What’s the Point of Arguing?

“’To give an argument’ means to offer a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion. Arguments are attempts to support certain views with reasons.

Argument is essential because it is a way of trying to find out which views are better than others. Not all views are equal.

Argument is essential for another reason too. Once we have arrived at a conclusion that is well-supported by reasons, argument is how we explain and defend it. A good argument offers reasons and evidence so that other people can make up their minds for themselves. It’s not a mistake to have strong views. The mistake is to have nothing else.

Many college courses—especially those that assign writing—require students to question their beliefs and to work out and defend their own views. The issues discussed in college courses are often not clear-cut and certain. Students in these courses are asked to learn to think for themselves, to form their own views in a responsible way. The ability to defend your views is a measure of that skill, and that is why argumentative essays are so important.

The goal is to help students present ideas in class discussion in a natural order, using reliable premises, to provide examples, and then to explore an issue of their choice and compose an argumentative essay.”

A Rulebook for Arguments, Anthony Weston, 4th Edition, ($9.90 from Amazon)