How to Argue Rationally and Logically

People often argue with others about significant subjects, but in doing so they are not able to resolve the issue. It is important that people learn how to do this because it can help them get through tough times. The article discusses some of the key elements for argumenting well and explains examples of when these skills might be helpful during a disagreement。

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning. They can be easily recognized and avoided. By learning to identify these fallacies, you will be able to argue rationally and logically.

Socrates giving speech illustration.

I hope you’ve liked our classical rhetoric series. We’ll talk about logical fallacies in our last installment of the course today. This is a really essential subject. Much of our arguing has shifted online, away from the public square. And if you spend any time reading such online disputes, you’ve surely seen how far many of them go from traditional rhetorical standards. Commenter X expresses a strong viewpoint on an article. Commenter Y reacts by referring to Commenter X as a “Giant Poopie Head” for having that viewpoint. And then there’s Commenter Z, who goes on a rant about something that isn’t even discussed in the essay.

Citizens must learn not just how to argue, but also how not to argue in order for truly civil and successful discourse to take place. Every man should know how to avoid the pitfalls and traps of poor argumentation, as well as how to spot errors in others’ speech.

What Are Fallacies and How Do You Avoid Them?

A speaker or writer may convince his audience in three ways, according to Aristotle’s work The Art of Rhetoric: ethos (appeal to the speaker’s character), pathos (appeal to emotion), and logos (appeal to reasoning) (appeal to logic). Aristotle thought that logos was the superior of the three modes of persuasion, and that all debates should be won or lost solely on the basis of logic.

The trouble with relying just on logos to persuade others is that there are several possibilities for you to make mistakes and make errors in thinking. These flaws are known as logical fallacies.

There are formal and informal fallacies, just as there are formal and informal logic. We’ll offer you a short overview of formal and informal fallacies, as well as instances of each.

Logical Fallacies in Form

Formal syllogisms were a favorite of Aristotle’s. He even wrote a whole treatise about them. There’s a reason he was so fond of them. Syllogisms are an effective rhetorical device. A professionally thought out, good syllogism is difficult to manipulate and argue against.

In syllogisms, a formal fallacy arises when the argument’s structure is incorrect, rendering the argument invalid. Even though the argument’s premises and conclusion are correct, the argument might still be flawed since the conclusion does not flow from the premises. I presented an example of a faulty syllogism in my article on the three methods of persuasion:

Men are all mortal. Socrates is a living being. Socrates is a man as a result.

At first glance, it seems to be a reasonable argument. But make sure you read everything thoroughly. Socrates is not necessarily a man just because he is mortal. For all we know, he may be a squirrel. This is an example of the undistributed middle fallacy in action. Let’s examine a few more formal syllogistic errors.

From a negative premise, an affirmative conclusion:

There are no cats that are dogs. There are no dogs who can purr. As a result, any cat can purr.


Just because there aren’t any purring dogs doesn’t indicate that all cats can purr.

Positive premises lead to a negative conclusion:

With positive premises, it’s impossible to obtain a negative conclusion.

All gods live forever. Every immortal has a beard. As a result, there are no gods with beards.

Informal Logical Fallacies are a kind of logical fallacy that occurs when a person

Arguments that are faulty for reasons other than a weakness in the structure of the argument are known as informal fallacies. You’re undoubtedly already aware of a few common fallacies, such as red herrings and slippery slopes. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common informal fallacies to be aware of while participating in a discussion.

  • A red herring is an effort to shift the topic in order to deflect attention away from the main point. When you watch presidential candidates debate, you can witness innumerable instances of this. “Yes, I would make the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq a top priority,” for example. But, with the unemployment rate as high as it is, we must focus on domestic concerns and job creation, as outlined in my plan…”
  • Ad hominem attacks are when you attack the person rather than the argument. The idea is to delegitimize the argument by delegitimizing the person making it. In online debates, ad hominem assaults are common, particularly when tempers rise. “Well, you’re obviously an idiot, therefore you’re incorrect!” It’s simple to notice an obvious insult like this. Arguments like “Well, I don’t accept anything Politician X has to say about the tax plan since he has said some truly ridiculous things in the past” are more difficult to spot. It’s true that Politician X has shown to be a nut on a number of subjects, and this may have influenced his mindset, but that doesn’t rule out what he has to say about the tax proposal. Except for this one point, he might be completely incorrect.
  • Argumentum ad populum — deciding that something is true merely because a large number of people believe it to be true. “9 out of 10 physicians endorse Acme Brand Toothpaste,” or “3 million Brand X Customers Can’t Be Wrong!” we hear in advertising all the time. “Today is the day to buy Brand X.”
  • An appeal to authority is when a person in a position of authority says that something is true. “Doctor Who is a quantum physics specialist. It must be real if he believes time travel is conceivable!”
  • Instead of appealing to reason, the arguer appeals to emotions like fear, pity, and flattery to convince the audience that what he says is true. Propaganda posters from World War II are a wonderful illustration of an emotional appeal:A poster of war bonds about shadow of children.
  • An appeal to motive may be used to invalidate a conclusion by merely questioning the motivation of the individual or group that proposed it. This is a common approach used by political groups. “The result of Company X’s good report on natural gas fracking safety can’t be genuine since they financed the study and have a vested interest in a positive outcome.” Sure, Company X may have a vested interest in a favorable outcome for natural gas fracking, but it doesn’t imply the conclusion they reached is necessarily incorrect. Yes, it’s suspicious, but it’s not untrue.
  • Appeal to tradition: deciding that an argument is correct because it has been accepted for a long time.
  • The argument from silence is when you come to a conclusion based on the absence of opposing evidence or silence. “Aliens must not exist since we haven’t made touch with them,” for example.
  • Reductio ad Hitlerum- linking an opponent or their argument to Hitler or Nazism in order to identify a stance with a widely loathed one. This one seems to be quite popular on the internet. “Do you know who else was a vegetarian?” for example. Hitler. As a result, vegetarianism is harmful.”

A poster of straw man.


  • An argument based on a distortion of an opponent’s viewpoint is known as a strawman. It’s termed a strawman because the individual creates a bogus point (the strawman) that the original arguer never stated and spends all of his time criticizing it rather than the original argument’s true premises. Senator Smith, for example, wants to eliminate funding for the new Air Force fighter plane because he believes it is costly. I do not agree with the Senator’s position. Senator Smith, why do you wish to leave our nation defenseless?” Instead of disputing whether the planes are really government waste, the arguer instead inserts a misleading version of the senator’s argument, namely, that the senator wishes to leave our nation unprotected.
  • An argument that a specific stance should be ignored or is incorrect based on the fact that the position’s proponent fails to behave in line with that position is known as an appeal to hypocrisy. “Because you got Pell Grants and utilized food stamps while in college, your argument that entitlement programs should be terminated is meaningless.” Sure, it’s difficult to take someone seriously when they utilize government services while also advocating for their removal, but just because someone doesn’t practice what he preaches doesn’t mean what he teaches is incorrect. Instead, the discussion should be on the benefits and drawbacks of government initiatives.

Sliding Slope

Slippery slopes happen when someone believes that taking a tiny step will set off a series of events that will end in a significant shift. “What will stop us from legalizing marriage between humans and machines if we allow same-sex marriage?” Or do you mean people and animals?”

Picking Cherries

When a person solely utilizes evidence that validates a specific perspective while disregarding a major amount of comparable situations that contradict that position, this is referred to as a fallacy. For example, someone may claim that a vegan diet prevents cancer while disregarding the fact that certain civilizations consume solely meat and have very low cancer rates.

Bringing up the Subject

When one of the premises assumes the conclusion of an argument, it is called a fallacy. Circular reasoning is another name for it. One is said to ask the question if one’s premises imply one’s conclusion, and one’s premises are dubious.

Dinosaur Comics, one of my favorite webcomics, explains why the question is begging:

Dinosaur begging illustration.

As a result, post hoc ergo propter hoc

“As a result of this, therefore because of this,” in Latin. When someone draws a conclusion of causality based on the sequence of events, they are committing a fallacy. “After my ice cream cone dropped to the ground, it began to rain.” As a result of my ice cream dropping to the ground, it began to rain.”

True or False Dilemma

When two conclusions are regarded to be the only conceivable possibilities when there are additional options, this is called a fallacy. Example: “We either have to slash education expenditure or we’ll have a massive deficit this fiscal year,” Senator A says. Senator B: “Hmmm…other possibilities.” You might increase taxes or slash expenditure in other departments and programs.”


This is by no means a complete list. There are a slew of other misconceptions that aren’t as well-known. If you want to learn more about informal fallacies, look into the following resources:

  • Fallacies
  • Files of Fallacies

I’d love to hear about your favorite informal fallacies to point out. Leave them in the comments section.

Persuasion Using Informal Fallacies

You probably paused a few times when reading that list of informal fallacies, thinking to yourself, “Wait, but isn’t that a convincing argument?” Shouldn’t we turn to the experts, to the past? Isn’t it conceivable that we’ll end up on a cliff? Shouldn’t the messenger’s personality have anything to do with whether or not their message is credible?”

While they may seem to be the same thing at times, there is a distinction to be made between a logical argument and one that is merely convincing.

It’s also OK to use the latter on occasion.

What the hell is going on? Isn’t it true that only a jerk would purposefully utilize informal fallacies in a debate? In a nutshell, yes and no. It’s vital to remember that rhetoric is primarily about persuading, not just constructing perfectly logical arguments. Two of the three methods of persuasion would be off bounds if we weren’t permitted to employ informal fallacies in our rhetoric–ethos (appeal to the speaker’s character) and pathos (appeal to the speaker’s feelings) (appeal to emotions). Both are logical fallacies in the informal sense.

Politicians and marketers are aware that people are more influenced by emotion than by logic. That’s why politicians and advertising often use informal fallacies.

It does put a rhetorician in an ethical bind. Should one avoid emotional or character appeals since they aren’t precisely logical? While it may seem that utilizing logic and solid reasoning is the high road, a rhetorician runs the danger of being ignored and never conveying a vital message to the public. Some of history’s most memorable speeches combined reasoning and passion. Returning to the example of propaganda posters from WWII, the government needed to support the war effort fast and efficiently; relying on reasoning alone would not have sufficed. Instead, residents were moved to action by appeals to their feeling of duty, patriotism, and concern for their loved ones. When used for good, ethos and pathos may inspire individuals to do great things. They can, of course, influence individuals to commit evil in the wrong hands. That is why it is critical to have a well-informed and knowledgeable population capable of evaluating the claims and appeals made by politicians and pundits, allowing themselves to be moved by emotion when the cause is good and piercing through the illusion when it is not.

Everyone will have a different opinion on whether or not it is acceptable to use informal fallacies. Finding a balance, I believe, is the key. Use emotional or character appeals as needed, but always back them up with facts and strong logic.


Everyone will have a different opinion on whether or not it is acceptable to use informal fallacies. Finding a balance, I believe, is the key. Use emotional or character appeals as needed, but always back them up with facts and strong logic.

This concludes this series on classical rhetoric. For anyone who would want to have all of the postings in one location, we aim to compile them into an ebook. Although, since they’re often put on a remote burner on the enormous AoM oven, such tasks always appear to take an eternity to complete.

I’ll leave you with a list of resources that I found useful when studying this series and that may be useful to you as you continue your study of classical rhetoric.

  • Rhetoricae Silva
  • Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric
  • Cicero’s On Invention
  • Cicero is credited with writing Rhetorica ad Herennium, however it seems unlikely that he wrote it.
  • Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria
  • A Glossary of Rhetorical Terminology
  • The Great Speech: A Lost Art
  • Why Do Some Ideas Survive While Others Perish?
  • Speak like Winston Churchill and take a stand like Abraham Lincoln.
  • Thank You for Arguing: Lessons in Persuasion from Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, and Homer Simpson

101 Series on Classical Rhetoric a brief overview An Overview of the Past The Three Persuasion Techniques Rhetoric’s Five Canons – Invention Arrangement of the Five Canons of Rhetoric Rhetoric’s Five Canons – Style Rhetoric’s Five Canons – Memory Rhetoric’s Five Canons – Delivery Fallacies in logic Bonus! The 35 Most Powerful Speeches in History



“How to make a good argument in a debate” is the topic of this blog. This blog will give you tips on how to argue rationally and logically. Reference: how to make a good argument in a debate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you argue rationally?

A: It is usually a common goal to eliminate irrationality or at least reduce it. There are many means of doing so such as logical fallacies, appeals to emotion, and statistical methods.

What is a good argument in logic?

A: The best argument in logic is the one that has the most evidence. One example of a good argument would be if there were two people on a jury and they both believed something, but had different reasons for believing it. They could have opposing viewpoints, but their reasoning behind those beliefs should be sound enough to convince at least one person of them being correct.

How do you know if an argument is logical?


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