What is an argument?

Something that I find incredibly frustrating during a discussion is the lack of an argument that people generally have. The fact of the matter is that the general public sphere either doesn’t know what an argument is, or doesn’t decide to use a complete argument when arguing.


An argument is not a shouting match, or attempting to trick somebody into thinking something different, or personal attacks. An argument consists of at least one premise and a conclusion that logically follows from the premise.   A premise is something that the person presenting the argument assumes to be true (“I am a person” or “The United States of America is a country”). A conclusion is the final statement that a person has been attempting to prove (“therefore, same-sex marriage should be legal” or “therefore, the government should stop borrowing money from China”). The conclusion must logically follow from the premise, as that’s the only way to prove that the conclusion is true (“I am a person”, “therefore I am a cat” is NOT a logical argument, for example).


This is an important distinction to make– absent underlying premises and logic, it is impossible to argue against an argument because there are no foundations for the claim being made. It is impossible for me to dispute that it is someone’s opinion that abortion be ruled illegal in the United States, because that is in fact that person’s opinion. And just because someone holds that opinion doesn’t make it the correct policy for the United States to follow– there is not a logical reason for the government to follow one person’s opinion.


So let’s all try to make actual arguments when we’re deliberating within the public sphere.