Premises and conclusions

Logical reasoning, or argumentation is pervasive in our society. We require people to explain why or how certain things happen or are said. If a teacher would for example contradict oneself and a student would refer to that asking whether they did not just said A and now B, an answer from the teacher stating just ‘no’ will be unsatisfactory. We need reasons to be given. And in order to do so, we use argumentation. Argumentation is the act or process of forming reasons, making inductions, drawing conclusions, and applying them to the case in discussion. It is a tool to rationally resolve differences of opinions, questions, and issues in critical discussions.

Stephen Toulmin was a scientist working on mainly ethical issues with animals. And found himself in the position where he was looking for a way to explain to his colleagues in a neutral matter the outcomes of research. While in ethical research it is often noted that there is a lot of values involved, it becomes harder to explain it to someone else that does not share these values. Toulmin developed a model with 6 components that make up the core of a neutral and convincing argument. But before we get there, we start with a more basic form of argumentation. Since the model is complex, it is very hard to use on the fly in a quick conversation. While these simpler models provide you with the tools to make a good argument also in a short conversation.

So, to summarize:

  • We use things we know and believe to be true to describe new knowledge
  • Premises are things we think are true and we combine them in such a way that it makes sense.
  • Conclusion is the end point of reasoning
  • Inferring is the process of combining premises and conclude from it