Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Argument & Quarreling

One sense of the word "argument" is disagreement or objection combined with soaring blood pressure. I state an opinion, you disagree, but neither of us can provide reasons for our opinions, which are our conclusions about the topic under discussion.

The other sense of the word "argument" is that an argument is a claim supported by other claims. An argument in this sense consists of a conclusion and the reasons that allegedly support the conclusion. Argument in this sense has nothing to do with bickering.

One way to tell the difference between an argument and the expression of opinion or personal belief is to ask if a better argument would lead you to change your mind.

"Argument is rational discourse," writes D.Q. McInerny in Being Logical: A Guide To Good Thinking. "It is not to be confused with quarreling. The object of argument is to get at the truth. The object of quarreling is to get at other people. There are any number of folks, who, though happy to quarrel with you, are either unwilling or unable to argue with you. Do not waste time and energy trying to argue with people who will not or cannot argue."

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