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Can anybody argue anymore?
May 2, 2012 - Stephen Browne
Why sure (I hear you say,) I argue with my significant other all the time.
Well while that's nice, it's not quite what I meant. I mean does anybody know how to argue in the formal sense these days?
In logic an argument is defined as, "A set of statements, one of which, the conclusion, is claimed to necessarily follow from the others (the premises.)"
Logic is defined as the study of the proposition, "follows from."
But it's actually broader than just logic. There is a whole field of study called Argumentation Theory, which includes logic, but also rhetoric, psychology, even math.
According to Argumentation Theory, an argument usually contains: 1. a set of assumptions or premises 2. a method of reasoning or deduction and 3. a conclusion or point.
Different kinds of arguments include: 1. Conversational argumentation 2. Mathematical argumentation 3. Scientific argumentation 4. Legal argumentation 5. Political argumentation
And of course that last one is the hot button issue. There's a fair amount of passion around scientific argumentation, but these days there's often a political component to it if scientific claims are what's driving policy arguments. Likewise math, because a lot of arguments are supported with statistics, and as we all know, "Figures don't lie - but liars can figure."
The reason I bring this up is that I've been more active on Facebook these days than usual. And because I've acquired a fair number of Facebook "friends" who are friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends, etc, I've been exposed to a lot of conversation threads from people on all sides of various issues, and things are hotting up with the election approaching.
What I've noticed lately is, there are a whole lot lot of people out there making assertions of evil motives. Like nobody might have a contrary opinion because they had reasoned from their premises through to an honest conclusion?
And these aren't strangers, but people I've known all their lives. People who post things to me with statements like, "See, this shows the corporate fat-cats don't CARE about us," never making the connection that I don't agree with their conclusion, and I'm not a corporate fat cat. That in fact I make less money than they do.
A recent case in point was a so-called "child labor" farm bill. Now I'm not up on all the ins and outs of it, but it's touted as "child safety" regulations that would keep little children from being mangled in combines and smothered in grain elevators. There are however politicians from agricultural state who oppose this.
See, they don't CARE about helpless, vulnerable children dying horrible deaths!
Except I've talked to a fair number of people involved in agriculture who are concerned about this. Who contend the bill is written too broadly and carelessly. That it would make it nearly impossible to employ minors who were not a son or daughter on a family farm, and then only on land owned and not leased by the family. And furthermore, that one effect of this would be precisely to handicap family farms and favor corporate agro-business.
My point is not to support one or the other of these contentions, like I said I haven't looked all that deeply into it yet.
What I'm concerned about is a lot of people can not seem to accept any disagreement at all as honest. Cannot even conceive that anyone else could look at the same issue and reach a different conclusion from themselves, and thus that the only possible reason for disagreement must be self-interested villainy. This is the worst of the totalitarian impulse, and the fact that I'm seeing it in a lot of otherwise decent and well-disposed people makes me very uneasy for the future of the Republic.
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