The Point of Argument

The point of a good argument isn’t for one person to simply win over the other. It’s ideally for both to come away with cognitive gains.

Even if the goal of an argument is to reach a decision, the goal isn’t to win, the goal is to define the parameters for a good decision and then make the best possible decision with that in mind.

I’ve come to believe that when two reasonably smart people disagree on a subject, at the core, it is often because one of the following:

  1. One or both of the participants is missing key information.
  2. One or both of the participants made a logic error that leads to a wrong conclusion.
  3. The participants agree on the facts, but have different values and priorities leading them to either disagree on what conclusion should come from the facts.

In my mind, a good debate tries to expose missing facts and illogical conclusions so that two in the debate can get to the real crux of the matter, how their biases, experiences, and values shape their beliefs.

I’m assuming here that both participants are invested in the debate. When one isn’t, it becomes overwhelmingly tempting to resort to any means necessary in order to wipe that smug smirk off your opponent’s face.


The goal should be to define the parameters of where everyone can agree.

Folksonomies: debate logic

/finance/investing/venture capital (0.474355)
/sports/hockey/field hockey (0.340177)
/law, govt and politics/law enforcement/coast guard (0.332278)

best possible decision (0.986149 (positive:0.713948)), reasonably smart people (0.982539 (positive:0.500475)), participants (0.851954 (negative:-0.350385)), good argument (0.817861 (positive:0.769662)), Argument The goal (0.814443 (positive:0.503220)), cognitive gains (0.813640 (positive:0.483136)), wrong conclusion (0.770931 (negative:-0.850001)), illogical conclusions (0.769324 (negative:-0.535763)), key information (0.733143 (negative:-0.711212)), real crux (0.722026 (negative:-0.535763)), logic error (0.719816 (negative:-0.850001)), good decision (0.712600 (positive:0.713948)), different values (0.692516 (neutral:0.000000)), good debate (0.674817 (negative:-0.535763)), parameters (0.494718 (positive:0.608584)), facts (0.493851 (negative:-0.183870)), point (0.450096 (positive:0.636441)), mind (0.414401 (positive:0.713948)), biases (0.343422 (negative:-0.267765)), opponent (0.322925 (negative:-0.730906)), priorities (0.319653 (neutral:0.000000)), person (0.318032 (positive:0.769662)), subject (0.305476 (positive:0.500475)), core (0.305298 (neutral:0.000000)), means (0.303570 (negative:-0.730906)), matter (0.300514 (negative:-0.535763)), face (0.300178 (negative:-0.730906))

Debut albums (0.977088): dbpedia
English-language films (0.913469): dbpedia
Logic (0.902913): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Reasoning (0.803206): dbpedia | opencyc
Philosophy (0.791711): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Critical thinking (0.791619): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Argumentation theory (0.705505): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Typography (0.641514): dbpedia | freebase

 Argue Well By Losing
Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  Haack, Phil (Oct 21, 2013), Argue Well By Losing, Retrieved on 2013-10-22
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: debate logic argument


    09 JUL 2013

     Examples of Great Arguments and Rhetoric

    These quotes must be generalized enough to apply to a variety of situations.
    Folksonomies: rhetoric debate
    Folksonomies: rhetoric debate