Understanding the ethics of argumentation

It can seem difficult to keep all of this in mind when building your arguments. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, theory will have a habit of flying right out the window. It isn’t impossible, though. Just by knowing about these techniques and how to apply them is already half the battle won. All you have to do is keep them in your mind, study them multiple times and make an effort to use them each time you argue with someone. With practice comes skill, and there will come a point where you won’t even have to think about how you structure your argument to do it well.

Understanding the ethics of argumentation, the factors that contribute to bad arguments and the logic of building arguments are all well and good, but without guidance on how exactly to put this learned knowledge to practice it is completely useless. Playing fair and playing well are excellent ideals to hold, but ultimately you do also still want to win – to convince your opponent to see things your way and make things move forward the way you want.

Just the same as if you trumped your opponent in an argument where your side was in the wrong would be a loss for everyone, losing when you really are right is just as much of a tragedy, with the added chagrin of knowing that if only you had done better you could have swayed things in your direction.

So, giving your arguments the best possible shot at actually winning is not just a great personal bonus but a moral obligation. Whatever the outcome is probably won’t affect just you and your opponent. It probably affects a lot more people than just the two of you, be they closely attached to you or complete strangers and you owe them as well as yourself to make sure you deliver your arguments in the best possible way.

There are three pillars to effective persuasion: the internal, the external and the abstract. They have already been alluded to in the section of why arguments fail – the internal is the central pillar: factors that lie within yourself, such as your attitude towards the issue, the argument and your opponent.

The external are those to do with how your opponent views you and your argument. Ultimately, you cannot directly control this, but through exercising a bit of friendliness and charisma you can go a long way towards influencing their perception.

Finally, the abstract are those to do with the argument itself, your evidence and the logic you use to arrive at your conclusions. With the objective of having the best chance of convincing your opponent in mind, I am going to provide you with ten tips that will help you achieve that goal.


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