Welcome to the new How We Argue

Glossary & Key Concepts

What is an Argument?

  • Argument: Communication in which the speaker is trying to persuade their audience to believe, feel or do something by giving reasons.
    • vs. Fight: In a fight, the speaker is just trying to get their way, regardless of whether or not they change their audience’s mind or persuade them to agree. 
    • vs. Description: In a description, the speaker explains what happened, gives information, or tells a story. Their goal is to inform or entertain the audience, rather than convince the audience of a main point. 
  • Why We Argue: 
    • Truth 
    • Justice
    • Connection
    • Skills
  • How We Argue: The dispositions of strong critical thinkers
    • Humility (“I could be wrong”)
    • Openness (“You could be right”) 
    • Value having good reasons for your beliefs
    • The Charity Principle: Treat other people’s arguments how you want them to treat yours

Argument Components

  • Claim: A statement that someone wants you to believe.
    • Main Claim: The main point of the argument; the primary thing the speaker wants the audience to believe.
    • Premise: A claim that gives a reason to believe another claim.
      • Evidence: Concrete, specific factual information presented to support a claim, e.g. quote from a text, historical source, piece of data
      • Reasoning: Explains how/why the evidence helps to prove the claim. 
    • Objection: A claim that gives a reason not to believe another claim. 
    • Rebuttal: A response to an objection. 

Indicator Words

Main Claim Premise Objection
Therefore Since However
So Because But
Thus Seeing as Yet
Hence Given that Even though
Ergo Consider that Although
Accordingly In light of Critics say
As such First/second/third, additionally, furthermore, also, moreover, besides, etc. On the other hand

The Reason Rule

In an argument map, every single premise must always answer the question “why believe this?” about the claim above it. (You should only include a statement in your map if it gives a reason to believe the statement above it.)

Argument Structure Types

Independent Premises: give you separate, distinct reasons to believe the claim above. 

Sub-Premise: a premise that gives you a reason to believe another premise. Arguments with at least one sub-premise are called chain arguments.

Co-Premises: work together or “hold hands” to give one single reason to believe the claim above. (Think of two people making a chair with their hands to carry someone else.)

  • Each co-premise logically connects the other co-premise to the claim above. It spells out how the other co-premise is relevant to the claim above. 
  • If one co-premise is false, the other co-premise does not work as a reason to believe the claim. (Whereas independent premises still work as a reason, even if the other premise is false). 
  • Hidden co-premise: A co-premise that the author assumes but does not explicitly state in their argument. (Often, the true source of a disagreement lies in hidden assumptions.)
  • One common form of co-premises is Evidence+Reasoning (see definitions above).

Evaluating Arguments

Two-step test:
1. Are the premises true or false? (How plausible/ reasonable are they?) 
2. Are the inferences strong or weak?

1. Premises/ Evidence ( = building materials)  2. Inferences ( = structural design)
Good True (probable, reasonable) Strong (relevant, sufficient)
Bad False (improbable, unreasonable) Weak (irrelevant, insufficient)
  • Are the premises relevant to why you should believe the main claim? 
  • Do the premises give you a sufficient reason to believe the main claim?
  • Remember, an argument can have true premises with weak inferences (solid materials, bad design), or false premises with strong inferences (lousy materials, good design) or both/neither. 

What makes an argument good?

  • State a clear main claim
  • Use true premises
    • Given a choice, try to appeal to the audience
  • For empirical (descriptive) claims:
    • Give examples to clarify and illustrate
    • Cite evidence from reliable sources
  • Explain the relevance of the premises to supporting the main claim
    • Be explicit about key assumptions
  • Use precise, specific, and moderate language
  • (Generally) Offer multiple independent lines of reasoning
  • (Generally) Consider and respond to at least one objection

    What is an Argument?

    • Argument: Communication in which the speaker is trying to persuade their audience to believe, feel or do something by giving reasons.
      • vs. Fight: In a fight, the speaker is just trying to get their way, regardless of whether or not they change their audience’s mind or persuade them to agree. 
      • vs. Description: In a description, the speaker explains what happened, gives information, or tells a story. Their goal is to inform or entertain the audience, rather than convince the audience of a main point. 
    • Why We Argue: 
      • Truth 
      • Justice
      • Connection
      • Skills
    • How We Argue: The dispositions of strong critical thinkers
      • Humility (“I could be wrong”)
      • Openness (“You could be right”) 
      • Value having good reasons for your beliefs
      • The Charity Principle: Treat other people’s arguments how you want them to treat yours

    Argument Components

    • Claim: A statement that someone wants you to believe.
      • Main Claim: The main point of the argument; the primary thing the speaker wants the audience to believe.
      • Premise: A claim that gives a reason to believe another claim.
        • Evidence: Concrete, specific factual information presented to support a claim, e.g. quote from a text, historical source, piece of data
        • Reasoning: Explains how/why the evidence helps to prove the claim. 
      • Objection: A claim that gives a reason not to believe another claim. 
      • Rebuttal: A response to an objection. 

    Indicator Words

    Main Claim Premise Objection
    Therefore Since However
    So Because But
    Thus Seeing as Yet
    Hence Given that Even though
    Ergo Consider that Although
    Accordingly In light of Critics say
    As such First/second/third, additionally, furthermore, also, moreover, besides, etc. On the other hand

    The Reason Rule

    In an argument map, every single premise must always answer the question “why believe this?” about the claim above it. (You should only include a statement in your map if it gives a reason to believe the statement above it.)

    Argument Structure Types

    Independent Premises: give you separate, distinct reasons to believe the claim above. 

    Sub-Premise: a premise that gives you a reason to believe another premise. Arguments with at least one sub-premise are called chain arguments.

    Co-Premises: work together or “hold hands” to give one single reason to believe the claim above. (Think of two people making a chair with their hands to carry someone else.)

    • Each co-premise logically connects the other co-premise to the claim above. It spells out how the other co-premise is relevant to the claim above. 
    • If one co-premise is false, the other co-premise does not work as a reason to believe the claim. (Whereas independent premises still work as a reason, even if the other premise is false). 
    • Hidden co-premise: A co-premise that the author assumes but does not explicitly state in their argument. (Often, the true source of a disagreement lies in hidden assumptions.)
    • One common form of co-premises is Evidence+Reasoning (see definitions above).

    Evaluating Arguments

    Two-step test:
    1. Are the premises true or false? (How plausible/ reasonable are they?) 
    2. Are the inferences strong or weak?

    1. Premises/ Evidence ( = building materials)  2. Inferences ( = structural design)
    Good True (probable, reasonable) Strong (relevant, sufficient)
    Bad False (improbable, unreasonable) Weak (irrelevant, insufficient)
    • Are the premises relevant to why you should believe the main claim? 
    • Do the premises give you a sufficient reason to believe the main claim?
    • Remember, an argument can have true premises with weak inferences (solid materials, bad design), or false premises with strong inferences (lousy materials, good design) or both/neither. 

    What makes an argument good?

    • State a clear main claim
    • Use true premises
      • Given a choice, try to appeal to the audience
    • For empirical (descriptive) claims:
      • Give examples to clarify and illustrate
      • Cite evidence from reliable sources
    • Explain the relevance of the premises to supporting the main claim
      • Be explicit about key assumptions
    • Use precise, specific, and moderate language
    • (Generally) Offer multiple independent lines of reasoning
    • (Generally) Consider and respond to at least one objection

    What is an Argument?

    • Argument: Communication in which the speaker is trying to persuade their audience to believe, feel or do something by giving reasons.
      • vs. Fight: In a fight, the speaker is just trying to get their way, regardless of whether or not they change their audience’s mind or persuade them to agree. 
      • vs. Description: In a description, the speaker explains what happened, gives information, or tells a story. Their goal is to inform or entertain the audience, rather than convince the audience of a main point. 
    • Why We Argue: 
      • Truth 
      • Justice
      • Connection
      • Skills
    • How We Argue: The dispositions of strong critical thinkers
      • Humility (“I could be wrong”)
      • Openness (“You could be right”) 
      • Value having good reasons for your beliefs
      • The Charity Principle: Treat other people’s arguments how you want them to treat yours

    Argument Components

    • Claim: A statement that someone wants you to believe.
      • Main Claim: The main point of the argument; the primary thing the speaker wants the audience to believe.
      • Premise: A claim that gives a reason to believe another claim.
        • Evidence: Concrete, specific factual information presented to support a claim, e.g. quote from a text, historical source, piece of data
        • Reasoning: Explains how/why the evidence helps to prove the claim. 
      • Objection: A claim that gives a reason not to believe another claim. 
      • Rebuttal: A response to an objection. 

    Indicator Words

    Main Claim Premise Objection
    Therefore Since However
    So Because But
    Thus Seeing as Yet
    Hence Given that Even though
    Ergo Consider that Although
    Accordingly In light of Critics say
    As such First/second/third, additionally, furthermore, also, moreover, besides, etc. On the other hand

    The Reason Rule

    In an argument map, every single premise must always answer the question “why believe this?” about the claim above it. (You should only include a statement in your map if it gives a reason to believe the statement above it.)

    Argument Structure Types

    Independent Premises: give you separate, distinct reasons to believe the claim above. 

    Sub-Premise: a premise that gives you a reason to believe another premise. Arguments with at least one sub-premise are called chain arguments.

    Co-Premises: work together or “hold hands” to give one single reason to believe the claim above. (Think of two people making a chair with their hands to carry someone else.)

    • Each co-premise logically connects the other co-premise to the claim above. It spells out how the other co-premise is relevant to the claim above. 
    • If one co-premise is false, the other co-premise does not work as a reason to believe the claim. (Whereas independent premises still work as a reason, even if the other premise is false). 
    • Hidden co-premise: A co-premise that the author assumes but does not explicitly state in their argument. (Often, the true source of a disagreement lies in hidden assumptions.)
    • One common form of co-premises is Evidence+Reasoning (see definitions above).

    Evaluating Arguments

    Two-step test:
    1. Are the premises true or false? (How plausible/ reasonable are they?) 
    2. Are the inferences strong or weak?

    1. Premises/ Evidence ( = building materials)  2. Inferences ( = structural design)
    Good True (probable, reasonable) Strong (relevant, sufficient)
    Bad False (improbable, unreasonable) Weak (irrelevant, insufficient)
    • Are the premises relevant to why you should believe the main claim? 
    • Do the premises give you a sufficient reason to believe the main claim?
    • Remember, an argument can have true premises with weak inferences (solid materials, bad design), or false premises with strong inferences (lousy materials, good design) or both/neither. 

    What makes an argument good?

    • State a clear main claim
    • Use true premises
      • Given a choice, try to appeal to the audience
    • For empirical (descriptive) claims:
      • Give examples to clarify and illustrate
      • Cite evidence from reliable sources
    • Explain the relevance of the premises to supporting the main claim
      • Be explicit about key assumptions
    • Use precise, specific, and moderate language
    • (Generally) Offer multiple independent lines of reasoning
    • (Generally) Consider and respond to at least one objection