Human beings have no direct line to any source of absolute truths, so we are forced to check the soundness of our convictions

KNOWLEDGE AND ARGUMENTATION

Human beings have no direct line to any source of absolute truths, so we are forced to check the soundness of our convictions all the time. And it is practically inevitable that this effort leads us to submit our certainties to the criticism of others. A century and a half ago, John Stuart Mill said that the best evidence we can provide for an idea is to submit it to a discussion in which everyone has a chance to refute it. If the idea passes the test, we will have gone as far as we can in that direction.

Real discussions can get rough and nasty we are intellectually and morally flawed. But it is precisely because of this imperfection that we cannot refrain from discussing. Debating is the best method we have to clarify our ideas and to discover our own mistakes. It is also a way to incorporate different points of view, to consider possibilities that had not occurred to us and to benefit from what others have learned. For all this, the most we can aspire to is to have the best discussions that we are capable of leading.

The theory of argumentation is the discipline that deals with giving us weapons to improve the quality of our discussions. It is an area of ??knowledge that has undergone significant development in recent decades, although in essence it is the extension of two disciplines that are thousands of years old: logic and rhetoric.

The first of these links is easy to understand: an argument consists of a chain of premises leading to a conclusion, and logic is concerned with how the premises are chained to the conclusions. Consequently, it is impossible to speak of argumentation without speaking of logic at the same time.

However, argumentation theory is not pure applied logic. This theory is not only interested in the way our arguments are constructed, but also in the impact they can have on an audience. And this is an aspect to which logicians do not attend. Logic is not concerned with the persuasive force of arguments. Logically incorrect logical arguments are sometimes convincing, while logically impeccable ones often do not. Logic deals with the objective relationship between proof and conclusion. An argument can be logically correct even if no one recognizes it as such, or it can be wrong even if everyone accepts it.

The discipline that deals with the persuasive force of arguments is rhetoric. Since it was created by the Greeks thousands of years ago, rhetoric has been in charge of analyzing the impact that arguments have or may have on an audience. This study is valid both for well-constructed arguments and for those poorly constructed from the logical point of view.

The theory of argumentation draws then on two disciplines as old as philosophy itself. It is interested in the construction of good arguments and in the identification of faulty ones, but it also analyzes the different ways in which our words can impact those who listen to us. And it places all these contributions at the service of a double objective: putting us in a position to build better arguments and helping us to better evaluate the arguments of others.

Why is it important to learn to argue? The reason has to do with the consolidation, at least in Western societies, of democracy as a way of life. Once the totalitarian temptation that overshadowed much of the 20th century had been overcome, once the utopias that sought to build new models of social organization through the destruction of political coexistence had been left behind, democracy was once again valued as the form of coexistence that, Despite all its limits and imperfections, it provides us with the most appropriate conditions to collectively seek justice in a context of respect for diversity.

Now, arguing is one of the most typical activities of what we usually call a democratic society. It is argued in politics to justify the support or rejection of different government measures. It is argued in business to explain why a price seems too high or why we think a service is of poor quality. There is an argument between employees and employers when a wage agreement is discussed, An argument is made between neighbors when the owners’ meeting considers painting the front of a building. And it is also argued when advertising is done, or at least when some of the ways in which this activity can be carried out are chosen.

This almost universal presence of argumentation is a feature of our way of life, but it is not necessarily found everywhere. In a society where the law of the strongest is applied, there is no need to argue, or at least everything is reduced to a single and repeated argument that consists of saying: “This is done this way because I say so, and I am in a position to do so.” impose my will.”

Even within democratic societies there are areas in which there is no argument. For example, in the armed forces it is only done between peers: upwards or downwards, orders are received or given. The same thing happens in certain religious organizations. But, unless we decide to join the military or make some comparable decision, the fact of living in a democratic society assures us that we will constantly be involved in arguments. We do not have within our reach the option of staying out of them. The only thing we can decide is whether or not we are going to try to become good arguers. This is reason enough for us to examine what the art of arguing is, and what are the best and worst ways of arguing.

QUIESTIONS

– What do you think of these historical situations where argumentation was not possible? It was only possible to obey.

Ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer
“I have no conscience or ideas to discuss, My conscience is my Führer” (H. Goering, 1940).
It was said of Hitler: “The Führer thinks for us” Of Stalin it was also said: “The Guide thinks for us, he thinks for us because he speaks for us. We shouldn’t discuss anything.”
– Do you think that situations similar to these are in the past and that, therefore, today there is freedom of discussion and it is possible to argue? Or do you think the totalitarian temptation still exists?

– In society we realize that the conflict, the irruption of the difference between people, is a permanent dimension of existence: crisis between the child or adolescent and their parents, conflict between spouses, tension between colleagues, wars between countries indicate that harmony does not exist, that the city of perfect happiness is only found in the dreams of utopias (which, when they try to make that city of perfect happiness a concrete reality, suppress all different thinking and repress differences, the dissidence). What do you think?

– With these ideas, write A SHORT ESSAY where you argue why democracy is preferable, or why not, in the event that you consider that it is not preferable, permission for freedom of thought and the development of the art of exchanging ideas and knowledge, learning to argue. In other words, he tries to show how learning to argue is essential for life in society. Write examples to strengthen your argument


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