How can I improve my logical reasoning skills

No more empty claims: This is how you convince argumentatively

We live in the post-factual age: Most people believe everything they are told without reflecting on whether it is true at all.

We've all heard that phrase before, haven't we? What do you mean? Is this statement true?

A simple answer: the claimas I put it in the introduction, can be either true or false. We cannot say anything about its veracity until we have heard arguments either for or against it. Maybe we live in the post-factual age. Or maybe not.

Can you tell the difference between a statement and an argument? If you want to sharpen your argumentation skills after reading this article, then take a look at our professional Reasoning training.

Note: Before we get back to that question, watch the following video about the two ways to convince people:

Assertion and other terms

First a brief explanation of the terminology:

  • A statement: a sentence or part of a sentence with a specific content. For example: "Nice!" Or "I think that's nice."
  • A claim: A statement that claims to be true, without justification. For example: "Bar Refaeli is beautiful."
  • A hypothesis: A statement whose truth claim is scientifically +
  • A theory: A series of related scientific statements. For example: "We find people we like more beautiful."
  • A indication: An observation that confirms the claim to be truthful. For example: “Bar Refaeli wins a beauty pageant.
  • A argument: A logical sequence of statements that makes the truth claim of an assertion plausible. For example: “Bar Refaeli is nice because ...”

Claim - justification - example

Let us come back to the difference between assertion and argument.

As an example, consider the claim above:

Bar Refaeli is nice.

Whether my assertion is true or not cannot be determined from the statement. However, I can logically explain why my claim is most likely true. This is then called an argument.

To argue means: you make an assertion. Then logically explain why your claim is true and back up your conclusion with evidence.

To put it simply, one speaks of the 3 B’s:

Claim => reason => example

So what justification can I give for my claim?

I could explain that Bar Refaeli is nicebecause many people think they are beautiful. Proof of this would be that Bar Refaeli is associated with beauty and aesthetics in the media, that she has won popular beauty pageants and works as a model. So it is clear: whatever it means to be beautiful, it seems relatively likely that Bar Refaeli possesses this quality.

You understood the principle. Let us now take a closer look at the structure of convincing arguments.

Note: Would you like to learn more about reasoning? Then take a look at an example argumentation from the video lesson "Instant democracy should be introduced"From the online course"Argue - convince - enforce" at:

3 rules when arguing using the 3-B scheme

1. Keep asking: WHY?

When developing an argument, ask: Why is my statement true? And when you have found a reason, keep asking: Why is what i'm saying right? Even if a fact is perfect for you intuitive sounds, ask: Why can I say that?

For example: Many people think Bar Refaeli is beautiful. Why do many people find Bar Refaeli beautiful? Because your body has certain proportions - symmetrical and aesthetic. Why do people find symmetrical proportions beautiful? Because these proportions indicate a particularly healthy physique. Why is a healthy physique desirable? Because for our ancestors, many thousands of years ago, a healthy physique meant a better chance of survival.

2. Proceed in the smallest possible logical steps

This is what most beginners stumble upon in their reasoning: they skip a logical step. Instead of explaining each context, they say to themselves: That is probably clear to everyone. These gaps in the why chain then automatically become weak points in an argument. You should therefore make a conscious effort to build your argument from the smallest possible logical steps.

For example, they explain: Bar Refaeli is nicebecause their body is particularly symmetrical and symmetry has been desirable since the Stone Age.

You will immediately notice that your argument is not entirely conclusive. A listener might legitimately ask: Why has symmetry been considered desirable since the Stone Age? For this reason, the brief explanation is crucial that symmetry of the body is indicative of physical health.

3. Find common ground for the assertion

Many participants in the Argumentation training same question: and how long should I Why ask?

The rule of thumb: Continue the reasoning until you have arrived at a reason that everyone in the room can agree on. That is only the case when there is no Why more there. At the end of the why chain, there is a reason that no one can contest: a consensus.

How to spot weaknesses in claims

Again to repeat: One powerful Argument consists of a tight-knit chain of logical conclusions that lead to an indisputable basic assumption.

You can put an argument to the test with the following three objections:

1. The fact or context described doesn't exist at all

For our first example one could object:

Man cannot classify the beauty of a person because every person is unique in his own way. "

What is the weak point of this objection? Quite simply: I have not reached a basic assumption with my argumentation on which all those present can agree. I could not explain that the existence of evolutionary preferences for certain appearance patterns is reason enough to classify people as "beautiful".

2. The central concepts are wrongly defined

For our example:

"Beauty exists, but is not based on physical characteristics, and certainly not on evolutionary preferences, but on other factors."

This points to the following weakness: I disregarded alternative explanations for my claim. I have not been able to prove that evolutionary preferences for health are the only and best yardstick for describing a person as "beautiful".

3. The claim or context exists, but he does can be explained differently

For our example:

“It may be that there are evolutionary preferences for healthy body characteristics. It is also possible to describe these features as "beautiful". But that doesn't mean that Bar Refaeli has these health traits. "

The weak point: I have gaps in my why chain. I could not justify coherently that Bar Refaeli has symmetrical body features and that this in turn suggests health.

Supreme discipline: nuanced assertions

The most important lesson in arguing: Nothing is black-and-white. No claim is 100% true or 100% false. So don't even try to make absolute statements. Much more convincing it is anyway that For and Contrary Weighing up, showing confirmations and contradictions and then explaining why the former predominate.

Let's say you want to prove that summer is better than winter. Of course, there are good reasons to like winter, but the benefits of summer outweigh the rest. Show that your statement is more likely to be true than any alternative statement. There are 4 strategies for this:

1. Explain why people are most likely so subdued or a Event most likely occurs that wayhow you predict it.

For example, you can say that summer is good for people's health because people most likely spend more time outdoors. This is due to the fact that it is warmer and more pleasant outside and at the same time it is longer light. Therefore, being outside is rather health-promoting because it is often associated with exercise, with fresh air and sun. All of this is important to our body.

2. Assume that your scenario is a comparative one large number of people concerns - for example, that your proposal as many as possible Helping people.

Admit that there may be people who get sunburned in the summer. However that is Number of people low, compared to all those who reasonably expose themselves to the sun and benefit from it.

3. State that your claim affects the parties in one place affects a comparatively large extent - For example, that your proposal is a special one strong positive effect Has.

Perhaps it could be argued that people have more time to work in winter because they are less distracted. But when you do explain that a healthy compensation program increases people's productivity much more favoredAs time and rest in winter, you also win this point.

4. Compare the directly possible harm with the possible profits. Show that the gains outweigh your case.

Perhaps it is true that the summer heat sometimes at some Days is uncomfortable and limits the possibilities of spending free time. We accept that, however, as long as large part The days the warmer weather makes a variety of leisure activities possible.

So what is it all about, in summary, when arguing? 

Use logical inference to show that an assertion is true with the greatest possible probability. Make sure that your justification is complete, that every logical step is explained and that you reach a basic statement at the end that everyone can agree on.

If you want to learn more about the art of reasoning, the online course "Argue! To convince! Push through!“Recommended with over 7,000 registered participants.

Author: Johannes Stark