclusion: Therefore, it is required that I bring about Bi.

Critical questions
Questions that may be used to resolve these premises include:

Alternative Means Question: Are there alternative means of realizing

A, other than B?

Acceptable/Best Option Possible Question: Is B an acceptable (or the

best) alternative?

Possibility Question: Is it possible for agent a to do B?

Negative Side Effects Question: Are there negative side effects of a's
bringing about B that ought to be considered?

Conflicting Goals Question: Does a have the goals other than A, which
have the potential to conflict with a's realizing A?


Disciplines > Argument > Propositions

What is a proposition | Attributes of a good proposition | Three types of
proposition | See also

In speaking in support of, or against, a subject, making propositions gains agreement

and commitment, changing the minds of your audience.

What is a proposition
A proposition is a viewpoint that you will create, defend or destroy. It should be worded
as a declarative sentence that unambiguously expresses your position.
A proposition can be the main point of your position. It can also be a single supportive
element. It can also be an opposing proposition that you will disprove.

Attributes of a good proposition


A proposition should first be debatable in that arguments may be marshaled for and
against the proposition. This is important for the persuader, too, as one way of
persuading is putting up arguments against the proposition and knocking them down.
Paraphrasing Sherlock Holmes, 'When all other propositions have been disproven, the
truth, however improbable, will be proven.'

As well as arguing for and against the case, it should be possible to conclusively prove
the truth of your proposition. Karl Popper also added the importance of falsifiability. If
you cannot possibly prove something to be false, then you neither can prove it to be

Three types of proposition

There are three types of proposition: fact, value and policy.
Proposition of Fact

A proposition of fact is a statement in which you focus largely on belief of the audience
in its truth or falsehood. Your arguments are thus aimed at getting your audience to
accept the statement as being true or false.
Proposition of Value

In a proposition of values, you make a statement where you are asking your audience to
make an evaluative judgment as to whether the statement is morally good or bad, right
or wrong. This may be done by comparing two items and asking them which is better.
Propositions of Policy
A proportion of policy advocates a course of action. In this, you ask your
audience to endorse a policy or to commit themselves to a particular action.
Toulmin's Argument Model

Disciplines > Argument > Toulmin's Argument Model

Claim | Rebuttal | Grounds | Warrant | Backing | Modal qualifier | See also

Stephen Toulmin, an English philosopher and logician, identified elements of a

persuasive argument. These give useful categories by which an argument may be

A claim is a statement that you are asking the other person to accept. This includes
information you are asking them to accept as true or actions you want them to accept
and enact.
For example:
You should use a hearing aid.
Many people start with a claim, but then find that it is challenged. If you just ask me to
do something, I will not simply agree with what you want. I will ask why I should agree
with you. I will ask you to prove your claim. This is where grounds become important.

The grounds (or data) is the basis of real persuasion and is made up of data and hard
facts, plus the reasoning behind the claim. It is the 'truth' on which the claim is based.
Grounds may also include proof of expertise and the basic premises on which the rest of
the argument is built.
The actual truth of the data may be less that 100%, as much data are ultimately based on
perception. We assume what we measure is true, but there may be problems in this
measurement, ranging from a faulty measurement instrument to biased sampling.
It is critical to the argument that the grounds are not challenged because, if they are,
they may become a claim, which you will need to prove with even deeper information
and further argument.
For example:
Over 70% of all people over 65 years have a hearing difficulty.
Information is usually a very powerful element of persuasion, although it does affect
people differently. Those who are dogmatic, logical or rational will more likely to be
persuaded by factual data. Those who argue emotionally and who are highly invested in
their own position will challenge it or otherwise try to ignore it. It is often a useful test
to give something factual to the other person that disproves their argument, and watch
how they handle it. Some will accept it without question. Some will dismiss it out of
hand. Others will dig deeper, requiring more explanation. This is where the warrant
comes into its own.

A warrant links data and other grounds to a claim, legitimizing the claim by showing the
grounds to be relevant. The warrant may be explicit or unspoken and implicit. It
answers the question 'Why does that data mean your claim is true?'

For example:
A hearing aid helps most people to hear better.
The warrant may be simple and it may also be a longer argument, with additional subelements including those described below.
Warrants may be based on logos, ethos or pathos, or values that are assumed to be
shared with the listener.
In many arguments, warrants are often implicit and hence unstated. This gives space for
the other person to question and expose the warrant, perhaps to show it is weak or

The backing (or support) for an argument gives additional support to the warrant by
answering different questions.
For example:
Hearing aids are available locally.

The qualifier (or modal qualifier) indicates the strength of the leap from the data to the
warrant and may limit how universally the claim applies. They include words such as
'most', 'usually', 'always' or 'sometimes'. Arguments may hence range from strong
assertions to generally quite floppy with vague and often rather uncertain kinds of
For example:
Hearing aids help most people.
Another variant is the reservation, which may give the possibility of the claim being
Unless there is evidence to the contrary, hearing aids do no harm to ears.
Qualifiers and reservations are much used by advertisers who are constrained not to lie.
Thus they slip 'usually', 'virtually', 'unless' and so on into their claims.

Despite the careful construction of the argument, there may still be counter-arguments
that can be used. These may be rebutted either through a continued dialogue, or by pre-

empting the counter-argument by giving the rebuttal during the initial presentation of
the argument.
For example:
There is a support desk that deals with technical problems.
Any rebuttal is an argument in itself, and thus may include a claim, warrant,
backing and so on. It also, of course can have a rebuttal. Thus if you are
presenting an argument, you can seek to understand both possible rebuttals
and also rebuttals to the rebuttals.
Refuting Arguments

Disciplines > Argument > Refuting Arguments

Refute definitions | Refute the logic | Refute grounds | Refute support | Use a counterargument | See also

Given an argument with which you disagree, you can mount an attack on it in a number
of ways.
In a formal argument, the primary arguer must establish a prima facie case (that stands
on its own) and thus carries the burden of proof. The opponent only needs to show that
the case is not proven to win the argument and thus may well focus on attacking and
disproving the given case. An alternative case may also be given, but is not needed.
Refuting is also known as rebuttal, the burden of rebuttal or the burden of clash.

Refute definitions
Look at the words used in the argument. Is their meaning clear? Is there one meaning
only for each? If you can detect vague meaning or ambiguity in the parts of an
argument, then you can show the whole argument to be shaky -- and, of course, you can
shake it until it collapses.

Check for single, clear meanings.

Verify that meanings are clear to everyone.

Seek ambiguity and uncertainty.

Challenge expertise and assumptions of authority.

Show that there are contradictory definitions.

Refute the logic

Consider the rationale being used. Test each statement for logical soundness. Also
test between statements across the argument.

Check that logical connections are clear and sound.

Watch for unfounded assumptions.

Test causes for clear and direct connections.

Check that generalizations, inductive and deductive arguments are

used in the right way.

Look for bias, intentional or otherwise.

Watch out for distractions and changing the subject.

Show that they are using a fallacy of some sort.

Refute grounds
Dig into the data and evidence being used to support the main claim.

Show that there is not enough data being used.

Show that some critical evidence is not being used.

Indicate how data that might refute the argument is being ignored.

Show how data is being misinterpreted or misrepresented.

Seek to uncover suppressed evidence.

Refute support
Look at the supporting statements to the argument. Seek cracks and chinks in the armor.
Look for a place to drive in a wedge. Many arguments have a valid claim but weak

Refute the warrant that links the grounds to the claim.

Refute the backing that supports the warrant.

Look for qualifiers and floppy language that can be challenged.

Find the weakest link in the chain and focus on it until it breaks.

Use a counter-argument
Create another argument that uses more correct logic, that is more powerful and allencompassing than the given argument.

Show your argument to cover more areas.

Show it to cover areas more thoroughly.

Make it more interesting and appealing.

Make the logic and structure complete and sound.

Use solid data that cannot be challenged.

Use a fallacy
And of course you can use fallacies of your own, of which there are many. This, of
course, may be refuted itself. So consider your audience and whether they are capable of
such refutation.

Set Theory

Disciplines > Argument > Set Theory

Membership | Intersection and Union | See also

Set Theory is a basic tool of logical argument. It is a simple concept that focuses on
understanding how things relate to different categories. It is a common trap to
inaccurately assign membership of a group (or set) and consequently make false
Set Theory is best explained using visual overlapping circles, as below. These are
called Venn Diagrams. There are also short-hand symbols that are used to write
relationships is a mathematical way.
Set Theory and Venn Diagrams are very useful for clarifying and understanding
classifications and definitions around the form of 'This is an X, it is not a Y' or 'X and Y
have some things in common'.

A critical first question when identifying something is to categorize it by saying what it
is and is not. In set theory, this means identifying to which sets it belongs.

Individual members

In set theory, we say A is a member of B (symbolically: A c B). This means that A

has all the attributes of B, that A is a B in all respects.


Sets can also be nested, so one set is completely within another set (and is hence
a subset).

Supersets are the inverse of subsets. Thus, if A is a subset of B, then B is a superset of


When an individual member or a subset is outside of a set, the relationship can be

described by using a 'not' statement, which is shown symbolically . Although in normal
English, we could say 'Cats are not Dogs', in Set Theory, 'not dogs'
means everything that is not dogs.

Intersection and Union

Above the level of the individual item, the concern is how sets overlap. When two sets
may have some members that belong to both sets, we can show this as a Venn diagram
with overlapping circles.

Outside the circles are creatures which are neither friends nor dogs.

In this diagram, we can look at it in two ways: the overlapping bit and the nonoverlapping bit.

The overlapping bit is called the intersection and has members which have attributes
of both sets.
In Boolean Algebra, this is an 'and' construct, and may be written A.B, where the dot is
shorthand for 'and'.

When both sets are seen as a single set, this is called the union. In Boolean Algebra, this
is an 'or' construct, and may be written as A + B, where the plus sign means 'or' (not the
normal arithmetic 'plus').

The remaining pieces are a bit odd, as they are the remaining pieces of each set which is
not in the other set. Thus there is 'A and Not B' and 'B and Not A'. The 'not' is often
written as a bar above the set name. It also appears as a tilde (~), thus you may also see
'A and ~B' (the tilde is easier to create when typing on a keyboard).

In Boolean Algebra, the choice of either of these is called an exclusive or (the

intersection is an inclusive or), and is 'A and not B, or not A and B', which also may be
written as:
A.~B + ~A.B
Yaffe's Elements

Disciplines > Argument > Making the argument > Yaffe's Elements
Claim | Evidence | Balance | See also

Communication scholar Philip Yaffe describes three elements to include in a written

argument. This is a simple structure that can be easier to use than Toulmin's
fuller argument model.

Say something about the subject that encourages the reader to want to know more. It
might be something that seems outrageous or something that stimulates needs or goals.
Like a headline, its main purpose is to grab attention.

The CEO is mad.

This is a presentation in support of the claim that gives facts and figures (or perhaps just
opinion) by which the other person will agree with you, take an opposing stance, or seek
more evidence before deciding.

The dictionary describes madness as losing grasp on reality. Spending money we do not
have on a company we do not need which has products our customers do not want is
unreal in the extreme.

This part shows that you have considered the arguments against the claim as well as the
evidence for it. Present the counter-arguments and compare them with the arguments
you have to show that your case is stronger.
But what if buying that company somehow makes sense? Yet it has not
been profitable for five years and we have no experience in that area to
turn it around.


Disciplines > Argument > Syllogisms

Syllogisms are arguments that take several parts, typically with two statements which
are assumed to be true (or premises) that lead to a conclusion. This takes the general
Major premise: A general statement.
Minor premise: A specific statement.
Conclusion: based on the two premises.
There are three major types of syllogism:

Conditional Syllogism: If A is true then B is true (If A then B).

Categorical Syllogism: If A is in C then B is in C.

Disjunctive Syllogism: If A is true, then B is false (A or B).

Also of note for syllogisms is:

Categorical Propositions: Statements about categories.

Enthymeme: a syllogism with an incomplete argument.

Modus Ponens: If X is true then Y is true. X is true. Therefore Y is true.

Modus Tollens: If X is true then Y is true. Y is false. Therefore X is false.

Set Theory: The basics of overlapping groups.

Syllogisms are particularly interesting in persuasion as they include assumptions that

many people accept which allow false statements or (often unspoken) conclusions to
appear to be true. There is a difference between truth and validity in syllogisms. A
syllogism can be true, but not valid (i.e. make logical sense). It can also be valid but not

Types of reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Abduction

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

A is observed. If B were true, then A would be true. Therefore B may be true.
Abductive reasoning, or abduction, is the process of explaining something that is
experienced or observed in some way and where there is no existing knowledge to
explain the phenomenon. It creates ahypothesis that may or may not be true and which
may require further work to verify.

A doctor, meeting a set of symptoms not met before, considers diseases that have similar
symptoms and wonders if the presented condition is something similar.
A detective homes in on what seem to be important clues to a crime.

Abduction was defined by semiotician Charles Peirce who defined it as 'the process of
forming an explanatory hypothesis'. This is in contrast to inductive development of
theories and deductive testing of theories.
The process of abduction may well have a significant subconscious element, for
example where an expert draws on tacit knowledge to explain a new phenomenon.
Nobel Prize-winner Henri Poincar said It is through science that we prove, but
through intuition that we discover.
The principle of abduction aligns with the Constructionist view of the world. Shank
(1998) suggests abandoning the pursuit of detail, preferring the development of 'craft
skills' in abduction, through deliberately seeking surprise and the 'residue of the
unexplained' in anomalies, inconsistencies and incongruities.
Abductive reasoning may be a key skill in the paradigmatic
process described by scientific historian Thomas Kuhn.

Backwards Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Backwards Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Think backwards. Start from what you want and then seek supporting logic.
If you cannot find sufficient reason then you may abandon the decision. Or you may
resort to fallacy, particularly when you are more concerned with persuading than being
logically correct.
You can also think backwards in time, starting with a desired future and working
backwards to

A business leader has already decided what the strategy for the following year will be.
He seeks arguments and evidence that will make the strategy seems sensible and
ignores anything that would make it seem unsound.
A child is asked why they did not do their homework on time. They start with not doing
homework and work backwards to seek an excuse. They come up with the reason that
they left their book at school.
When a person in business wants to propose a new product design, they start from it
being a success and work backwards to what they must do now to engender that

The main approach is not so much to be logical, as to appear to be logical. We are not
rational but rationalizing. In this way we can feel right even when deep down we know
we are wrong.
This is not inevitable and we do have a choice. We can choose reason over unreason,
though this Congress at a price (which is perhaps why so many of us take the
rationalizing path). To be a reasoning person means thinking before speaking,
sometimes rather deeply. This will mean that you speak less, which is probably a good
Reasoning means being sure of basic facts. It also means making logically sound
inferences and deductions that avoid the many fallacies that lure waiting to ensnare us.
It requires arguments that chain cause and effect rather than making breathtaking leaps
of faith.
There is, in fact a way of using backward reasoning that can be helpful. When you are
thinking about some thing in the future and want to connect it with the present, it can be
better to start with that future event and work back towards the present than to step
forwards from now.

One way of using this is in creativity. When you dream up a desirable future, think
'What must happen just before that ideal point?' Then keep asking again 'What must
happen just before that?' until you reach the present.
A variant on creative thinking is problem solving where you want to find the best way
to implement a rational solution. Again, the 'What must happen just before?' question
can lead you to a useful implementation plan.
Another use for backward thinking is in risk management, where you are now looking
at an undesirable future. The question note is 'What might happen just before that?'
In fact this stepping back from the future can be used for negative purposes such as
lying. If you want to create a credible story, it can be better to start from the present and
work backwards than to start from the point of truth and add, Pinnoccio-like, ever-more
incredible lies.
Likewise, the original post-rationalizing be constructed more effectively by backwards
thinking. After all, while you may desperately want what you say to be the truth, in
reality it is a lie.
Backwards thinking is actually a type of cause-and-effect thinking. When
you think forwards, you are looking for the effect caused by an event. A
problem with this is that there can be many effects and it can be difficult to
know which one will lead to the future in question. Thinking backwards is
easier as, while effects can still have many causes, the route to the present
from a future is often clearer than the route from the present to a future.
Butterfly Logic

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Butterfly Logic

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

A makes me think of B, so B causes A. Or vice versa.
What seems to be connected is connected. Connection implies causality, with the earlier
event being the sole cause.
Thought is truth. Because I thought it and it seems reasonable to me, then it must be

There may also be a significant degree of broad generalization or diving into detail as
the person chunks up and down at will.

A person suggests that early pregnancy is caused by smoking, both of which can be
problems in teenage years.
In an argument about climate change, a person goes off on a muse about global things
and comes around to saying that it is all because of China.

Of course this is not real logic, but it is the logic that many people use when making
The real reason that people use butterfly logic is that the brain is made up of connected
neurons and the mind is, by consequence, made of connected thoughts. When we think
of one thing, we are quickly reminded of a number of other things and it can be a small
step to assume they are connected, even to the point where one causes another.
Things associate in various ways, the most common of which are similarity and time.
Similar things get linked because it helps to understand things through other things, so
we can say A is like B or A is a B (eg. that box is like a chair, or a stool is a sort of
chair). This helps also with categorizing things when we first encounter them. As our
memory also has a strong time element, when we think of something we may also think
of a time when we encountered that thing, and hence also recall the other items around
at the time.
Associative memory and thinking also does quick hops from A to B to C to D and so on,
for example when I think of houses I also think of fires, police, hospital, my visits there,
people I was with and so on. This 'butterfly thinking' has a particular effect in the way
we can link seemly distant things. While this is useful creatively, it falls down when we
try to use it in hard reasoning.
When challenged, butterfly logicians have no real reasoning behind their thoughts and
so respond with messages that effectively say 'please do not argue because I have no
answer'. Responses include:

Anger and ad hominem personal attacks.

Empty statements, such as 'It stands to reason'.

Various appeals that are not based on reason.

Ignoring the challenge.

Analogical Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Analogical Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

A is like B. M is in A. N is in B. So M is like N.
In analogical reasoning, an analogy for a given thing or situation is found, where
the analogy is like the given thing in some way. Other attributes of the analogical
situation are then taken to also represent other attributes of the given thing.
To use an analogy:

Start with a target domain where you want to create new


Find a general matching domain where some things are similar to the
target domain.

Find specific items from the matching domain.

Find related items in the target domain.

Transfer attributes from the matching domain to the target domain.

This company is like a racehorse. It's run fast and won the race, and now it needs feed
and rest for a while.
Today is like a day in paradise. We don't need an umbrella.
Dating is like flying. At some point, your feet are going to leave the ground.

Our brains work by patterns and association -- if a perception fits roughly into an
existing pattern, then the existing pattern may be taken as definitive. For example, we
see a half-hidden person and 'recognize' them as someone we know.
We also use similarity in our thinking, where even distant fields may be used
to help understand a given concept or situation. Although this can lead

to fallacious associations, it can also be very helpful in extending

Cause-and-Effect Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Cause-and-Effect Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

When you are presenting an argument, show the cause-and-effect that is in operation.
Help the other person see why things have happened or will happen as they do.
Show purpose. Link things to higher values. Show the inevitable linkage between what
happens first and what happens next. Go beyond correlation (that may show
coincidence) to giving irrefutable evidence of causality.
If you cannot show causal linkage, then you may be successful just by asserting it,
because few people will challenge a cause-and-effect assertion.


Say this

Not this

If I help you, you will be more

I will help you.
When the moon is high,
things are abroad.

Things are sometimes


The new additive to fuel

makes your car go so much

Add our new fuel additive to

your car.

We have deep needs for explanation and to be able to predict what will happen. We also
need to be able to appear rational to others, and that they appear rational to us. When a
person explains cause and effect, we are reassured that they are, indeed, reasonable
people, and we hence trust them and their arguments more than we might otherwise do.

This need leads to psychological effects where you can offer a cause-and-effect
argument that clearly has no real causal connection, yet it is surprising how many
people will accept your argument without question. In a famous experiment, Ellen
Langer et al were able to butt into a queue for a photocopier just by saying 'Can I use
the photocopier because I want to use the photocopier' (yet without giving reason, the
researcher was not allowed to jump the queue).

Comparative Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Comparative Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Comparative reasoning establishes the importance of something by comparing it against
something else.
The size of the gap between the things compared indicates importance. Compare against
a high standard to make something look undesirable. Compare it against a weak
example to make it look good.
To create a logical argument, first establish the validity of the comparison benchmark.
For less logic, the benchmark may be assumed.
There are many ways to compare, for example:

Compare what people have got (or not got) against what others have.

Compare the past with the future.

Compare what is actual with what is ideal.

Compare words and actions against values.


Say this

Not this

You're now better than John,

but you've yet to overtake

You're not good enough.

Think about doubling your

income. What would that be

You could be earning more.

She says she likes animals,

but look at how she is
treating Bonzo.

She is not nice to her dog.

Comparison is a very natural form of judgement as we find it difficult to evaluate
something on a stand-alone basis. We want to know if it is better or worse -- but better
or worse than what? For persuasion, if you can establish the benchmark against which
better and worse is judged, then the rest, as they say, is history.
Not only is there a common assumption that the given benchmark item is the right thing
to compare against, but the assessment of how much better or worse things are is also
assumed to depend on the size of the gap between the item being compared and the
benchmark. Several sequential requests make use of this principle, setting a benchmark
and then using the contrast of the ensuing gap to prompt desired action.

Conditional Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Conditional Reasoning

If...then... | The card trap | So what?

Conditional reasoning is based on an 'if A then B' construct that posits B to be true if A
is true.
Note that this leaves open the question of what happens when A is false, which means
that in this case, B can logically be either true or false. In effect you also need a
statement of the form 'If not A then ...'.

A classic form of conditional reasoning is in using syllogisms, where a general major

premise is combined with a more specific minor premise to form a conclusion.
Syllogisms are easy to get wrong and there are many fallacies.

The card trap

A classic trap was used by Wason and Johnson-Laird (1972) to show how poor we
really are at reasoning.
Four cards are laid out as below:

The conditional statement is now given: 'If a card has one vowel on one side, then it has
an even number on the other side.'
The question is to decide which are the minimum cards that need to be turned over to
prove that the conditional statement is true.
More than half of people questioned said E and 4.
To affirm the antecedent, E is correct. E is a vowel and thus should have an even
number on the other side. If there was an odd number on the other side, the statement
would be false, so E must be turned over to check for this.
But choosing 4 is affirming the consequent. Even though 4 is even, it can have a vowel
or consonant on the other side and the statement is not falsified.
Only 4% said E and 7. The 7 could deny the consequent and hence must be checked. If
there was a vowel on the other side, the statement would be false.
And what of K? There is nothing to say that a card cannot have letters on both sides. If
there is a vowel on the other side, then the statement is also wrong.
A common variant of this shows cards with 3, 8 (faces), and Red and Brown (backs),
and asked 'Which card (or cards) should you turn over in order to test the truth of the
proposition that if a card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is
red?' The answer is 8 and Brown. Only a card which has an even number on one the
face and which is not red on the back invalidates the rule 'If even, then other side red'.

So what?

Be careful about if-then statements, both in your own use and in those that others use. It
does, of course also mean that you can make statements that are logically false and few
people will challenge you.

Criteria Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Criteria Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Start by defining the criteria by which the outcome of a decision will be judged, and
then identify the best decision, given these constraints.
In a logical argument, you will spend much time establishing the criteria as valid first.
In a less logical situation, you may assume the criteria are correct, minimizing the time
spent on any discussion about them.
Criteria which appeal to common values are likely to be easily accepted.


Say this

Not this

I guess your wife will want

something good-looking. How This is the right one for you!
about this one?
How will we know when we
have succeeded? Let's
discuss this first...

Success means maximum


Our manifesto says we must

help those who cannot help
themselves. Now, can this
person help himself?

We should not help this man.

Establishing criteria provides legitimacy for any future argument, as the criteria form
the rules by which right and wrong are judged, even when criteria are assumed to be
true without discussion.
The easier criteria are to accept as reasonable, the less likely it will be that people will
question them. Using common values helps this.
A problem with criteria is highlighted by the question 'by what criteria do you select the
criteria'. This argument could be given again, should criteria for selecting criteria be
agreed. In this way, criteria reasoning, though useful in many ways, may be build on


Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Decomposition

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Break the item in question down into its component parts. Analyze those parts and how
they fit together. And then draw conclusions about the whole.

I want to find out how a Rubic Cube operates. I pull it apart to see its hidden workings.
By reassembling it slowly, I am able to explain its apparently magical cohesion as a
whole in terms of three-dimensional geometry.
I listen to your argument and take note of each element. I then argue against each
element in turn. Having destroyed the parts, I then assume I have destroyed the whole

Much of science takes a decompositional approach to things, breaking them down into
parts, atoms and smaller still. The notion that a thing is the sum of its parts and no more
hence has a highly credible air.

A problem with decompositional thinking is that the whole thing can easily be more
than the sum of its parts. A person is more than bone and muscle. You cannot understand
a car by studying each item in isolation.
A trick in effective decompositional reasoning is to use it as lens, understanding the
parts but not assuming that they fully describe the whole. The biggest trick is in
understanding the relationship between the parts. The problem with this is that
relationships increase with the square of the number of parts, making full understanding
of even a simple device potentially very difficult.
Decomposition is a very useful lens and often does tell the whole story, but
there are many situations where this is an inadequate approach.
Deductive Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Deductive Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Deductive reasoning, or deduction, starts with a general case and deduces specific
Deduction starts with an assumed hypothesis or theory, which is why it has been called
'hypothetico-deduction'. This assumption may be well-accepted or it may be rather more
shaky -- nevertheless, for the argument it is not questioned.
Deduction is used by scientists who take a general scientific law and apply it to a certain
case, as they assume that the law is true. Deduction can also be used to test
an induction by applying it elsewhere, although in this case the initial theory is assumed
to be true only temporarily.


Say this

Not this

Gravity makes things fall. The

The apple hit my head.
apple that hit my head was
Gravity works!
due to gravity.

They are all like that -- just

look at him!

Look at him. They are all like


Toyota make wonderful cars.

Let me show you this one.

These cars are all wonderful.

They are made by Toyota, it

There is a law against

smoking. Stop it now.

Stop smoking, please.

Deductive reasoning assumes that the basic law from which you are arguing is
applicable in all cases. This can let you take a rule and apply it perhaps where it was not
really meant to be applied.
Scientists will prove a general law for a particular case and then do many deductive
experiments (and often get PhDs in the process) to demonstrate that the law holds true
in many different circumstances.
In set theory, a deduction is a subset of the rule that is taken as the start point. If the rule
is true and deduction is a true subset (not a conjunction) then the deduction is almost
certainly true.
Using deductive reasoning usually is a credible and 'safe' form of reasoning, but is based
on the assumed truth of the rule or law on which it is founded.
Validity and soundness

Deductive conclusions can be valid or invalid. Valid arguments obey the initial rule. For
validity, the truth or falsehood of the initial rule is not considered. Thus valid
conclusions need not be true, and invalid conclusions may not be false.
When a conclusion is both valid and true, it is considered to be sound. When it is valid,
but untrue, then it is considered to be unsound.

Exemplar Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Exemplar Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Exemplar reasoning is the use of examples in argument. The example may be told as a
story or may be a short comparator. It may be a duplicate of the situation or may be a
relatively distant metaphor. It may be of a known person, known situation or something
not directly known to the other person.

You should go out more often. I have a friend who used to stay in and was never really
You know I had a dog like yours and he wouldn't fetch things either. I found that
rubbing some jam on the stick worked.
You want to be a pop-star? Look at Jules Markam and how hard he worked. Are you
prepared to put in the hours?

Examples are often very persuasive as they contain evidence of 'real world' situations.
We believe the evidence and so set up a pattern of believing that leads us to agree with
the overall argument.
The assumption in the use an example is that it can be generalized to the situation about
which you are talking. This is not necessarily true and may be resisted with arguments
of the form 'Ah, but this is different...'.
Examples used may be direct, as above, or indirect, such as using them
as metaphor of some kind to map between domains or models,
bringing analogical richness to the situation.
Modal Logic

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Modal Logic

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Describe things in terms of possibility and necessity. Also explore how they intertwine.
For possibility, do not state things in terms of absolute truth, but say how likely things

may be. Use words like seldom, often, probable, possibly, could, unusual.
For necessity, talk about how necessary something is. Thus use words like can, may,
should, ought, must, have to.
Talking about how true or necessary something is gives you more potential in arguments
as you now have an analog continuity of alternatives, rather than the black-and-white
binary decision of simply whether something is true or false, necessary or unnecessary.


Say this

Not this

The door might be open.

The door is open.

You must do it.

You do it.

They could come here.

They will come here.

Traditional logic is based on extension, in that the truth of the logic is found within the
supporting statements. Modal logic is based on intention, in that truth is where you find
it, and that the reality of many situations is that it is impossible to determine exact truth.

A sentence is possible if it might be true (or might be false).

A sentence is necessary if it must be true (and cannot possibly be


A sentence is contingent if it is not necessarily true. (a contingent

truth is true in the given case, but might not have been true).

Necessity and possibility have aspects of a Boolean relationship in that:

It is not necessary that X is true = It is possible that X is not true
It is not possible that X is true = It is necessary that X is not true
The modalities of possibility and necessity are also known as alethic modalities.

Deontic logic is the specific logic about duty, where necessity is has a moral quality to

Pros-vs-Cons Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Pros-vs-Cons Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Pros-vs-cons reasoning seeks to weigh up the arguments for a case (pros) against the
arguments against the case (cons).
The argument will usually end up with a conclusion of whether the pros or cons are
stronger, thus precipitating a 'reasonable' conclusion. Things that will make a 'pro'
stronger (and vice versa) include:

More logical arguments.

More evidence being displayed (including actions and perceptions of

other people).

Greater emphasis being put on key words.

More arguments for the case.

Starting with the favored side allows you to fill the other person's mind with the key
points, such that the second list becomes less easy to absorb. Starting with the
disfavored side allows you to make it sound reasonable, then knock down each of the
disfavored arguments with stronger arguments for the contrary case.
You can also choose between giving all of one side and then all of another, or
alternating between each side (the latter is good for comparing related for-and-against


Say this

Not this

It is useful and cheap, but on It won't last long and will

the other hand it won't last

long and will make you look

make you look ungenerous.

James likes it, Jan likes it, Bill

likes it, Fred likes it. Only Sam Most people like it.
and Alice don't like it.
Look at the list of features on
When you try it at home, you
this...But when you try it at
may find that...
home, you may find that...

Offering arguments both for and against a case makes the arguer seem even-handed,
neutral and hence trustworthy. It also takes the wind out of the sails of a counterargument if you have already discussed the point.
Quantity and quality are often confused, and more arguments for one side can make it
look like that side is the better choice.

Residue Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Residue Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Prove something by showing that all other possibilities are not possible.
This can be done with drama, striking off the alternatives from a figurative list. Then
emphasize that the remaining option must be true.
In more detail, you can start with the problem, highlighting the issue. Then do analysis
that shows the causes of the problem and so lead to options and disproving all except
your chosen alternative. A way of doing this is through Pros-vs-Cons Reasoning.

She is not outside. She is not upstairs. She is not on the ground floor either. There can
only be one conclusion: There is a cellar in this house and she is there.

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's famous detective Sherlock Holmes said 'When you have
eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.'
This classically summarizes the principle of residue reasoning.
This approach assumes of course that the speaker's list of options is a complete set of
options. If an opponent shows further possibilities, then the argument (and perhaps the
arguer) is destroyed.
If residue reasoning does not reach a final conclusion, then at least it may reduce the
number of options, such that you can then compare the remaining possibilities using
another form or reasoning.

Set-based reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of reasoning > Set-based reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Set-based reasoning is founded on Set Theory. Its arguments range around whether
things are members of named groups or not, thus 'A dog is an animal but not a
The basic assumption is one of membership, that an item can be categorized into a given
group or set. This also assumes that both the item and the set exist in the first place. The
following argument then may include consideration of the overlap between sets and the
implications of this.
Set reasoning often thus includes statements along the lines of:

A is a B

If A is a B then...

A is not a B, but it is a C

A is both C and D, therefore...


Say this

Not this

He works for Microsoft.

Microsoft people are
intelligent. Therefore he is

He works for Microsoft and is


If this is an international
standard CD then it will use
ISO standard encryption

ISO encryption will be used


If he is both Italian and lives in

New York, then he is likely to He probably likes pizza.
be fond of pizza.

Set theory makes careful distinction about what a thing is and what it is not. It is thus
very precise about definitions and puts a lot of focus here. It also is concerned with
membership relationships and hierarchies, seeking higher and lower members of an
The verb 'to be' is important here. When we say an item 'is' a member of a set, we
assume it has all the attributes of the set. A common error set-based is when we say to a
person something like 'you are silly'. The person (or others) may take this description to
indicate that they are nothing but silly, having all the attributes of silliness. This can
cause significant psychological effects.

Systemic Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Systemic Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Understand something by considering it as a whole system. Analyze not just the parts
but also the relationships between the parts.
You can use decompositional reasoning to identify parts, but go beyond this in
considering the additional things beyond just the parts.

I argue for a new square in the middle of town by considering the aesthetics of space
and the relationships between the empty square and the tall buildings around it. I also
consider the dynamics of movement and pauses of people during parts of the day and
weekend, including in other squares.

A 'system' is a set of connected parts, each of which may be considered as system in its
own right. An individual part can have any number of different relationships with any
other part of the system. Thus there are relationships between me and the seat I am
sitting on based on space, friction, electromagnetism, gravity, and so on.
A closed system assumes that there is no external influences. Science likes closed
systems as this allows deterministic answers.
An open system assumes that everything can be connected to everything else. The
ultimate open system is the universe, with any part being able to influence any other
part. This is much harder to analyze and understand, but it is also much more real.
Systems also may consider whether or not each part of the system has purpose and will.
Thus, for example, a company is made up of people, all of whom may have purpose
beyond that of the company (and thus making achieving the company's purpose more
complex than it might at first seem).
Syllogistic Reasoning

Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Syllogistic Reasoning

Syllogistic traps | Using Venn diagrams | So what?

Syllogistic reasoning is concerned with using syllogisms to draw conclusions from


Syllogistic traps
We each make many statements in both conversation and writing where we imply
logical connections between unrelated points. Sadly, the logic and truth that we assume
is not always there.
Consider the following statements and conclusion:

Statement 1: All men are animals

Statement 2: Some animals are aggressive
Conclusion: Some men are aggressive

This seems to be a reasonable conclusion, but then consider the following:

Statement 1: All men are animals

Statement 2: Some animals are female
Conclusion: Some men are female

Now the conclusion appears to be ridiculous and false - yet the reasoning is exactly the
same as in the first example. The first example thus has a false conclusion. The animals
who are aggressive are not necessarily men.
What is happening here is that we are using what we know to be true as a substitute for
the logic of the statement. In less certain situations, we use the same unspoken
assumptions and beliefs to less acceptable ends.
There are a number of other syllogistic fallacies that can trap the unwary logician.

Using Venn diagrams

Syllogistic reasoning uses rational logic and hence set theory applies and the best way to
visualize it is to draw a Venn Diagram. The diagram below is a valid drawing that
explains the first two statements in the example.

The conclusion of the example falls into the traps of making the assumption that the
'aggressive animals' and 'men' subsets necessarily overlap, whereas there is no necessity
for this in statements one and two. Although the conclusion could be true it does not
have to be true.

So what?
Beware of making linked assertions that seem reasonable but in fact are logically
You can, of course, make such assertions deliberately, using logic that seems valid to
persuade. If you do this, of course, you run the risk of the other person exposing your
false logic.
Traditional Logic

Disciplines > Argument > Types of Reasoning > Traditional Logic

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Start with premises that are assumed to be true. Then use only logical rationale to derive
a conclusion. Be careful that it is applied correctly. Keep emotion well out of it.


Say this

Not this

All people have potential. You Some people have potential.

are a person. You have
You are a person. You have
Some bananas are yellow.
Some bananas are green. I

Some bananas are yellow.

Some bananas are green.

don't know if there are any

green and yellow bananas.

Therefore some bananas are

green and yellow.

Murder is wrong. Shooting

someone dead is murder.
Therefore shooting someone
dead is wrong.

Shooting someone dead is

murder. Murder is wrong.
Therefore shooting someone
dead is wrong.

Traditional logic, as originated by Aristotle, obeys formal rules and is bivalent -- that is,
it is about truth and falsehood with nothing in between.
A logical flaw or fallacy is one in which the laws of logic are not followed (irrespective
of whether there is real truth there or not). This can often be seen through the use of Set
An argument that has a logical flaw in it is invalid. A valid argument that is actually true
is also sound.
Logical arguments fall down when the premises are false. It is also possible to get
snared in a complex logical argument that seems to follow logical rules, but is in fact
a fallacy.

Virtues of style
Disciplines > Argument > Virtues of style

These are the five elements of style in writing and speaking that were identified by the
early Greeks as essential methods of creating effective rhetoric. By examining each one,
both the true virtues can be identified and also the vices of style, which are effectively
their opposites.

Correctness: following the rules of language.

Clarity: speaking or writing to be understood.

Evidence: creating internal evocative experiences.

Propriety: using language apt for the situation.

Ornateness: using elegance and impressive style.

Style in language is a very helpful part of persuasion. It is not only the message that
persuades but also the words used and the more subtle connotative meaning. Eloquence
in itself is persuasive, as it indicates an attractive intelligence.

Disciplines > Argument > Virtues of Style > Correctness

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Know and use the rules of language.

Acquire a good vocabulary by reading widely, listening to good

speakers and individual study. Know both the meaning of words and
also how to pronounce them.

Know the parts of speech and understand the rules of syntax whereby
these parts are combined together. Know how to punctuate.

Know the correct usage of the language, where words may be used
and where their meaning is unclear.

Above all, be curious. Keep on wondering about the subtler points of language and
maintain it within your field of interest.

Them is the animals what I was talking of. (incorrect)
Those are the animals about which I was speaking. (correct)

Talking correctly shows that you understand the language and that you can say what you
mean. Particularly amongst upper classes, intelligentsia and academics, correct use of
language is also a subtle signal that 'I am well-educated and hence one of you'.
Vices of correctness are very commonplace, including using apostrophe's in plurals (like
this), mispronunciation, poor syntax and so on. The very complexity of the rules of

language makes error not only commonplace but often unrealized. These sentences, no
doubt, contain many such errors.
A time when it is useful to use incorrect language is when you are seeking to
create harmony with the other person by echoing their modes of speech. Some people
('chameleons') do this naturally. As long as it is not seen as parody, this can be an
effective way of bonding with others.
Correctness is also known as Purity.

Disciplines > Argument > Virtues of Style > Clarity

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Speak or write with a constant focus on helping the other person understand what you
are trying to convey. Make it easy for them to understand.
Use simple forms of the language, simple sentences and so on.

Eschew obfuscation. (not clear)
Avoid making things unclear. (clearer)
Be clear. (even clearer)

Clarity is similar to Correctness in that it does seek to follow the rules of language, yet
you can be correct and very obscure. Obscurity occurs when you are using uncommon
words and archaic forms of the language that, although correct, are difficult to
'Plain English' is a movement that seeks to spread clarity in speech and, particularly,
Vices of clarity include using complex sentences and uncommon words in a deliberate
attempt to assert authority by causing confusion. A common form of losing clarity is
where there is ambiguity, such that multiple meanings may be given (again, this can be
a deliberate device).


Disciplines > Argument > Virtues of Style > Evidence

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

To convince people, you should not only seek to make them understand: for real
conviction, you should reach to their emotions by vivid description.
Use sensory language that evokes internal sensory experiences. Thus use 'looks like' to
trigger visual senses, 'sounds like' to trigger auditory senses, etc.
Amplify what you say, exaggerating emotional topics. Enhance with adjectives,
also with adverbs and other parts of speech. Use power words to trigger emotion.

There was utter chaos and the children were terrified.
It was high up, if you see what I mean.
It looked roughly like dark brown tree-bark.

'Evidence', as described in this classical usage, means evocation of emotion through
descriptions so vivid that they can 'see' and 'experience' the evidence and hence
experience the emotions associated with this.
Decisions always have an emotional content, particularly at the point of emotion. Thus
paying attention to emotions is an important part of changing minds. Evoking emotions
also decreases rationality in the decision process. Whereas for clarity you will use the
logic of Logos, for the emotional target of evidence you will work with Pathos.
Vices of evidence include uncontrolled internal experiences that lead people away from
your intended purpose. You can also cause such mixtures of internal experience that the
only result is confusion.

Disciplines > Argument > Virtues of Style > Propriety

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Be careful in your words that they are apt and fit well with one another and also that
they match the situation and create a decent sense of decorum.
Be moderate in what you say. Neither exaggerate beyond reason nor hide your light
under a bushel.
Be considerate of other people and their sensitivities to particular forms of language.

I've had a f***ing good idea. (not a lot of propriety)
I have had a very good idea. (better - less cause of offence)
I have had a an idea. (even better - less boastful)

Propriety is generally context-sensitive, and what is apt in one situation will lack
propriety in another.
Vices of propriety include the use of boorish, crude language, particularly in polite
company (and also when you are not absolutely sure of the company you are in).

Disciplines > Argument > Virtues of Style > Ornateness

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

Use decoration and elaborations within your words that impress and delight your
Use figures of speech (similies, metaphors, etc.) to stimulate and connect with other
Lengthen sentences that weave and turn simple words into beautiful garments of

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Ornateness is, to a large extent, the opposite of Clarity, although both are created with
the audience foremost in mind. The difference is in the intent and, to some extent, the
The intent of ornateness is either to delight or to impress. The audience may simply
enjoy the words alone, regardless of who is speaking them (such as in a theatrical
performance). The goal may also be to impress the audience not so much with the words
but of the speaker (or writer) who presents them. In changing minds this may well be a
useful step along the way to establish credibility, though excessive decoration that
intends only to seek approval quickly loses its appeal.
Vices of ornateness appear either in flat, lifeless style or crass decoration that lacks
eloquence and flow. Beginners and those who have reached a low plateau tend to be
clumsy in their usage of words, either using the wrong words (such as Malapropism) or
creating an overly ornate text wherein the meaning becomes lost.
Extremist Argument

Disciplines > Argument > Articles > Extremist Argument

Position | Argument | Why? | See also

In life there is a spectrum of views we can take on a range of matters. There are some
topics, however, which seem to attract extreme views, from football to climate change.
And of course religion, politics and race.

Not everyone has extreme views and not everyone who has extreme views is an
extremist. To be what may be called 'extremist' is to be consumed by a narrow topic to
the point that it becomes an obsession. Thoughts about the topic crowd out much other
thinking until it is the defining factor of the extremist's life.
Extreme views are characterized by an unwillingness to see other viewpoints as they
take a polarized position in their areas of interest. If I an totally convinced that I am
right, then it is obvious that others are wrong. The extremist amplifies this, making
themselves always right and others always wrong. And the reason others are wrong is
because they are either stupid or bad (or both). Stupid people are inferior and may be
ignored or used to help the extremist feel clever. Bad people must be opposed and
punished (and this cause is often central to the extremists life).

One of the defining characteristics of the extremist is anger. They seldom argue their
views in a calm, reasoned way. They do not seek to understand other viewpoints or
forgive mistakes. Arguing with anger has the basic message of 'Do as I say or I will hurt
you.' Angry people attack rather than listen. They impose rather than accept. Even when
they appear cool, anger is always simmering beneath the surface, ready to erupt at any
moment. Trying to reason with an extremist is unlikely to be successful. They typically
have a 'reason radar' and flip into anger as an escape. When extremists do use reason it
is in attempts to persuade others to their cause, though they seldom have much patience
and easily fall into using fallacies.
Extremists may not even seek to argue. They just want to hurt their targets. In this way,
they act as bullies or worse. When meeting others they draw them into discussion and
then escalate and attack. Otherwise they attack from a safe distance, even hiding their
true identity away from any response. If you find yourself at the sharp end of an
extremist's tongue, the best thing is simply to say little and leave as soon as possible.

Extremists need opposing extremists. They see the world in black and white and take a
'with me or against me' position that creates a useful stream of opponents. While many
may be unwilling victims of this manipulation, others revel in it as they take extreme
opposite positions. Both sides then derive meaning and perverse pleasure in sustaining a
never-ending battle where each dehumanizes the other as evil and so justifies harsh
words (and perhaps even actions).

So what does the extremist position do for the extremist? When we are angry, we
feel powerful, which helps satisfy a deep need for a sense of control. Extremism is a
refuge for those who are uncomfortable with difference and uncertainty. Anger is a way
of coping with fear, and fear is a deep and corrosive cause. Inside, extremists are
As with many things, extremism is a spectrum, a continuum from having strong views
about something to spending every waking moment pursuing those views. It is hence
difficult to identify just when a person becomes an extremist, just as it is difficult to
diagnose exactly when a person's actions makes them a psychopath. Both clearly exist,
but only an extremist, perhaps, would have no trouble in drawing the line.