Based on the book A Rulebook for Arguments, Fourth Edition, this course provides a basic introduction to the art of making one’s points rationally and eloquently, whether in speaking or in writing. It offers – in a very brief format for quick learning and reference – simple rules for putting together a good argument.
“Many people think that arguing is simply stating their prejudices in a new form,” says author Anthony Weston, a philosopher, teacher, and writer. “That is why many people also think that arguments are unpleasant and pointless. In this book, ‘to give an argument’ means to offer a set of reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion.”
Why is this skill essential for mental health professionals?
A Rulebook for Arguments starts with simple rules for common everyday arguments. Some examples are:
· - Identify your premise: what are you trying to prove?
· - Develop your ideas in a natural order
· - Start from reliable premises; if your premises are weak, your conclusion will be weak
· - Build on substance, not overtones: offer actual reasons
We have all heard and read arguments that do not hold together. Some of them are clearly based on opinion – as opposed to fact – and others cite statistics that are “cherry picked” or obviously manipulated. Statistics always need a critical eye.
Another common flaw in arguments is confusing correlation with causation. An example of this is the following:
People who meditate tend to be calmer. Therefore, meditation calms you down.
What are the problems with this assertion? First, correlation is different from causation. Correlation is a regular association between two events. When we see a regular correlation, we are tempted to assume causation. If it is true that people who meditate are calmer than those who do not, there may be an inverse correlation (maybe calm people are more likely to meditate) or an alternative explanation (maybe the relationship between calmness and meditation is coincidental, or maybe both calmness and meditation are influenced by a third unknown factor).
The course also includes a section on classic fallacies – misleading types of arguments. Examples are:
· - Begging the question (using your conclusion as a premise)
· - Non sequitur (drawing a conclusion that does not follow from the evidence presented)
· - Loaded language (language that primarily plays on emotion)
· - Overgeneralizing (making inferences from too few examples)
Professionals who complete this course will be able to create arguments that are clear instead of confusing and persuasive instead of dogmatic.
This course is presented in a ‘test only’ format, meaning it is based on the published textbook that not included (but available in print or Kindle version on Amazon). The CE test can be ordered and completed on the PDResources website for continuing education credit: https://www.pdresources.org/