Are You Ready for an Argument?!


June 18, 2012 by mattfradd

If you frequent websites such as YouTube or Facebook, (or if you’ve been following the comment thread on my article “Catholic, Gay & Feeling Fine”) you’ve read the exchanges that take place on these forums. Sometimes they are intelligent and substantive, but often they resemble two toddlers squabbling: “Did too.” “Did not.” “Did too.”

If we are to heed the instruction of our first pope, which is to “always be ready to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15), we must have at least a basic understanding of argumentation. We must know what constitutes a strong argument and what constitutes a weak one.

What an argument isn’t—and is

An argument is not an assertion such as, “God exists”. Nor is an argument merely a contradictory assertion such as, “No, he doesn’t.” An argument is not a quarrel, a fight, or a disagreement. an argument, properly speaking, is a set of propositions called premises from which the person who is making the argument seeks to establish a conclusion.

Types of arguments

There are two main types of arguments: deductive and inductive. A deductive argument is one in which, provided the premises are true and the logic sound (valid) the conclusion follows necessarily. Here’s a classic example of a deductive argument:

Premise 1: All men are mortal.
Premise 2: Socrates was a man.
Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates was mortal.

Do you see that if both of the premises are true and the logic valid, then the conclusion follows necessarily? If someone disagrees with the conclusion, then he must, on pain of irrationality, argue that one of the premises is false or that the logic unsound.

Here is an example of an argument with true premises, yielding a true conclusion, yet with bad logic:

Premise 1: All men are mortal.                                                                         Premise 2: Paris is the capital of France.                                                             Conclusion: Therefore a beaver is a large semiaquatic broad-tailed rodent.

An inductive argument is one in which a generalization is made based on specific instances so that, provided the premises are true, the conclusion probably follows. For example:

Premise 1: Socrates was a Greek.
Premise 2: Most Greeks ate fish.
Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates ate fish.

Though the conclusion here gives us probable certainty, it does not give us the absolute, logical certainty that a deductive argument gives.
Understanding what constitutes a sound argument—and what does not—will allow you to clear away the smoke of impassioned language that is sometimes used in faith related dialogues so that you can see clearly the argument your opponent is trying to make.

Later this week we’ll take a look at 5 common logical fallacies and how to detect them!

7 thoughts on “Are You Ready for an Argument?!

  1. […] To demonstrate five common fallacies, I’d like to propose a deductive argument (if you don’t know what a deductive argument is click here): […]

  2. […] Before we look at the argument let’s review two requirements for a sound – or valid – argument (Learn More Here). […]

  3. Lori8069 says:

    Yes, I’m looking for an arguement, and here’s my answer to the pornography addicts that are lame enough to defend pornography–

    What an Honest Porn Addict Would Say

    I think I’ll try to un-convolute the invariably idiotic argument that is postulated by the average porn addict, and try to straighten out the whole mess by translating what they usually say over to what is the actual, unvarnished truth—

    I don’t care if pornography degrades society—I only care about my own personal satisfaction that I derive from it, and even if it goes against all common sense to believe that it has absolutely no bad consequences, as if it’s floating out in space somewhere and couldn’t possibly have any impact whatsoever on morals, or on the way that women and children are seen in society, I hereby choose, as a Free American, to use pornography, because only the things that I want really matter to me—the rest of society, the future, and humanity as a whole can all go fend for itself.

    I also don’t care if I never have a girlfriend or a wife, because a girlfriend or a wife might be offended by my pornography use, and it would be way too oppressive for me to change my habits. I really don’t care if I never have an actual, real, loving relationship with the opposite sex because pornography is the perfect virtual substitute for real love. I also don’t care if my own appetite for degrading porn gives me an undesirable “vibe” that effectively repels women, either, because like I said, a real woman isn’t anything I need in my life anyway. Women are usually very narrow-minded—most of them don’t like degrading porn, and even though this makes perfect sense that they would be offended by it, just like I would be similarly offended by porn that degrades men, I would prefer to believe that women who can’t accept it are just jealous and unnecessarily judgmental, because seeing it any other way makes me uncomfortable with my own porn use—which, like I already said, means more to me than just about anything because it’s fully replaced having a wife or a girlfriend in my life. If someone insults or dislikes pornography, it’s the very same as if they had insulted or didn’t like my wife or girlfriend, if I had one–it feels exactly like they’re insulting my “mate”. I also feel justified in referring to all current pornography as if it’s as innocuous as a 1965 Playboy, because even though this particularly mild level of porn is nothing I’d be even remotely interested in viewing at this point, it’s infinitely much easier to defend by implying that it’s all still this way, and then I can react as if anyone who doesn’t like pornography is exactly like someone’s prudish 60’s mom, which then in turn makes me look like the rational, humane, put-upon victim–even though you’d have to have been living on a different planet to believe that it hasn’t morphed into something way, way sicker and rougher over the past 40+ years.

    I also don’t like anyone mentioning or believing in God, either—because I realize that this “God” concept makes people see porn as a bad thing. My porn use means so much to me, that it’s not only been a replacement for me having a wife or girlfriend, but it’s also replaced my needing a “God” in my life, too. Because of pornography, I desperately need to believe that I won’t even exist after my death, on any level–the idea that there’s a God would make me feel guilty, and feeling guilty about my own porn use actually seems worse to me than taking the risk that I might actually be wrong about there being no God and no afterlife. I can’t stand anyone thinking that they even have the right to remind me that there’s any “God”, and I will actually seek out believers to insult them—they would probably say that I’m so full of demons who have made strongholds into my psyche that I’m foolishly trying to defend the territory that they’ve conquered in me, like I’m some sort of “Stockholm Syndrome” type that’s just mindlessly going along with my captors—I really can’t believe the nerve and the arrogance of these people. The very thought of this absolutely infuriates me—you’d think that if I REALLY didn’t believe in God, that I’d just ignore the believers and look at porn with absolutely no worries, but I can’t abide anyone even having the right to say anything about God, because deep down it really does make me feel guilty (for some indefinable reason), and this creeping, insidious guilt can, at times, ruin my ability to fully enjoy pornography. Oh, and in spite of the fact that I’m supposedly a big supporter of free speech, I absolutely can’t stand to hear anyone criticize pornography, in particular—in fact sticking up for pornography is really the only thing I still feel passionate about at this point.

    I also don’t like feminism, either, except the part where it says that it’s OK for a woman to do whatever she wants with her body—I like that part because many women are like naïve, insecure children in comparison to men, and they’re always plenty of them who want attention so badly that they’ll do anything to get it—and I really like the “anything” part. The part I don’t like about feminism is the part where they say that degrading pornography that features women is bad—that makes me very upset, even though if the shoe was on the other foot, and I was the one who was having my sexuality continually made into a degrading circus, then I miraculously wouldn’t have any trouble seeing it as bad, too. Women actually deserve to be degraded in pornography, because they’re so dense that they believe they deserve any respect at all—but please don’t tell anyone that I said that, at least not any decent people, because I’ve got a respectable image to maintain. The more porn that I look at, the more I can see that women thinking that they’re more than anything but props for the assorted fantasies of men is crazy—seeing women as full human beings really threatens me, because I want, as a man, to believe that just the fact that I’m male makes me somehow better than any woman on earth. Since I occasionally meet women who are better than I am at various things in the course of my life, I need degrading pornography to look at so that I can go back into that warm cocoon where all women are just like interchangeable car parts, and none of them deserves any respect, because it’s the perfect way for me feel much better about myself and my own failings. I often proclaim that pornography has had absolutely no negative impact whatsoever on my respect for women, and that I have every bit as much respect for women as I had before I began viewing porn, if not even MORE respect, at this point. No, I’m not so completely self-deluded to actually believe that this is true, because even I know that it’s most likely humanly impossible, but I just keep on saying it to whoever will listen, because even though I know that it isn’t true in my case, or in any other case that I’m aware of, I can still conceive in my mind that it COULD be true, somewhere, at some time, for someone, and I think that the other people in my life, if they care about me at all, really owe me the benefit of the doubt. It’s very important that I try to make others believe that pornography has had no impact on my respect for women, because otherwise they would rightly criticize my pornography use, and since it’s something that would be about as difficult as cutting off my own arm to stay away from, I find simply lying about it to be much easier than going to all the trouble to change my habits. Looking at pornography has made my entire life one of lying to others, and lying to myself—and as you can well imagine, it’s psychologically very stressful to be living multiple lies day in and day out, so I would expect your understanding and compassion in this regard. It also doesn’t matter to me if pornography gets more and more degrading every year, either—it needs to keep up with the times, just like anything else does, because it’s not like it could be actually FORMING the times we live in, or anything like that, and the fact that the average appetite for porn is getting grosser and more violent every year doesn’t bother me either, not in the least—but don’t you even DARE call me anti-social, because even though I’m someone who now feeds on the degradation of others like I need it to live, nobody better ever insult or denigrate me—I simply can’t bear it.

    I also don’t like to hear anything about rape—not because I see rape as a deplorable thing, and I find it upsetting, but because I like rape, and consequently I don’t want anyone to even have the right to say that they’ve been raped, because this might lead to someone trying to take all of the rape porn out of circulation. I know that this seems like sheer paranoia, and a really big stretch of the imagination, but I can’t help it, I honestly feel this way. I can’t stand hearing that someone doesn’t like pornography because so much of it either resembles rape or IS actual rape—because in the first place, the rest of society doesn’t even need to be informed about all of this or have it called to their attention, and also because we certainly don’t need to decide whether rape porn could be detrimental to the safety of women or could make them seem like they’re less valuable in the eyes of people who like to see rape or faux rape in pornography, either. There’s nothing I hate worse than hearing a woman say that she’s been raped, because the natural inclination of those who don’t look at porn is to see rape as some kind of a bad thing, as a violation—my friends and I see rape as very entertaining, and any woman who’s unlucky enough to get herself “raped” either deserves it, or is outright lying about it—there is no other rational possibility, in our minds. We highly resent anyone saying that rape either exists, or is inherently wrong—either one of these ideas makes us go into a hysterical frenzy of derision toward anyone stupid enough to believe that any woman is raped, or doesn’t deserve to be raped, and we ourselves ought to know that this is contradictory and sounds exactly like one thing cancelling the other one out, but please try to understand—this really isn’t an easy position to defend. We’re sick of women complaining that they’ve been “raped”, in any fashion, and we’re trying our best to stop this highly unfair tendency for people to have an automatic knee-jerk reaction to side with those who’ve been “raped”, and we think that it’s about time our society outgrew this very limited way of seeing sex, which, after all, is just a natural thing, no matter what it happens to look like to the casual viewer. Even though I’d definitely know it if I were raped, the fact that my friends and I like to see women raped is why rape is not only a complete non-issue to us, and why we want to see it as fictional, but it’s also why we really resent anyone trying to make us feel guilty about it, too, because anyone feeling even the slightest bit guilty for watching rape porn is infinitely much, MUCH worse than anyone actually being “raped”. How I can literally search on the internet for rape porn by using the word “rape” in my searches, without being disgusted with myself that I’m sick enough to be looking for someone being either raped or faux raped is totally my business, not yours—please keep your old-fashioned, hopelessly narrow way of viewing human sexuality to yourself. We also like to think that women want to be raped, but unfortunately, if they really did like it, then it wouldn’t BE rape, and since the violation aspect is what we find most satisfying about it, it really must be there for it to be sufficiently stimulating to us. The more that I think about it, the more I really don’t feel comfortable even talking openly about this, so let’s just please change the subject—I need to be able to like myself (and be liked) in the morning.

    I also don’t care about child pornography—it really doesn’t matter to me at all if most kiddie porn viewers didn’t start out looking at, or deliberately looking for, child porn, and whetted their appetite for child pornography on adult pornography to begin with—to me this is entirely the problem of these ill-supervised kids and their negligent parents. I truly believe that my right to see pornography completely supersedes the necessity for any child to be safe from being used by adults to make pornography—and how could anyone in their right mind see it any other way. I also highly resent anyone mentioning the adult-porn-leads-to-kiddie-porn connection to me because I flatly refuse to feel guilty for anything concerning pornography, no matter what it is. That people into child molestation or those that are serial killers are almost invariably heavy porn users means absolutely nothing to me, and anyone being so unlucky as to end up being victimized by either of these types is entirely on their own, as far as I’m concerned. I also don’t want anyone censoring the internet, even though there were originally only 2 organizations promoting child-adult sex when the internet began, and now there’s hundreds of them—that’s no more than an unfortunate coincidence, and anyone who sees this as a bad sign of things to come is out of their minds.

    So maybe now you can understand why I am rightly upset by anyone who doesn’t like pornography, or anyone who ventures to say publically that they don’t like it—it pushes all of my buttons because I’m forced by my lifestyle to go through a whole assortment of rigorous mental and emotional machinations every day to see myself as a good person, or see myself as someone who’s not significantly worse than the person I was before I began looking at pornography, and because of all of this continual self-deception I really don’t feel that I will ever need any reminders that it might not be a good thing. I’ve given up having a relationship with the opposite sex, given up believing in God, don’t believe that anyone is actually “raped”, and also don’t care if adult porn is the “gateway drug” to child pornography, too, so now that I’ve gone so far out on a limb that I’ve bet literally everything I have on the idea that porn is inherently harmless, anyone having the gall to criticize it makes me understandably nervous. My fellow porn addicts are very important to me, too, because we all believe the same destructive lies about pornography and feel compelled to helpfully re-enforce each other’s mental and emotional disintegration, and because most of us don’t have a “significant other” in our lives, either, we tend to cling to each other desperately. I know that this is difficult to comprehend, but even though I’ve thoroughly trashed all of my moral sense by viewing pornography, and now ironically see myself as the poor, misunderstood victim of anyone who doesn’t like it, I still fully expect everyone I meet to respect me and see me as rational, compassionate person regardless of this, even though I no longer deserve it–and my personality has been so inverted by viewing pornography that I really can’t help but be extremely insulted by anyone who treats me as if I’m someone who doesn’t deserve the same respect that is due to a decent person, because this, understandably, makes me morally outraged. You’d think I’d have enough sense to at least to keep my mouth shut, out of some vague, remotely uncomfortable sense of shame, or if only to be seen as an acceptable person, but I need so very badly to believe that porn is a perfectly ok thing that I just can’t keep my nonsensical, self-serving, anti-social concepts to myself. Even though I’ve been emotionally, mentally and spiritually ruined by pornography, I feel very strongly that it should have no impediments whatsoever in society, so that by the sheer accumulating number of other addicts, I will at least feel less isolated and less like a perverted “freak”. I know that it’s almost impossible to have any pity for me, but I would sincerely ask that you please try, because remember, I’m a victim—of my own pornography use.

  4. […] Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, it must be concluded that she is also the Mother of God: If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God. There is no way out of this logical syllogism, the valid form of which has been recognized by classical logicians since before the time of Christ (Learn about what constitutes a sound argument here). […]

  5. […] a previous article I explained what an argument is (and is not). Some have asked what constitues a good argument. Here […]

  6. […] this is a deductive argument, if one wants to dispute the conclusion, he must take issue with one of the premises, since the […]

  7. I have found over the years that the Catholic Church has given the approval to do bingo and other ways to get lucky. Is this following the world?

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