Repost of a forum Post on Logical Arguments

A person’s idea does not end at the limits of their ability to articulate it. It does not end with the validity of the examples they use, nor does it end before the points that go unmade. An idea exists independent of that. Now, if we’re set that someone is wrong, because we know they are, then fine, this is what we do — use their flaws against them and never really think about it much. But if we’re having an interesting level of discourse and are trying to grow our understanding of a topic, we need to see deeper than what is presented to us.

A child wants to buy a $1.50 can of soda. His mother says he can’t afford it. He raises a dollar and 3 quarters and says “But I have two dollars!” The mother than says “No you can’t afford it because that’s wrong”. Just about anyone would get past the child’s statement and make their own deductions — that the child has $1.75 and thus has enough for the soda, but in a sense we are all, at some points, guilty of this — using an incorrect example or deduction as a reason to entirely falsify an argument.

Now, there is value to being logically right. It sends the other guy back to the drawing board to hopefully come back with better fleshed out ideas. But we, like our opponent, are capable of making those same logical deductions. This is why people complain about nitpicking — it’s a situations where technically something is wrong ( a weak example ) but people should be able to INFER the intent. Not so simple with complex system interactions, but we cannot be married to our positions so much that we neglect the ideas that are in front of us. The more often we can choke down our pride about being “right”, the more often we have a chance to learn something.

5 thoughts on “Repost of a forum Post on Logical Arguments

  1. It can be fun to win an argument for its own sake, but only if your opponent is bright enough to realize you have issued a challenge and bored enough to assent to it.

  2. That’s why I don’t have arguments I participate in discussions. That way I try to sidestep the whole right/wrong paradigm and instead focus on exchanging information and ideas.

  3. I should clarify that last statement, I try not to have arguments and instead participate in discussions.

    I’m not always successful.

  4. Logical arguments are overrated. They always get bogged down by truth tables, and logicians have yet to agree on a standardized format for their symbols.

    Joking aside, what you are saying seems very much like common sense to me, but at the same time it can be hard to maintain the humility and understanding needed for some discussions. Another factor to consider in the breakdown in rational discourse is people having different agendas for arguing. Some are trying to learn something; others are trying to “win” the argument. Trying to “win” an argument is less about logic and more about trying to appear right and you appear wrong. It’s somewhat harder to learn from someone who is always trying to make your argument sound utterly untrue. What I’m getting at is that humility is important, but setting some ground rules and clearly stating what you’re trying to achieve out of an argument is important. At least for more complex discussions; trying to get lollipops is a harder push for rational discourse.

  5. It’s true, but some people need to be told things explicitly because they aren’t aware that they do it. I frequently have claimed in some places that critical thinking does not end at your idea or argument, but goes so far as the presentation of ideas or the reception of other peoples ideas. Using logic to win an argument in these manners isn’t actually ‘logical’ but more of an abuse of the idea logic

    I think sadly it’s one of the big traps of intellectualism. As you grow more and more knowledgable, you reach a point of inflexibility and certainty that further education in many ways involves breaking down that inflexibility. Kinda like some Bruce Lee shit — you learn inflexible, precise forms and thats what you need to do to learn how to fight, but ultimately one needs to shed the rigorous rules to become more fluid and flexible.

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