How to Debug Your Arguments and Clarify Your Thinking
Have you ever had a conversation with a friend that went around in circles…just to realize that you agreed on everything?
This happens when we’re arguing about a “ghost.” It’s difficult to grasp because we didn’t define it, or it floated away during the conversation. Spelling out exactly what you mean is harder than it sounds:
- Thinking’s faster than speaking.
- We press enter before processing what we typed to our friend.
- We don’t clarify the topic of conversation
Let’s tackle that last one.
Make it Clear, Make it Specific, Make it True
If you choose to take a position on a topic at work or in class, in politics or in on a movie, state your view with precision.
Readers and listeners appreciate takes that are easy to understand. That doesn’t mean your view must be simple: we need nuance to get closer to the truth. We want comprehension. Clarity is essential to discussing abstract concepts in philosophy, diplomacy, economics, or IT.
Structure Your Arguments to Stop Confusion from Starting
Start with a CLAIM: “We should legalize marijuana, because it’s safe.”
Define your terms. What exactly are you defending? Does “legalize” = “decriminalize?” Where? When? Under what conditions? Just CBD?
Offer some ANALYSIS: “Marijuana’s safe because most people relax rather than lose control. So long as it’s used carefully and responsibly.”
How is it safe? Appeal to empirical evidence, cause and effect. Citations.
Follow-up with IMPACT: “Since marijuana’s safe, we should let people sell it.”
So what if it’s safe? Who cares? Who benefits? E.g., it’s a $20 billion industry.
End with a COMPARISON: “Legalize marijuana, we can regulate like alcohol.”
Connect the topic to a similar one. What’s different or similar?
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