Hans Eysenck's Rules of Argument

From Logic

While it is important for you to know how to argue, any good argument requires at least two competent arguers. So please heed the advice of Pierre Bayle regarding arguing with opponents who don't know how to argue:

It's sometimes a disadvantage to reason with People of shallow Understandings; for be their Intention ever so honest, they shall wrangle about a thousand things solidly prov'd, for want of comprehending the Force of an Argument.

Now for Eysenck's Rules of Argument

"These rules are simple, but I recommend them to anyone who has occasion to engage in public arguments. Briefly, they are as follows":

1. Never argue about something about which you are fundamentally ignorant. Adherence to this rule alone would reduce the number of arguments in the world dramatically.

2. Do your homework, so that you really know everything there is to know about the topic in question. (I.e. know your opponent's position.)

3. Keep what you have to say short, because if you go on for any length of time the audience will forget the points you are making.

4. Concentrate on the most important points, and don't go hunting after those that matter less.

5. Having decided what are the most important points, force your opponent to answer these points, and don't let him [or her] escape by dragging in all sorts of irrelevant matters" (Eysenck, H, 1997, p. 76).

"Among the many errors committed are having no central theme, concentrating too much on unimportant aspects rather than vital ones, giving too much detail, ...over-estimating the background knowledge of the audience, failing to set the research in its proper background, and so forth ad nauseam. I consciously tried to avoid all these errors, and think of the particular audiences I was addressing, their needs, interests and requirements..." (Eysenck, 1997, p. 122). "[My father] taught me that it is very important indeed to have a particular high spot in your presentation, something which stands out and which will be remembered by the audience for a long time" (Eysenck, 1997, p. 122)

If readers of this page could learn one thing about the proper way to argue, it would be to memorize and live by the rules given in this section.

Those following the Course in Logic 101 should proceed to the next section: What is an Argument?


  • Eysenck, H (1997)
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