The Importance of Logic in Writing
ALMOST ALL WRITINGS involve argument, that is, the effort to support some assertions (called conclusions) with others (called premises), the truth of which are in turn substantiated by more specific or immediate evidence.
When you write a journalistic article, or an essay or term paper for a course, or a memo, business letter, research report, or proposal for a job, implicitly included in your goal is to influence the readers to agree with your assumptions. Hence, it is important to select your proofs cautiously. Equally necessary is being familiar with the logical ways of organizing the evidence that the conclusion would appear acceptable. Remember that the soundness of argument relies not only on proofs, but also on logic or the way one uses the evidence in his reasoning.
Knowledge of logic would help a writer not only in creating but also in assessing the validity of arguments. The following are logical guidelines which are helpful to all writers:
Use deductive and inductive reasoning carefully.
A deductive argument carries premises that claim to give conclusive grounds for truth of the conclusion or support the conclusion with necessity. On the other end, an inductive argument claims that its premises support but do not guarantee its conclusion. The categories of validityand invalidityare applicable only to arguments which are deductive, while arguments which are inductive may only be strongor weak. A valid deductive argument with premises all true holds a conclusion that is necessarily true and is impossibly false. A strong inductive argument with premises all true holds a conclusion which is only probably true, only improbably false. A valid deduction gives its conclusion an “all or nothing” kind of support, which is nota matter of degree. On the other hand, a strong induction gives its conclusion a “more or less” kind of support, which isa matter of degree. A valid deduction’s conclusion does not contain more information than what its premises provide; but that of an induction does. This is the reason a deduction holds and the reason behind some degree of uncertainty in an induction.
Induction should not be confused with a bad deduction. Deduction and induction differ not as with good and bad reasoning. The difference between deduction and induction is the difference between two ways of supporting the truthfulness of a conclusion. Deduction is the subject of a rigorous exact science; induction, unfortunately, is not.
When you reason inductively, you infer a general conclusion from a collection of particular facts. For example, you might conclude that all flowers are fragrant because Ilang-ilang, Sampaguita, Rose, Rosal and Wild orchid are fragrant.
For inductive reasoning to be reliable, the conclusion must be based on ample amount of individual, representative instances.Deductive reasoning holds to a very high standard of correctness. A deductive inference succeeds only if its premises provide such absolute and complete support for its conclusion that it would be utterly inconsistent to suppose that the premises are true but the conclusion false.
Deductive reasoning can often be structured in a three-step argument called a syllogism. The three steps are the major premise, the minor premise, and the conclusion:
All dogs are mammals. (major premise)
Canines are dogs. (minor premise)
Therefore, canines are mammals. (conclusion)
This argument is valid. If we assume the premises All dogs are mammals and Canines are dogs as true, then we are necessitated to accept the conclusion Canines are mammals as also true. To accept the premises and deny the conclusion at the same time is inconsistent and self-contradictory because the conclusion just follows from the premises.
Many deductive arguments do not state one of the premises but rather leave the reader to infer it. In the preceding example, the conclusion would still sound plausible without the major premise: “Nuclear reactors increase radiation in the environment; therefore, they are dangerous to public health.” A careful reader, however, will see the missing premise and will question the whole argument if the premise is debatable.
Deductive arguments break down if one of the premises is not true or if the conclusion does not logically follow from them.
Structure a convincing argument.
Readers who already agree with you need no persuasion, although a well-argued case for their own point of view is always welcome. But indifferent and skeptical readers will tend to resist your argument because they have minds of their own. To convince such readers, you will need to anticipate objections, refute opposing arguments, establish credibility, and maintain a reasonable tone.
a) Anticipating objections; refuting opposing arguments
To give up a position that seems reasonable, a reader has to see that there is an even more reasonable once. In addition to presenting your own case, review the chief arguments of the other side and explain what you think is wrong with them.
There is no best place in an essay to deal with the other side. Often it is useful to summarize the opposing position early in your essay. After stating your thesis but before developing the detailed reasons, you might have a paragraph beginning “Critics of this view argue that….” But sometimes a better plan is to anticipate objections as you develop your case paragraph by paragraph. Wherever you decide to deal with opposing arguments, do your best to refute them. Show readers why they are not as persuasive as your critics believe.
As you refute opposing arguments, try to establish common ground with readers who are not in initial agreement with your views. If you can show that you share your readers’ values, they may be able to switch to your position without giving up what they feel is important. For example, to persuade people emotionally opposed to shooting helpless deer, a state wildlife commission would have to show that it too cares about preserving deer and does not want them to die needlessly. Having established these values in common, the commission might be able to persuade critics that a carefully controlled hunting season is good for the deer population because it prevents starvation caused by overpopulation. By the same token, if those opposed to hunting want to persuade the commission to ban the hunting season, they would need to show that the commission could achieve its goals by some other feasible means, such as expanding the deer preserve or allowing the deer and the food supply to come into a natural balance.
People believe that intelligence and decency support their side of an argument. To change sides, they must continue to feel intelligent and decent. Otherwise they will persist in their opposition.
b) Establishing credibility
Readers will not listen to you if they don’t trust you. You can establish your credibility by showing that you have considered both sides and that you are knowledgeable. To demonstrate your knowledge, cite relevant facts and statistics and if possible quote respected experts. If the statistics and quotations come from respected neutral sources, such as university research study, they will of course be more persuasive than if they come from a self-interested group such as the Tricycle Operators and Drivers Associations (TODA).
c) Maintaining a reasonable tone
Build goodwill by sounding reasonable and likable. Most readers are put off by overemotional language or strident complaining. Strongly worded outbursts might express an arguer’s feelings well, but they have the disadvantage of arousing equally strong feelings on the other side. If your goal is persuading the other side, maintain a reasonable tone.
Informal fallacies of all varieties can seriously interfere with our ability to arrive at the truth. Whether they are committed inadvertently in the course of an individual's own thinking or deliberately employed in an effort to manipulate others, each may persuade without providing legitimate grounds for the truth of its conclusion. But knowing what the fallacies are affords us some protection in either case. If we can identify several of the most common patterns of incorrect reasoning, we are less likely to slip into them ourselves or to be fooled by anyone else.
(For discussions about fallacies, please look for the article “So what’s wrong with my argument” I to IV” through the search engine (upper right section) of this site).
How to cite this article:
The Importance of Logic in Writing @ www.OurHappySchool.com
Think of an interesting proposition (e.g. ‘Nursing’ is the best course in the Philippines today). Write a 3-paragraph persuasive/argumentative article about it by considering the guidelines discussed in the article. Publish your written article as a 'note' in your Facebook account and tag your professor/class monitor/favorite classmate/s.