The use of irritating examples by an opponent proving his point only by such means, can and sometimes does take a toll on even the most experienced of the debaters. And use of such examples can become a source of confusion for those uninitiated to formal debate. And since logic is the controlling element inside every meaningful debate, examples should confirm to logic. As a guide to understanding the proper usage of examples, let's assume that two individuals are having an argument about "multiculturalism"(the unity in diversity concept). With the topic of discussion being spelled out clearly, the argument should about whether multiculturalism is right or wrong. After specifying the topic, the following points can to be observed
The issue at hand here is whether multiculturalism is morally repugnant or not. To decide on this case, both the parties should agree on a 'basic minimum' of a definition like - multiculturalism is the premise that all cultures are equal on all terms; there is no way of actually saying that one culture is better than another. Two people cannot have an argument about multiculturalism when it means two totally different things to them. Such an argument would only go round in circles. In such an argument, the point being fought about would sometimes be about the meaning of the word-multiculturalism, and would sometimes be about whether it is acceptable or not.
Examples are illustrative devices from reality, which have a direct or an indirect connection with a basic premise in an argument, serving either to strengthen or weaken that basic premise. Note that there are two elements contained in this definition, a connection and a purpose. Examples which fulfil only one of these criteria or neither have no value within that argument and therefore should not be used. In this case, let's assume that the affirmative uses this example in favor multiculturalism:
How do you counter this 'example'? It is clear that the above example fulfils the criterion of purpose-point(c). But what about Point (a)? One cannot in any way agree that what applies to flowers applies to men. Flowers don't have the capacity for thinking and for volition. So this example falls because it tries to link unconnected entities, the basis for multiculturalism and the fact that different flowers grow on a same meadow. That is, the criterion of connection is not fulfilled. Not all examples are as easy and obviously false as the one stated above. It is a difficult task to argue in the face of constant obfuscations.
"It is surprising that men, who choose to live by reason should constantly be in conflict with one another, fighting and bickering about stupid matters like skin color and religion, when the simple, innocent and little flowers that grow on the slopes of a meadow near my farm grow in peace, though their rich color and their fragrances are in strong contrast with one another. It is saddening, to say the least,that men through all the ages have failed to see that which is right in front of them, that thread of unity which runs through each and every one of God' creations. Man still has a lot to learn from nature".Here we can see the same example being put forward with a great deal of 'poise' and 'emotion'. And note also that the affirmative states:
"...who choose to live by reason should constantly be in conflict with one another, fighting and bickering about stupid matters like skin color and religion,..."thereby suggesting that there is use of reason in his argument (while in reality, if he had used reason, he wouldn't have given such an example). But the element of flaw in the example remains the same: the connection to the actual question in consideration is not present in the example.
"...since the laws of nature cannot be refuted, are we also to live like lemmings which, when accumulated in large numbers walk off over the cliff's edge and drown in the sea? Since we are to confirm to the laws of nature, are we to control human populations like the lemmings do? Then before we send our first batch of elderly citizens to the water's edge, we might as well dump all condoms and pills in the same ocean as we will never need them. 'Live like a flower, die like a lemming' should be our motto then."
The example stated above, will accomplish two objectives for the negative. It will fight back the flowers example effectively. It will prevent such examples from being given in the future. The premise that one can live like a lemming if one should live like a flower effectively neutralizes the metaphor in the flowers example. It also proves the point that the argument is not about whether we ought to follow rules of nature or not.
It is immediately obvious that the same kind of examples may used even by the negative. This will only serve to weaken their case, if they do so. And I find it difficult to give any examples to give in favor of multiculturalism because it is morally repugnant.
|The use of logic in arguments
|1. The use of examples
2. The weapons of Pragmatism