THE SCIENCE OF ARGUMENT
The word argument evokes many images.
Arguments are often verbal disagreements between people with different
views. They can involve a lot of emotion and some people seek to avoid
arguments. People who ceaselessly pick arguments are obnoxious. The
whole process can be quite unpleasant.
Everyone has opinions and beliefs: claims that we hold to be true. We can create conflicts with other people whose beliefs and opinions we do not share simply by denying theirs and insisting on our own. The easiest way to avoid such conflicts is simply not to talk to other people about controversial matters. Refusing to discuss an issue, however, is not more constructive than yelling at one another. Consider two ways of thinking that may succeed in avoiding conflict, while blocking any possibility for productive discussion.
While these attitudes are different in important ways, they have the same outcome for the prospect of our discussing our beliefs; they block it. Taking either attitude towards intellectual inquiry leaves us with the options of fighting or keeping our peace. Neither of these allows for intellectual progress.
Fortunately there is a third alternative to silence or confrontation. Philosophical argument provides this alternative by focusing our attention away from the claims (opinions, beliefs) themselves and towards the relationships between the claims. Consider the way of thinking that a committment to philosophical argument may promote.
Philosophical argument emphasizes the process of reasoning we use over the content of the claims we hold. We can understand the process of reasoning by which another person maintains a claim without having to attack their view or surrender our own. Employing the techniques of philosophical argument we can increase understanding of other views and our own thinking. Three techniques are involved in the process of philosophical argument: