The word “argument“ may suggest quarrels or squabbles. That is what a child means when she reports that her parents are having an argument. Arguments of that sort often include abuse, name-calling, and yelling. That is not what this book is about. The goal here is not to teach you to yell louder, to be more abusive, or to beat your opponents into submission.

Our topic is the kind of argument defined by Monty Python in their justly famous “Argument Clinic.” In this skit, a client enters a clinic and pays for an argument. In the first room, however, all he gets is abuse, which is not argument. When he finally finds the right room to get an argument, the per- son who is supposed to give him an argument simply denies whatever the client says, so the client complains that mere denial is different from argu- ment, because “an argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.” This definition is almost correct. As we will see, the purpose of an argument need not always be to “establish” its conclusion, both because some conclusions were established in advance and because many reasons are inconclusive. Nonetheless, Monty Python’s definition needs to be modified only a little in order to arrive at an adequate definition:

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