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On Argument.
by Peter Landry.


Opening Quotes Introduction Ad Hominem A Fortiori
Analogical Reasoning A Posteriori A Priori Argue
The Other Side
He Who Asserts
Must Prove
Axiom Begging the Question Brevity
Calm, Be Calm Cause & Effect Complaint Concept
Conclusion (The Law of)
Deductive Reasoning Dialectic
Dogma (The Law of)
Excluded Middle
Facts False
Too General
Get The Specifics
Hypothesis Inductive Reasoning Inference
Logic Mathematics Non Sequitur Occam's Razor
Do not Argue
Against the Obvious
Post Hoc Premises First Principles
The Procrastinator's
Proof Reasoning Process Reductio ad Absurdum
To Refute Relevancies Scientific Method Socratic Method
Syllogism Synthesis Matters of Taste On Coming to Terms
Thesis Truth Tu Quoque
Quotes On Argument
FURTHER MATERIAL, GO TO >>>>>> blupete's Essay on Philosophy.

Opening Quotes:

"Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless." (Leo Tolstoy.)

"`What do you mean by `If you really are a Queen"? What right have you to call yourself so? You can't be a Queen, you know, till you've passed the proper examination. And the sooner we begin it, the better.' `I only said "if"!' poor Alice pleaded in a piteous tone. The two Queens looked at each other, and the Red Queen remarked, with a little shudder, `She SAYS she only said "if" - ' `But she said a great deal more than that!' the White Queen moaned, wringing her hands. `Oh, ever so much more than that!' `So you did, you know,' the Red Queen said to Alice. `Always speak the truth -- think before you speak -- and write it down afterwards.' `I'm sure I didn't mean -- ' Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen interrupted her impatiently. `That's just what I complain of! You SHOULD have meant! What do you suppose is the use of child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning -- and a child's more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn't deny that, even if you tried with both hands.' `I don't deny things with my HANDS,' Alice objected. `Nobody said you did,' said the Red Queen. `I said you couldn't if you tried.' `She's in that state of mind,' said the White Queen, `that she wants to deny SOMETHING -- only she doesn't know what to deny!' `A nasty, vicious temper,' the Red Queen remarked; and then there was an uncomfortable silence for a minute or two." (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Ch. 9.)


We must judge and stand to be judged. It is natural and right that we do so. To judge it incorrectly, when presented with a situation of consequence, or, worse yet, not to judge it at all, will surely lead to an individual's downfall. From the simplest of things in daily living to the most complex of social problems, we are bound to seek and find out the truth; and, once found, to hold onto it and to advance it. In this life sustaining process, we will be obliged to listen to the arguments, and, where necessary, to make them.

But, what is an argument? The OEDII gives a number of definitions: I intend to take up my subject with its third meaning: "A statement or fact advanced for the purpose of influencing the mind; a reason urged in support of a proposition ..." Or, put in the words of a 19th century author: "Anything is an argument which naturally and legitimately produces an effect upon our minds, and tends to make us think one way rather than another." In order to survive - and hopefully survive well - it will be necessary to listen to and to state arguments: to be able, through pure argument, to convince, or to be able to be convinced, is the usual mark of a successful person, no matter their line of work. In life we must learn life sustaining activities: listening to a good argument and making a good argument are two of these activities. Being in a constant state of argumentation (usually with oneself) is entirely normal and entirely necessary to the living process.

The following are a few argumental terms which have come to mind. I have left out terms which might be described as being philosophic, such as: metaphysics, logic, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. Things philosophic are dealt with in blupete's Essay on Philosophy.


Absurd, Reductio ad Absurdum:-
While originally the argument known as reductio ad absurdum was only to be successful if each and every other competing hypothesis involves an absurdity, it has come to mean an argument that brings out the absurdity of a contention made.

Ad Hominem:-
An argument where the appeal is founded on the preferences or principles of a particular person rather than an abstract truth or logical cogency.

A Fortiori:-
This is a Latin expression which literally means with greater force. In logic, it is where, having made or established a large point, a minor point, subsumed in the larger point, is made at the same time; thus, there is no need to argue the validity of the minor point.

Analogical Reasoning:-
One of three kinds of reasoning which I identify in these pages. This form of Reasoning is inferior to deductive reasoning.

A Posteriori:-
This is another Latin expression; its literal meaning, "from that which comes after." In argument (this is the same for scientific method), it means proving things from observations, from experiences, from the evidence; arguing from the effect or effects to prove the cause.

A Priori:-
More fancy Latin words, literally meaning, "from that which comes before." In argument it is where a person, in an effort to prove a further point assumes the validity of some other point. This other point, it is asked, should be accepted as one that may yet be proven, or which the propounder advances as axiomatic. In other words, one is asked to accept something as knowledge without the benefit of any prior experience (empirical evidence), this knowledge, it is said, comes about a priori. This approach is often the only way to begin any argument, but should not be resorted to during the course of argument; further, one should always bear in mind, that the resolution to any argument, must, of necessity, be dependent on the "beginning assumptions." While there are some things in this world that simply must be accepted without proof as being axiomatic, an assumption or assumptions always weaken one's argument and should be eschewed as a bad practice.

Argue the Other Side:-
It is natural to seek out and attack the weak points in an opponent's case, but this approach only leads your opponent to abandon or strengthen these parts of his case; it is always best, in an on-going argument, to seek out and attack an opponent's case at its strongest. "He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." (Edmund Burke.) It is best to put your opponent's case into the best argued form that you can, then attack; the approach can be devastating.

Assertation: He Who Asserts Must Prove:-
Hardly can anybody start in a neutral position. One cannot argue from a fence top, one must be on one side of it or another; and there is only one side on which one must begin.
Any proposition must either be true or false, it cannot be both; this is known as the law of contradiction. One cannot prove a negative, thus, as the legal maxim will have it, semper praesumitur pro negante, the presumption is always in the negative. In the absence of the acceptance of a proposition being true, the propounder, the person who advances the proposition as being true, has the obligation to proving it to be true. The position from which one must always start is that the proposition (the theory or the hypothesis) is, to start with, false and must be proven to be true.

"A proposition that commends itself to general acceptance; a well-established or universally-conceded principle; a maxim, rule, law." (OEDII.)


Begging the Question:-
This is where one assumes the proposition so that he might prove the proposition; Begging the Question consists in making use of the very proposition in dispute, as though it were already proved.

"Since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes --
I will be brief."
Shaks.: Hamlet.

"In general those who have nothing to say contrive to spend the longest time in doing it." (James Russell Lowell.)


Calm, be Calm:-
"Be calm in arguing: for fierceness makes Error a fault, and truth discourtesy." (Geo. Herbert [1593-1633].) "Use soft words and hard arguments." (Henry George Bohn [1796-1884].) "A soft answer relieves anger." (Proverb.)

Cause & Effect:-
"Given certain factors," as the autocrat said, "a sound brain should always evolve the same fixed product with the certainty of a calculating machine." Oliver Wendall Holmes (1809-94) was stating a law of nature, viz., that the same motives always produce the same actions; the same events follow from the same causes. It is this law that comes to assist us when we are required to predict future events, including the most difficult task of predicting the behavior of people. David Hume (1711-76), in dealing with the philosophical question of whether man has freewill showed that every uniquely different "effect" has an equally different "cause."
"It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same, in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: the same events follow from the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been, from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among mankind." (Human Understanding, "Liberty and Necessity.")
"Cause and effect" as Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) said, "are two sides of one fact .. [like the] seed and fruit they can never be severed." Further, "the effect already blooms in the cause, the end pre-exists in the means, the fruit in the seed." So it follows that it is next to useless to deal with just the effect; at best one will get the briefest of relief. "The cause being taken away, the effect is removed." (Latin proverb.)

Complaint (No Complaint Then No Need To Act):-
"The argument amounts to this:- Nobody complains, therefore nobody suffers. It amounts to a veto on all measures of precaution or prevention, and goes to establish a maxim in legislation directly opposed to the most ordinary prudence of common life; it enjoins us to build no parapets to a bridge till the number of accidents has raised a universal clamor." (Sydney Smith, "Fallacies of Anti-reformers.")

Concept (See "On Philosophy"):-

Consisting of an inference, or inferences which are reached through the reasoning process. "A judgement or statement arrived at by any reasoning process; an inference, deduction, induction." Or, expressed in logic: "A proposition deduced by reasoning from previous propositions: spec. the last of the three propositions forming a syllogism, deduced from the two former or premises."(OEDII.)

Contradiction (The Law of):-
A proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time.


Deductive Reasoning:-
Deductive reasoning is a method by which one might prove a theory, - the process of deriving consequences from admitted or established premises; to take away from the whole, to deduct for a sum; to test the theory on each deductive sum; and to continue to test each new deductive sum until the test fails, at which time an adjustment is made to the theory, and, once again, to expose the new theory to the deductive reasoning process. As Sir Karl Popper has showed us, only the deductive reasoning process (as opposed to inductive and analogical) guarantees the correctness of the conclusion. "To conclude that all apples are red because 1000 apples are found to be red is inductive reasoning, therefore not reliable. Similarly, the argument that John should be able to graduate from college because his identical twin who inherited the same faculties did so, is reasoning by analogy, and the results from this process are not reliable. Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, although it can take many forms, does guarantee the conclusion. Thus, if one grants that all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, one must accept that Socrates is mortal. The principle of logic involved here is one form of what Aristotle called syllogistic reasoning. Among other laws of deductive reasoning Aristotle included the law of contradiction (a proposition cannot be both true and false) and the law of excluded middle (a proposition must be either true or false)."1

Dialectic Method:-
"The dialectic," is a branch of logic in the art of reasoning and\or disputing. It is a classic approach, one at which Socrates was a master. Through the use of it, Socrates (and, in my experience, many a good cross-examining lawyer) would lead his adversary to make clear his position on the subject, then, often with the introduction of an absolutely contrary theory, discussion would ensue, which may lead to an admission, on the other side, that there does exist, maybe only in a minor particular, that one of their beliefs, formerly held, is inaccurate. The German philosophers of the idealist school were partial to the dialectic method. It was employed, as often it was, beginning with Plato, to set one theory in opposition with another, and thus to develop a subject in a comprehensive manner. First an idea (a Thesis) was thrown up against another theory (an Antithesis); from this, it was thought, an advance might be made to a third stage, a stage which would bring the disputants closer to the truth. Often, - though not necessarily, - the third stage would come from a combination of both the ideas: a synthesis would occur. What is suppose to come from this process is the truth of a proposition; this is not to be confused with a negotiation process whereby, usually, compromises are wrought out. It must be remembered that while the truth may lie between one proposition or another, it may (I suggest more likely than not) lie fully with one thesis or the other (either the Thesis or the Antithesis). It is my impression that the German idealist school, - for that matter, most any school of thought - through the dialectic always came away with a synthesis, "a combo" of the two ideas under review (the Thesis and the Antithesis). Thus, much of what we believe is a "remix" of ideas previously held or held by others; ideas get mixed over and over again in, it would seem, in an ever-ending process. The overall result is a hopeless maze of probabilities, which some souls would assert is exactly what reality is all about.

Dogma is an opinion received from another in a position of authority and is accepted as a settled truth; it is not based on experience or on demonstration.
"[Dogma] is essentially an artificial doctrine, a learned doctrine [viz. not to be gained from experience or demonstration]. It is an inference from facts which the mass of mankind could never have found out for themselves; facts which, without a distinctly learned teaching, could never be brought home to them in any intelligible shape. Now what is the value of such a doctrine? Does it follow that, because it is confessedly artificial, because it springs, not from a spontaneous impulse, but from a learned teaching, it is therefore necessarily foolish, mischievous, perhaps unnatural? It may perhaps be safer to hold that, like many other doctrines, many other sentiments, it is neither universally good nor universally bad, neither inherently wise nor inherently foolish. It may be safer to hold that it may, like other doctrines and sentiments, have a range within which it may work for good, while in some other range it may work for evil. It may in short be a doctrine which is neither to be rashly accepted, nor rashly cast aside, but one which may need to be guided, regulated, modified, according to time, place, and circumstance. I am not now called on so much to estimate the practical good and evil of the doctrine as to work out what the doctrine itself is, and to try to explain some difficulties about it, but I must emphatically say that nothing can be more shallow, nothing more foolish, nothing more purely sentimental, than the talk of those who think that they can simply laugh down or shriek down any doctrine or sentiment which they themselves do not understand. A belief or a feeling which has a practical effect on the conduct of great masses of men, sometimes on the conduct of whole nations, may be very false and very mischievous; but it is in every case a great and serious fact, to be looked gravely in the face. Men who sit at their ease and think that all wisdom is confined to themselves and their own clique may think themselves vastly superior to the great emotions which stir our times, as they would doubtless have thought themselves vastly superior to the emotions which stirred the first Saracens or the first Crusaders. But the emotions are there all the same, and they do their work all the same. The most highly educated man in the most highly educated society cannot sneer them out of being." (Edward A. Freeman (1823-92), "Race and Language.")


Excluded Middle (The Law of):-
A proposition must be either true or false.


A fact is "something that has really occurred or is actually the case; something certainly known to be of this character; hence, a particular truth known by actual observation or authentic testimony, as opposed to what is merely inferred, or to a conjecture or fiction; a datum of experience, as distinguished from the conclusions that may be based upon it." (OEDII.) While "facts are stubborn things" you must have some of them before commencing your argument: "Facts are more powerful than arguments." Facts have been likened to the beads; and the theory, a string on which they are to be hung. Theory is fine, and, entirely necessary; but one must insist on getting at the facts. One must raise their arguments on a foundation of facts: and, insist, that others do likewise.
"It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste. ... The brightest flashes in the world of thought are incomplete until they have been proven to have their counterparts in the world of fact." (John Tyndall, Fragments of Science.)
And we give the last word on this subject of facts, of course, to Oliver Wendall Holmes:
"All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called 'facts.' They are the brute beasts of the intellectual domain. Who does not know fellows that always have an ill-conditioned fact or two which they lead after them into decent company like so many bulldogs, ready to let slip at every ingenious suggestion, or convenient generalization, or pleasant fancy? ... Facts always yield the place of honor, in conversation, to thoughts about facts; but if a false note is uttered, down comes the finger on the key and the man of facts asserts his true dignity."

False Consolation:-
I have found in my experience at the bar that my opponent was always interested in getting the jurors or the trial judge to look into other corners. They often do not argue their case; they may argue, for example, that the Defendant can afford to pay, or the plaintiff doesn't deserve the award on the basis that there are people worse off. The argument of false consolation was one that your mother used when she wanted you to eat your spinach, "Just think of all the starving children in China." Whether I should eat spinach, or not, has absolutely nothing to do with the children in China. (I remember thinking - never expressed - that if the person proffering the spinach could figure a way to get the spinach, then in front of me, off and over to China: I would support the effort.) "Why should the smallest evil be endured which can be cured because others suffer patiently under greater evils? Should the smallest improvement attainable be neglected because others remain contented in a state of still greater inferiority." (Sydney Smith, "Fallacies of Anti-reformers.")

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General Terms (Get The Specifics):-
It is a legal maxim that, "A deceiver deals in general terms." Therefore give specific and concrete examples in your presentation, and, be critical of anyone who does not do likewise.


A hypothesis is that mental shape or concept which one holds of a larger situation; constructed from, and which fits, all known facts (see scientific method). However, a hypothesis is always but a Theory to be refined. A hypothesis may have a good number fellow hypotheses on which it relies. A hypothesis may not be a true representation of the events or things to be perceived; but any self-respecting hypothesist would only put forth a hypothesis which is consistent with all known facts. "One of the conditions of a good hypothesis is, that it fairly comport with all other phenomena of nature, as well as those 'tis framed to explicate." (Robert Boyle, 1627-1691.)


Inductive Reasoning:-
Inductive reasoning is based upon, or characterized by the use of induction, or reasoning from particular facts to general principles. It is a method by which reasoning is grounded. Though there is a great mass of people -- yet, and to continue yet -- whose observations are cursory and narrow; they nonetheless might be described as philosophers, inductive philosophers without knowing it. Their resulting inferences are equally narrow; and, sadly, too, -- often crude, prejudiced, and just plain wrong. Inductive reasoning is one of three kinds of reasoning which I identify in these pages (the other two: analogical and deductive). While inductive reasoning, as a method of reasoning, is considered inferior to deductive reasoning, it is, in the final analysis, maybe, the only method open to us: defective as inductive reasoning maybe. However, inductive reasoning, as a method, often proves to be attractive, for it gets one away from a priori thinking with its high-flown language and its imprecise ideas. "In Inductive reasoning, the parts are first stated, and what is predicated of them is also predicated of the whole they constitute." (Bowen, 1864.) In the final analysis, however, as Herschel, the younger, pointed out, in 1830: "The whole of natural philosophy consists entirely of a series of inductive generalizations."
"... facts to principles is called induction, which in its highest form is inspiration; but, to be sure, the inward sight must be shown to be in accordance with outward fact. To prove or disprove the induction, we must resort to deduction and experiment. ... The inductive principle is founded in man's desire to know ... Before these methods were adopted the unbridled imagination roamed through Nature, putting in the place of law the figments of superstitious dread. For thousands of years witchcraft, and magic, and miracles, and special providences ... had the world to themselves." (John Tyndall (1820-93), Fragments.)
In conclusion, I should say, the inductive process is automatic and natural to a normally healthy human being; it is inherent and comes with our basic issue and goes along with the known seven senses; it is a natural law instilled within us which maybe known as the law of conditioned reflexes or the law of association. (See, too, scientific method.)

If ones needs to be convinced that the meaning of this word is much disputed in the academic world, they need only consult the OED. The word, inference has become a finely dissected word. Indeed, some logicians claim that the making of an inference is not something that can be done in certain of the reasoning processes. For example, strictly speaking, one cannot draw an inference from the deductive process; the best that one might expect to receive - through the syllogistic process - is a newly stated hypothesis, which, of course, being but an hypothesis, requires further working. At any rate, an inference, whatever it maybe, comes about in Logic, and is "the forming of a conclusion from data or premises, either by inductive or deductive methods ..."


Logic I have dealt with in blupete's Essay on Philosophy


Mathematics is pure logic, applied. It is "the abstract science which investigates deductively the conclusions implicit in the elementary conceptions of spatial and numerical relations, and which includes as its main divisions geometry, arithmetic, and algebra." The OEDII continues: mathematics, in a wider sense, includes "those branches of physical or other research which consist in the application of this abstract science to concrete data. When the word is used in its wider sense, the abstract science is distinguished as pure mathematics, and its concrete applications (e.g. in astronomy, various branches of physics, the theory of probabilities) as applied or mixed mathematics."


Non Sequitur:-
An inference or a conclusion which does not follow from the premises.


Occam's Razor:-
Occam's razor is a principle which was first pronounced by William of Occam (1300-49). The principle runs as follows: for purposes of explanation, things not known to exist should not be postulated as existing; entities or supposed existences ought not to be multiplied beyond the point of the simplest possible explanation, not beyond what is absolutely necessary. A person who prefers "materialism" will use occam's razor to full advantage, a materialist being one who prefers natural explanations, where they are at all plausible.

Obvious, Do not Argue Against the Obvious:-
"One does not argue against the sun." (Latin Proverb.)


Post Hoc:-
The fallacy of thinking that a thing which follows another is therefore caused by it.

That which we start with. A previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion. Usually there are two propositions from which the conclusion is derived in a syllogism. They may be compared with the footings of a structure; and, any structure can be no more solid then its footings. To be effective, one must always test and re-test the premises as being true, if they are off the mark, even by a little (see, The Law of Contradiction) then the conclusions cannot be trusted.

Principles, Statement of First Principles:-
There is an old legal maxim, "there is no arguing with anyone who denies first principles." Therefore, the first task is to see if there can be a statement of principles upon which the opponents can agree.

Procrastinator's Argument:-
"Wait a little, this is not the time. This is the common argument of men who, being in reality hostile to a measure, are ashamed or afraid of appearing to be so." (Sydney Smith, "Fallacies of Anti-reformers.")

The evidence may range through every degree, from the barest likelihood to an undoubted moral certainty. In a court of law the degree of proof will vary depending on the seriousness of the matter, viz., to prove a person to be a criminal requires a fairly high degree of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) versus a civil claim such as a claim that your neighbour owes you money (balance of probabilities).
It is well to understand under this head, proof, to remind you of the burden under which the propounder of the proposition labors: he who asserts must prove. Thus, it is well established, in regular argument, and certainly in any court of law, that an aggrieved party must lead evidence to prove the assertions or allegations against another.


Reasoning Process:-
There are three methods of reasoning: inductive, analogical, and deductive.

Refute, to Refute or Make Paradoxical Statements:-
It was Aristotle[Sophistical Refutations, Bk. 1, Ch. 12, para. 5] who first showed that the winning of the argument will come about once you have obtained paradoxical statements from your opponent. The object is to get your opponent committed to two statements, which when compared are paradoxical.
Let us demonstrate by quoting Aristotle:
"In their view the standard of nature was the truth, while that of the law was the opinion held by the majority. So that it is clear that they, too, used to try either to refute the answerer or to make him make paradoxical statements, [thus, you have reduced your opponent where he has to take one position or the other] just as the men of to-day do as well. Some questions are such that in both forms the answer is paradoxical; e.g. 'Ought one to obey the wise or one's father?' and 'Ought one to do what is expedient or what is just?' and 'Is it preferable to suffer injustice or to do an injury?' You should lead people, then, into [one or the other of two] views [to which is restricted, either the one] opposite to the majority ... [or the other opposite] to the philosophers; if any one speaks as do the expert reasoners, lead him into opposition to the majority, while if he speaks as do the majority, then into opposition to the reasoners. For some say that of necessity the happy man is just, whereas it is paradoxical to the many that a king should be happy. To lead a man into paradoxes of this sort is the same as to lead him into the opposition of the standards of nature and law: for the law represents the opinion of the majority, whereas philosophers speak according to the standard of nature and the truth. Paradoxes, then, you should seek to elicit by means of these common-place rules. Now as for making any one [to make your opponent] babble, ... This is the object in view in all arguments ..."

To introduce irrelevancies into your argument, in addition to consuming valuable time, is to give the impression that your position is weak. One is obliged to keep in mind the point, or the objective; and everything said or written must be consistent with it, and to advance it.


Scientific Method:-
The scientific method is the inductive reasoning process strictly applied. The scientific method demands that all assumptions be questioned, it is skeptical to a degree, and starts with the fundamental assumption that material effect is impossible without material cause. Scientific theories, and this is just as so for philosophic statements, can only be put as hypotheses, propositions, which can never be known as certain, but which can be deliberately put to the test of observation and experiment, and revised or rejected if their predictions get falsified. To accept these statements one has to be familiar with the empiricist school and the works of Locke and Hume. We are to thank the empiricist school for the development of natural physical laws, such as Newtonian laws. That we should proceed by our senses, as we have in scientific theory, and accept only that which is consistent and coherent with past experiences, is equally applicable to philosophic thought; this proposition has been fully developed by Sir Karl Popper; see in particular, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) (Princeton University Press, 1971).

See treatment in blupete's Essay on Philosophy.

Socratic Method:-
A method named after the classic Greek philosopher, Socrates. Incidentally, Socrates left no books; what we know of him comes to us through the writings of Plato. Personally, the mentioning of Socrates brings to mind the "Socratic method"; a method employed, to my great frustration, I recall, by a number of my law school professors; a method which hardly brought about many answers, just more and more questions. "Feigning total ignorance before the opinionated, he would with celebrated Socratic irony pose a simple question such as 'What is courage?' From the replies given he would construct contradictory consequences and so start again. His aim was to act as a midwife to those in labour for knowledge."

A syllogism is an argument expressed in the form of two propositions, called the premises; which, are carefully chosen and placed in respect to one another, such, that the reasoner can infer a further and different proposition, a third proposition called the conclusion.

See Dialectic Method.


Matters of Taste:-
Before setting out to argue with anyone, make a determination, right at the first, as to whether your opposite number holds his or her views because of a matter of taste, or as a matter of fact. One cannot be cornered into arguing matters of taste. As Macaulay has observed, when their morality is not a science, but a taste, when they abandon eternal principles for accidental associations - then it is not likely that rational argument will change the situation and you might well consider conserving your energy.

Terms (Defining or Coming to Terms):-
The chief reason people remain in controversy and draw different conclusions even though, in reality, they face the same set of external facts is that there is some ambiguity in the expression, and that the disputants affix different ideas to the terms employed in the controversy.
"... Men affix different ideas to their terms [and so it is easy to see they] form different opinions of the same subject... It is true, if men attempt the discussion of questions which lie entirely beyond the reach of human capacity, such as those concerning the origin of worlds, or the economy of the intellectual system or region of spirits, they may long beat the air in their fruitless contests, and never arrive at any determinate conclusion. But if the question regard any subject of common life and experience, nothing, one would think, could preserve the dispute so long undecided but some ambiguous expressions, which keep the antagonists still at a distance, and hinder them from grappling with each other." (Hume, Human Understanding, "Of Liberty and Necessity.)

See treatment under the Dialectic Method.

"Right or wrong, a thoughtfully-uttered theory has a dynamic power which operates against intellectual stagnation; and even by provoking opposition is eventually of service to the cause of truth." (John Tyndall (1820-93), Fragments.)
As Sir Karl Popper put it, "All theories are trials; they are tentative hypotheses, tried out to see whether they work."[The Poverty of Historicism (1957) (Routledge, 1969).] For a theory to be valid, even a first approximation, it must be compatible with all known observations. If a theory does not work in practice, it is likely because there is something wrong with the theory and it is in need of revision.
"Of nearly every theory it may be said that it agrees with many facts: this is one of the reasons why a theory can be said to be corroborated only if we are unable to find refuting facts, rather than if we are able to find supporting facts." (Bryan Magee's Popper.)
"A theory must first of all provide a solution to a problem that interests us. But it must also be compatible with all known observations, and contain its predecessor theories as first approximations - though it must also contradict them at the points where they failed, and account for their failure." (Magee, Ibid.)

See blupete's Essay On Truth.

Tu Quoque:-
An argument which consists in retorting a charge upon one's accuser. It is a rejoinder best reflected in the expression, "Physician heal thyself." Incidently, saying nothing to the charge, being Mum, is the "Italian tu quoque."

Quotes RE Argument:-

"Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And thought of convincing while they thought of dining."
Goldsmith: Retaliation.

"Since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes --
I will be brief." (Shaks.: Hamlet.)

"Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact." (George Eliot.)

"In general those who have nothing to say contrive to spend the longest time in doing it." (J. R. Lowell.)

"I am no orator ... [I] am a blunt man." (Shaks., Julius Cæsar.)

"One has to vulgarize his messages so as to get them safely into the brain of the audience." (Arnold Bennett.)

Quod dubitas, ne feceris - Where you doubt, do nothing. (A legal maxim.)

Qui prior est tempore potior est jure - He who is first in time has the strongest claim in law. (A legal maxim.)

Qui non improbat, approbat - He who does not disapprove, approves. (A legal maxim.)

"The true way to be deceived is to think oneself more clever than others." (Rochefoucauld, Maxim 127.)

"When two parties with fixed ideas, different from one another, begin to quarrel, the dispute will never come to an end, except through the weariness of the combatants. ... Instead of reasoning upon a deceptive word, let us consider effects." (Bentham, p. 79-80.)

"The hydrostatic paradox of controversy -- Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way, - and the fools know it." (Oliver Wendall Holmes.)


1 See Kline.


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[Essays, First Series]
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2013 (2016)

Peter Landry