Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to Win Arguments & What to Avoid Doing (In Order To Win)

Inspired by my Critical Thinking course,being on a forum with some people that suck at arguing(if you're on that forum and I've linked you this, then you're most likely not one of them), and talking to random people who think they're right ...I've decided to do a piece on how to argue/logical fallacies. I have a midterm tonight, so this is also a way of me studying for my test.

It's not hard to argue, all you have to do is make sense. It sounds easy enough, but people seem to have issues grasping that concept. Think about it this way: if two people have good ideas, the one that makes more sense is more valid.

A good debater can argue any point and do well with it. A good debater can win. switch sides, and win from the side that previously lost. A good debater knows what he/she wants to say, and does it concisely. You can throw in big words, but when people find out that those words don't mean're screwed.

Here's the basic structure of an argument:

Premise 1:

Premise 2:



The two premises MUST prove the conclusion. If you have an invalid premise, then the conclusion becomes invalid (and believe me, you don't want that...unless you like losing arguments). If you prefer losing arguments, then I'm sorry, but there's something wrong with you and I legitimately hope that you die.

This is the simple stuff, I'd like to move on to the things that people do wrong (ALL THE TIME) when arguing. A bunch of these things I've discovered on my own (if you know me, then you know that I love to argue/debate/discuss/kick the shit, for fun), but taking this course has let me put names on what they are.

The only people that ever use these are:

- people who know how to argue, looking for a sleazy win


- people who don't know how to argue. This shit doesn't fly with me.

Let's get moving to *clears throat and says in a booming voice*:

Logical Fallacies of Relevance:

These are distractions & things irrelevant to the argument or the progression of the argument.

1) Ad Hominem: Personal Attack - rejecting a claim by insulting the person


knowledge: I'm telling you...he's not going to win if he runs for mayor!

dumbass: Yes he will. You're being a jackass.

knowledge: Okay, that's great...I may or may not be a jackass...but that doesn't prove whether or not he's going to win if he runs for mayor. My being a jackass doesn't determine whether or not the candidate wins the election.

2) Ad Hominem: Attacking The Motive - when you criticize why the person might be arguing for a certain side, instead of criticizing the argument itself.


knowledge: All women should be chained and never allowed to leave the kitchen, so they can stay there and cook.

dumbass: Women should be free to make that choice, you're just a mysogynist.

knowledge: No...I'm not mysogynistic. As wrong as my intent might's STILL irrelevant to the argument whether or not women should stay home and cook. You're not disproving my argument, you're disproving/proving whether or not I'm a mysogynist.

3) Ad Hominem: Tu Quoque ("Look who's talking") - When an argument is rejected because the person doesn't "practice what they preach".

dumbass: Wearing leather supports animal cruelty

knowledge: then don't wear leather if you're against it

dumbass: but you're wearing a leather jacket

knowledge: It doesn't matter if I'm wearing leather chaps...that doesn't prove whether it's right or wrong.

4) Ad Hominem: Genetic fallacy - When an argument is rejected because of its source


knowledge: May Ping Pang told me to make a left on bay street

dumbass: but why would you listen to an asian, we all know that they can't drive!

knowledge: Although I'm asian, you raise a very valid point...

5) Strawman Fallacy - When the opponent distorts the original argument, and attacks the distorted version.

knowledge: Man, that cop's such a tool. He only pulled me over because I'm black

dumbass: First of all, you're not even black. And not all cops are tools, you know. Just because you had one bad experience, doesn't mean that they all don't know how to do their job...

dumbass: Way to completely ignore my original statement that "this specific cop is a tool". All you did was morph it to "all cops are tools" and then you addressed that morphed argument.

6) Red Herring Fallacy - When the opponent tries side-tracking by raising an irrelevant issue, then claiming that the irrelevant diversion answers the original issue.

dumbass: Thomas Jefferson was all about equality.

knowledge: Thomas Jefferson was fully a slave master when he was president!

dumbass: Sure, he owned slaves...but he was also one of the greatest presidents. He played a role in the declaration of independence, which led way to freedom & democracy

knowledge: Thanks for the history lesson. Have you noticed that you didn't disprove whether or not he owned slaves? You could've saved us both time by saying "you win" instead.

7) Scare Tactics - Threatening in order to win an argument

dumbass: If you don't agree with me, you've got to agree with my fist

knowledge: Believe me, I'm shivering in fear...but as threatening as that sounds, you still haven't managed to prove why I'm wrong.

8) Appeal to pity - Attempting to evoke emotion in order to win the argument (this is one of the most common irrelevancies)

dumbass: There's no need to be blunt, she's been having a bad week

knowledge: I said that it was stupid of her to drive that aggressively with passengers in the car who she's responsible for. Is what I'm saying not true?

dumbass: It's true...but how would you feel if your mom died, you got kicked out of the house, and you just got dumped?

knowledge: I'd probably feel horrible, but the world doesn't revolve around her and those circumstances don't change the fact that she's driving aggressively.

9) Jumping on the Bandwagon - Appealing to a person's desire to conform to the norm

Retail salesperson: Try these jeans on

knowledge: Sorry, I don't like the fit

Retail salesperson: I'd still recommend them, everyone's buying these!

knowledge: I personally don't give a damn if Edward Norton likes those jeans. Unless they somehow transform into the fit I like, I'm not gonna buy these.

10) Equivocation - Committed when a key word is used in more than one sense (ambiguously)

KRS-ONE stands for "Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everbody". Wait a minute...I'm knowledge. Therefore, I'm supreme over nearly everybody.

11) Begging the question: Simple Restatement - Rewording the premise/conclusion (A because of B, and B = A)

dumbass: Miracles don't happen often because they're very rare

knowledge: Congratulations, you've given my the definition of what a miracle is...but you haven't told me why they don't happen.

12) Begging The Question: Circular Reasoning - Assuming that the conclusion in the supporting premise (A because B, B because A)

dumbass: God wrote the bible

knowledge: How do you know?

dumbass: Because it says so in the bible, and what the bible says is true!

knowledge: But how do you know that what the bible says is true?

dumbass: Because god wrote the bible

knowledge: If you weren't 5 years old, I'd throw you down the stairs

13) Begging The Question: Problematic Premise - When the premise is more problematic than what it's actually proving

I would never date a Filipino girl because they all act the same. Therefore, I would never date you.

Logical Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence

14) Inappropriate appeals to authority - Citing a witness or authority that is most likely unvalid. This includes hearsay or citing an authority in something where there's no real consensus.

Hey guys, I'm George Foreman. After a long day of getting boxed in the face, I like to cook with my ridiculously massive forearms. This is my grill, you should buy it because I'm a good boxer. You should also buy it because the smallest part of my forearms are bigger than knowledge's thighs...and also, because I like to cook. Don't forget to buy my product because I'm famous and know what I'm talking about. After all, ALL famous people/celebrities know what they're talking about when they endorse products.

15) Appeal to ignorance - Claiming that something is true because there is no evidence against it; or claiming that something is false because there's no evidence against it.

dumbass 1: god exists because it hasn't been proved that it doesn't exist.

dumbass 2: god doesn't exist because it hasn't been proved that it does exist.

knowledge: you're both stupid and your logic's erroneous :)

16) False alternative - Giving an either/or choice when there doesn't need to be.

dumbass: If we don't elect a conservative as our next premier, we're all screwed. Obviously, we don't want to be we need to elect a Conservative.

knowledge: Should I even bother answering that?

17) Loaded question - Asking a question which clearly contains statements, or has implications

knowledge: Hey man, do you still drive your shitty Bimmer?

Adrian: No

knowledge: So you've stopped driving your shitty Bimmer?

Adrian: Whoops, I meant yes

knowledge: So you STILL drive your shitty Bimmer?

Adrian: My Bimmer was never shitty

knowledge: Yeah, until it got trashed in your car accident!

Adrian: Too soon man, too soon.

18) Questionable cause - Claiming that something happened because of another thing happening (without sufficient evidence)

Jen: Man, I got food poisoning from that sushi we ate..

knowledge: But we went to the restaurant 4 days ago...

Jen: I know, but I can't think of anything else that would make me throw up

knowledge: ...

19) Hasty Generalization - when a conclusion is drawn from a biased sample

Gelline: Love doesn't exist

knowledge: oh yeah, why's that?

Gelline: Because it's never worked for me. It's never worked for any of my other friends either.

knowledge: yes, because at 16 years old, you're very likely to find an everlasting, undying love. And also, you and your friends represent an entire world of people.

20) Slippery Slope - When a causal chain is provided (which may not be necessarily true)

Deb: Dad, do you mind if I go out tomorrow?

Dad: No. If you go'll get raped. If you get raped, you'll be traumatized for life. If you're traumatized for life, you'll never grow up to be a normal person. I just want what's best for you - you'll thank me when you're older.

Deb: But I'm getting picked up in an armoured car, which is escorted by 50 police officers and the likelihood of anything going wrong is very small

Dad: That's a risk I'm not willing to take. Get back in your bubble!

21) Weak Analogy - Comparing things that aren't even that similar.

dumbass: Being in love is like dancing in the spring rain. It brings refreshement to one's body.

knowledge: That's such a great analogy. Does love also produce thunderstorms and electrocute people?!

22) Inconsistency - When an arguer asserts inconsistent or contradictory claims

Sign in a church vestry: "Will the last person to leave please see that the perpetual light is extinguished. Thanks for your cooperation"


- My Critical Thinking Professor: T.F. (full name withheld)

- Critical Thinking: A student's introduction - G. Bassham (if this textbook didn't cost 80 bones, I'd recommend you all to buy it. It's filled with great quotes, good excerpts, and is generally just well-written.


It's easy to use common sense, folks. Do it.

What's surprising is that people are easier to convince if you use reason, instead of appealing to emotion, pity, or anything else - but they always try to do that first. Humans are meant to be rational...but so many people forget that (oh, the irony).

Sorry for the long-ass post, hopefully you can put this all to good use.

I've also numbered the fallacies so that the next time you argue with a dumbass, you can link this and tell them what they did wrong ;).

Lastly, if I used you as an doesn't mean that you're a tool. It just means that I caught you slippin'.

Feel free to post links as examples to people who use these fallacies - think of it as a wall of shame :D.


- knowledge


  1. Read the Mission statement before commenting:
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  2. I love. this post. Sorry totally totally totally inappropriate you may delete later. But I kind laughed especially about Jen's thing LOL I pictured her saying that. LOLOLOLOL



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