A brief introduction to logic and argumentation

Over the years, I have found myself in all sorts of debates. Some were serious, like whether "death with dignity" should be legalized. Some were not, like whether "The Matrix: Reloaded" was a good movie. On a daily basis, we all find ourselves trying to decide between wildly conflicting beliefs. We are also called upon to argue positively for one position, course of action or idea.  Unfortunately though, the Web has not improved our ability to think. Indeed, it may have just made thinking more complicated.

Because of the nature of communications on the Web, we need to be even more careful about evaluating the endless array of ideas out there. Hopefully, this Web site will lend a hand.

Note that my focus here is on informal logic and argumentation, not the broader catagory of critical thinking. Critical thinking seeks an actionable outcome. What can we do with the facts at hand? What compromises can we reach based on competing interests? Informal logic, on the other hand, is anti-utilitarian. It seeks to expose the truth so we can adapt to it, rather than adapt the truth to our needs. It does not care what motives are involved or whether a compromise can be reached.

My intention is to break down the processes of informal logic in such a way that anyone who might gain something from these pages. These pages should be a sufficient, but very brief, introduction to polemics, argumentation and informal logic for the high school or college student. This short guide may also be useful to more advanced students and arguers as a refresher or checklist to be used to proof existing arguments. Anyone who participates in any kind of argumentation, from Web forums to writing letters to your friends urging them to vote a particular way, may just find some helpful tools here. 

Lee J. Ballard