We explain what an argument is, what types exist, its structure, examples of arguments and how to do it. Also, what is a counterargument.
What is an argument?
An argument is the expression of a reasoning , whether oral or written, as part of the logical attempt to demonstrate the validity or invalidity of a thesis or proposition, through its link to a series of conclusions.
In other words, an argument is a form of reasoning that justifies a position regarding something, through a set of premises and a conclusion logically drawn from them . Arguing, therefore, means giving arguments to the other, as lawyers do during a trial to try to convince the jury.
Arguments are part of speeches and opinions, but they are not always valid or convenient. Therefore, they do not always succeed in defending a position, that is, in convincing or motivating an action. For example, a discussion typically consists of two or more people exchanging arguments to try to make others think about an issue as they do.
The validity of an argument depends on the logical procedure they offer, for which they must be consistent and consistent, that is, they must not contradict themselves, nor should they lack formal structure (that is, they cannot have “gaps”). In case they are not valid, they are often referred to as fallacies.
Depending on their content and procedures, it is possible to identify different types of arguments, so that they can be very numerous, since there is no single way of arguing. Some of them are:
- Deductive arguments . Those who start from safe or probable premises and draw conclusions that are surely valid from them, going from the general to the particular. It is a kind of common argument in science and formal logic , which however is limited by the veracity of its premises, which are taken as a starting point. For example: If all humans necessarily die, and in particular I am human, it is certain that I will die.
- Inductive arguments . They proceed contrary to deductives, based on the specific to reach the general. Thus, the inductive method has some creativity and is less accurate, but it is particularly useful for actuarial sciences and statistics. For example: If a person wins the lottery, and I also play the lottery, I will probably win it too.
- Abductive arguments . In this case, the arguments do not start from certain premises, but assume two isolated premises and obtain a probable conclusion, although unverifiable. For example: If a friend fights with his girlfriend, and after a while I see him kissing with another girl, I can assume that he broke up with his girlfriend in the wake of the fight.
- Causal arguments . They are those that start from linking an event with another, according to the laws of cause and effect. In that sense, they establish a link that apparently seems necessary, but that might not be. For example: Every time I travel by bus, I get dizzy. So the bus is the cause of my dizziness.
- Arguments for generalization . They are those that propose to extend a property to a group of elements, only for having observed it in a few members of the set. For example: I am irascible and I am Gemini, and my friend Yenny is irascible and also Gemini; Therefore all Gemini are irascible.
Every argument consists of two basic elements:
- Premises . The starting points of logical reasoning, which provide the initial elements from which to find something. They can be of different number. For example: “All men are mortal” and “I am a man.”
- Conclusions . The second part of the reasoning, which depends on the first and is obtained from some kind of logical procedure, thus ending the argument. For example: “I am mortal then.”
These elements are organized as follows:
- Affirmation . The initial premise of the argument, that we want to prove or justify.
- Reasoning . The reason for the statement, that is, the logical or formal support that sustains it.
- Evidence . The evidence we provide to prove or prove the reasoning.
How to make an argument?
To develop an argument, it is necessary to follow the following steps:
- Choose the premises . The first step for any argument involves information, so it is necessary to know what we are talking about and what our position is about it. Once the premises have been formulated, we must choose the one we will use as an affirmation, that is, the initial one to justify or sustain it from now on. For example: “Flying by plane pollutes more than traveling by car”
- Find the most appropriate reasoning . This means choosing among the possible methods of logical justification to support our statement, which is equivalent to choosing a path that leads to the desired goal . Depending on this path, we must choose one or the other evidence. This may also influence, if any, the premises of our opponent in the debate. For the previous example, a good reasoning would be one that comes to the explanation of the operation of the engines of an airplane and the type of fuel it uses, to demonstrate its chemistry and how it throws much more carbon into the atmosphere .
- Go to the evidence . This implies resorting to specific cases, to arguments of third parties, to criteria of authority, in short, to any type of propositions that serve to support the premises or the initial statements. For the example we are giving, the ideal would be to have statistics, scientific articles or other evidence to support what was said.
Examples of Arguments
Here are a couple of examples of argument:
- Premise : “Buenos Aires is the city with the most bookstores in the world.”
Reasoning : “Taking into account that only in a small neighborhood of the city like Recoleta can we easily count more than ten bookstores, how many can we not find in a large neighborhood like Palermo? How many will be then in the 48 that make up the city? There is no other city in which there is a similar percentage. ”
- Premise : “Storms can cause migraines.”
Reasoning : “According to an article in the Nature magazine of 2012, this incidence is not uncommon and has to do with atmospheric pressure, which most affects organisms genetically prone to migraine. And in the article they also cited several research at the University of Oxford that supported it. ”
A counter argument or objection is a reply, that is, to an argument that is used to contradict another , demonstrating its invalidity or pointing out the weak points of its structure, to state just the opposite. It is also possible to use a counterargument to object to another, in a chain of logical confrontations that usually occur in discussions or debates.