Dedicant's Work

Study Program











Pagan Student Association

CafePress Shop


Critical Thinking, Requirement 1

Discuss what constitutes a good argument, how arguments work and what makes some arguments better than others. (minimum 600 words)

An argument is a set of premises (usually two or more) from which a conclusion is drawn.

In order for an argument to be a "good" argument, it must be a valid argument. Very basically, premises are stated, and if they are true (or convincingly so), then they add weight and indicate the truth of a logical conclusion. The premises in question should imply the conclusion, which means that each premise must be strong and supporting of the conclusion in question.

Arguments should also, ideally, stand up to a strong examination, for examination lends credibility and legitimacy. Examination should show that the person argument that was made does not include any fallacies, contains valid syllogisms, and is comprehendible from a grammatical and practical standpoint.

A good argument should, of course, be true. Or at least it should certainly look as if it is true (this is doubly important for arguments that are true: appearing to be false or failing to convince someone that an argument is true is just like making a false argument). There are certain arguments that we intuitively know are false. For example, if I offer the premises: "John lives in the Netherlands" and "John is an ADF member", we cannot conclude with "All ADF members live in the Netherlands". We can conclude that "At least one ADF member lives in the Netherlands," though. The first conclusionary statement rings false to us (and rightly so) not because we know a lot about ADF, but because there's a quality to it that does not sit right with us. The second conclusion makes natural, logical sense. In the first example, we have used true premises to arrive at a false conclusion. In the second example, we used the exact same premises in order to arrive at a true conclusion.

An argument also needs to be sound, that is, the premises that make up the argument's primary support or evidence must be true. Often, an argument can appear to be sound on the surface, but will be found out as unsound as the argument is examined closely. In order to avoid this, the premises need to be carefully examined for their truthfulness and their individual soundness. While a valid argument may have false premises, a sound argument does not. Ideally, a good argument will be both valid and sound.

The presentation of an argument must also be convincing. Adding to the convincing nature of an argument can be done through various rhetorical and logical devices, and also through the physical format that the presentation is made in. Failure to provide a convincing presentation will render your argument weak, even if it is founded on sound, 62 premises and logical conclusions. Often, this is described as making your argument compelling. It is important to note that this relies more on the skill of the arguer to convince the other person, rather than the ability to put together a good set of premises and conclusions. An argument can be compelling but not valid, so it is wise to merely consider "compelling" as a good thing for an argument to be, but not a requirement.

Often, the rules of arguments change a bit when you move from a static argument (one written in a paper or article, for example) to a dialogue. Often, points are made and a counterpoint offered. The premises of both sides can then be used to come to a final conclusion.

The goal of any good argument that involves a dialogue should be one in which the argument will be conducted as a dialogue where the participants will arrive at a conclusion that they can both agree on due to mutually acceptable inferences.


Content © 2003 - 2006, Michael J Dangler
Updated on 03/03/2006. Site Credits / Email Me!
Basic site design from
(Yes, I stole it!)