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October 14, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

What is the best criteria for evaluating and comparing arguments?

As someone who has evaluated his share of arguments, I would suggest the following criteria:

1) Representativeness of data
2) Representativeness of conclusions
3) Credibility of source & data
4) Clarity
5) Understanding of context (historical, culture, relevant or iconic precedent in the area, etc…)
6) Lack of overgeneralization, straw person, or excessive reductionism
7) Precision, specificity, and nuance
8) Ability to address objections (i.e. how it relates to and integrate with the oppositions arguments), counter-examples, or alternative perspectives
9) What are its assumptions?
10) Is it reasonable? Is it coherent?
11) Takes a comparative view (i.e. weighing arguments or proof on both sides). This model is followed by the SWOT model.
12) A clear sense of prioritization (i.e. of whats important and what isn’t and helping the reader understand it).
13) Honesty. Openness and honesty about ones premises and assumptions. The purpose of the academy is finding truth. Arguments which don’t attempt to find truth run counter to the purpose of education, the academy, and progress of society.
14) Multiple forms of proof
15) Multi-disciplinary understanding of argument

I would suggest these four additional resources on developing a criteria for creating, evaluating, and comparing the reasonableness and credibility of arguments:
1) Stephen Toulmin (his 7 part criteria is pretty epic) (link)
2) Page on publish.uwo.ca (a PDF on assessing arguments) (link)
3) Criteria for Analyzing Arguments (includes the STAR method) (link)
4) Page on northwestern.edu (short criteria from Northwestern U) (link)

This criteria is for good argument–and ideal. Arguments can certainly have less proof–particular in the case of informal argument–but this argument shoots at what the ideal of argument is in a best case scenario.

Other arguments about critical thinking and argument on Compassion in Politics.

One Comment

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  1. compassioninpolitics / Oct 14 2014 11:35 pm

    Here are 10 tips to help improve logical reasoning:

    1) Adapt the type of reasoning to the problem (this is a contextual issue)
    2) Study multiple disciplines
    3) Use your experience & common experience (aka empiricism and wisdom)
    4) Consider both sides
    5) Research both sides (you need to understand both sides to fully understand any issue and understand it in all its complexities–there may actually be more than two sides)
    6) Determine what matters the most
    7) Roleplaying, empathy, and scenario based considerations
    8) Think in systems
    9) Evaluate the quality of premises & evidence
    10) Be honest about assumptions. Evaluate the nature of the assumptions. Understand the constraints of the evidence or the perspectives provided.

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