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The Secret to Good Arguments April 19, 2009

Posted by earthking in Uncategorized.
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I recently started going back to college after being in the workforce for a few years.  I have an unaccredited degree in Philosophyfrom a Catholic seminary, so I have to start over from scratch.  Philosophy taught me about arguments and more specifically, logical and illogical argumentation.  Whenever I hear a topic being debated, I analyze it from a logical perspective.  I am currently enrolled in a rhetoric class in college, which has taught me a lot about which arguments persuade people. 

In classical Greek philosophy, there is a branch called rhetoric.  The Greeks divided the types of arguments into three main categories:  logical, ethical, and emotional arguments.  Logical arguments are those that appeal to your reason.  For example, when trying to convince one of your friends to quit smoking, you may appeal to a statistic about the high percentage of people who smoke end up dying from cancer.  Ethical arguments are those that appeal to what you or a group of people consider right or wrong ethics.  So, when trying to convince your friend to quit smoking, you may say that it is unpatriotic.  This is a bad example, but patriotism is an American ideal that needs no further proof- at least for most Americans.  Finally, the appeal to emotion is by far one of the most important types of arguments.  Many times when children are in school, teachers may show them pictures of people in a hospital bed with tubes all over the place and other grotesque pictures of older people who never quit smoking.  This is supposed to inspire fear into the children so they will never smoke. 

There are two topics that are being debated today that play off of peoples emotions.  The first modern debate is concerning global warming.  In Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, Gore dismisses the notion that there is any debate about global warming.  He immediately proceeds to some facts and figures about what will happen if nothing is done.  But, his primary tool of argument was fear.  His goal was to scare the audience into changing their lives to combat global warming. 

The next topic of debate is concerning embryonic stem cell research.  Those who are proponent of this tend to avoid talking about what the moral status of the human embryo and jump into arguments of hope and fear.  Christopher Reeves was a supporter of this type of research, and when rolled out in front of Congress to gain support, he was primarily playing off of the emotion of pity to rally support. 

Those who are against embryonic stem cell research tend to be a little more logical in their arguments.  I have seen several articles arguing the personhood of the human embryo, but have seen very little in the way of emotional arguments.  I believe that this is why they are losing this debate.  In fact, I saw a Gallop poll on the ineternet stating that 60% of those polled favor embryonic stem cell research. 

To win any debate, you MUST have arguments that inspire fear, hope, pity, or hatred within the audience.  Relying too heavily upon data and facts will not convince your audience because people make most of their decisions based on emotions.  Most people get married because they love the other person and not because it is a logical thing to do.  So it is with other topics- people choose based on emotions.  Choose your arguments wisely.

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Comments»

1. Writings of Pictures Of Global Warming » Blog Archive » Quick scan of the net - pictures of global warming - April 21, 2009

[…] https://earthking.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/the-secret-to-good-arguments/Many times when children are in school, teachers may show them pictures of people in a hospital bed with tubes all over the place and other grotesque pictures of older people who never quit smoking. … The first modern debate is concerning global warming. In Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, Gore dismisses the notion that there is any debate about global warming. He immediately proceeds to some facts and figures about what will happen if nothing is done. … […]

2. dam - May 13, 2009

This is a very interesting post, especially this: “To win any debate, you MUST have arguments that inspire fear, hope, pity, or hatred within the audience.”

It always irked me that the conservatives (and shows like Fox News) use fear to prod people. But Obama did win on hope.

So, your argument that there is an element of logic as well as of emotion appears to be…logical.

3. joan - May 19, 2009

Really interesting blog thanks!


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