Do you know that it’s possible to engage in a vigorous argument without your face turning red, your jugular vein popping out, or raising your voice? Lots of people think of arguments solely in terms of verbal fights, but there is another kind.
The kind of argument of which I speak is, of course, a logical argument (instead of a heated disagreement). A logical argument consists of making a claim (also called the conclusion or central point), and then seeking to provide support or premises for that claim. If you only make a claim and provide no support (in terms of evidence, facts, and reasons), then you have a mere opinion, not an argument. And if you supply evidence but fail to marshal a claim, then you just have a lot of information. In other words, a logical argument is a supported opinion.
It is easy to feel passionate about the central point of your argument—especially when the person you are conversing with feels equally passionate about a different or opposite point. But strong emotions, while a normal part of being human, can indeed color one’s logical analysis. Though it may not be easy to engage in a dispassionate analysis of one’s deeply held conclusion, it is important to try.
As noted above, emotion is a natural and important element of being human, and emotion is often involved in the truly positive experiences of our everyday lives. However, emotion can be so strong that it can limit our ability to examine ideas and issues analytically. So don’t stop appreciating genuine emotion, but try to keep your emotions in check during logical exchanges so that they don’t become a negative factor in the reasoning process.
Another thing to watch out for in logical debates is caring too much about winning the argument. Discovering truth is more important than your ego. Unfortunately, some of us cerebral types like to constantly keep score of our logical victories. But it would be better to take a hit to one’s ego and lose the debate if the result was that you were corrected and discovered truth. Truth always trumps the fragile needs of our pride.Next time you engage in a formal argument, see if you can present your argument in the most winsome way possible. And stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!
- My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of logical and critical thinking. It is archived at reasons.org. I especially recommend that you listen to “Need for Dispassionate Analysis.”
- Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.