1.1 What is an argument?
The first step is to understand what an argument is in the formal sense of the word. The art of argument and rhetoric has a long history. In western legal cultures it is linked and developed from the works of the ancient Greek and Roman writers. Before going any further Activity 1 asks you to think about what the word ‘argument’ means to you.
Activity 1 What is an argument?
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A formal argument is made of several elements, as outlined in Box 1.
Box 1 The anatomy of an argument
An argument can be divided into:
- the premise or claim – a statement, proposition, foundation or reason for a conclusion
- the factual evidence to support that premise or claim
- the conclusion – this follows logically from the premise(s), and it is what you are arguing for in regard to the factual evidence.
So, a formal argument is more than a statement of a point of view – it is also an attempt to support that view with evidence. An argument should be distinguished from a disagreement, where each of the two sides believes something different. An argument provides the reason for the beliefs of the two sides.