Why Sound Arguments Are Important in Society

There are a lot of people today arguing about an ever-greater list of issues. Take your pick: politics, global climate change, illegal immigration, homosexual marriage, property rights, rich and poor, the list is endless. There appear to be an endless supply of opinions from all kinds of sources. They are passionate about their position, and easily fly into a rage when their position is challenged. Is it because they are right and the other side is wrong? It would appear that both sides are equally passionate! Are they well informed about the subject? Maybe they just don’t really understand. Some “experts” would have you believe that the “other side” has been led astray. How about this claim, the “other side” is all propaganda or conspiracy theory! Is there such a thing as absolute truth, or is all truth relative?

Maybe people just don’t know appreciate the importance of argument. The British Parliament is a wonderful example of how to argue. Sometimes fistfights even break out! You might call that “argument with style.” Let’s start with Webster’s definition of the word itself. “Argument: a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point. An address or composition intended to convince or persuade.” When you go back to the United States Founding Fathers, they were skilled users of argument. Not content to simply impose their opinions on each other, they recognized the important of presenting facts to support their case.

They referenced the history of great nations, and the writings of great writers such as Plato, Socrates, John Locke, Adam Smith and Frederic Bastiat. They presented a case for and against writers and political governments. Perhaps the greatest argument they made was against the democratic government, because of its many faults, and for a constitutional republic that was the form established by the US Constitution of 1787.

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Today’s arguments, whether it is between private entities, or the highest levels of government, typically dissolve into who has the most power or can argue the loudest! A lack of education and true wisdom frequently contribute to the ineffectiveness of the exercise. Statements made should have facts or understandable reasoning to support or refute a position. Reasoning is “the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises.” The relevance of facts and the strength of reasoning are refuted by the opposition or considered the basis for yielding a particular point. In turn, a combination of points should result in a conclusion for one side or the other, or be evidence requiring further debate. A default win should never be awarded to the most powerful or influential.

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One of the worst examples for argument is our current federal government. Skill, wisdom and intelligence are replaced by political party philosophy, the influence of special interest groups or just plain old stubbornness. “I don’t care whether it is right or wrong, whether it is good or bad for the country, this is what I am going to do because I can, citizen’s will be damned!” And the fallback position of flat-out lying gets liberal application as needed. No pun intended! Skilled argument could be used to solve many or the supposed impasses that government races today. One of our greatest shortcomings is the lack of citizen involvement in skilled argument about the great issues of the day.

The reason this does not happen is most people are disinterested in the topic or avoid the effort needed to educate them as a prerequisite. Of course they won’t admit that fact, but rather fall back on the claim that they just don’t want to get involved in politics. What a silly argument, but “politics” will be the topic for another Thinking Reasonably commentary.

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