Communication is an extremely important factor in our lives and much of the time is spent trying to persuade others towards our views. Logic and argumentation are central to persuasive communication. This document will outline the purpose of persuasive communication and its structure. Persuasive communication will be defined in a way that the main objective of persuasion is to convince the audience of the thesis, the thesis being the conclusion of a discourse. An integral part of persuasive communication is argumentation and its format will be discussed. In order for a document to be persuasive it will be shown that it is necessary for it to contain a valid argument that lends support to the conclusion. The basic structure of an argument will be explained. It should be noted, however, that in the scope of this essay it is not appropriate to define all possible types of argumentation, so only the elements common to all arguments will be identified. The importance of logic will be shown with relevance to the way that it is used to identify valid arguments. Again it is necessary to limit the scope of the essay to defining logic within argumentation. Fallacies will be defined and it will be shown how arguments containing them fail to become persuasive. Persuasive communication is essentially based on a logically constructed argument that is strong enough to change the audience?s opinion to agree with the conclusion.
If others are to agree with our conclusions within a piece of communication, we must persuade them of the points we are making. Persuasion is used to make others believe that what we are saying is acceptable. Persuasion is described in Tyler, King & Browning (1999, p.137) as a ?deliberate attempt to impose ideas on another individual?. This means that when we are trying to persuade people we are imposing our views on them. Another way of looking at persuasion is to describe it as an attempt to make others see where we are coming from and get them to agree with what we are saying. In Walton (1989, p.5) the goal of persuasion is to persuade another party of a thesis and the method of doing this is to prove the thesis. To force our audience to come around to our way of thinking we must ?prove? to them that our statements are true. Persuasive communication involves basing your thesis on a logically constructed argument so that others can be convinced of the subject matter. From this paragraph we can see that in order to persuade another party of a thesis or conclusion it has to be proven to them. It will be shown that an effective strategy to prove a conclusion is to use argumentation within the communication.
Arguing involves developing a set of statements that support and lead to a conclusion. This method of communicating is central to persuasive communication. From a communication perspective arguing is not seen as two or more people erratically yelling at each other, it is the method of using premises to support a conclusion so that the audience is led to agree with the thesis. A good argument is described by Guttenplan (1997, p.21) as one that is suitable as a means of persuading someone of the truth of its conclusion. Convincing people of the veracity of an argument is the way to succeed in persuading them of the conclusion. Premises are the heart of an argument. Without premises you do not have an argument you have a statement. This is supported by Clark (1994, pg 106) where he states ?Premises are necessary within an argument, without them you will only be stating a fact. This fact may not be believed by the audience if there is an absence of suitable supporting premises?. If, for example, we say, ?elephants are the largest animals on land? by itself this does not comprise an argument, it is simply a statement. If our aim is to convince someone that elephants are the largest land animals we must prove to them that this is true by basing this statement on one or more premises. For example ?Horses are big but elephants are bigger? and ?The encyclopedia Britannica states that the largest animal on land is the elephant?, may be suitable premises to lend support to the conclusion. There are different ways to structure an argument with different types of premises. It is not within the scope of this essay to explain all the types of premises, but a good definition of them is given by Delbridge and Bernard (1994, p.773) ?A premise is a proposition (or one of several) from which a conclusion is drawn?. It can be seen that there is more to developing an argument than simply giving premises at random in the hope that they will be convincing. Lewis (1994, p.83) describes an argument as a logically interwoven set of statements, one of which, the conclusion, rests on or follows from the others. The essential part of an argument is not the fact that it is based on premises, it is that the premises are connected in a way that they lead to and support the conclusion. If we structure our argument in this way it will become valid. Whatever the type of communication it is essential that you use valid arguments to persuade people of your conclusion.
To persuade a reader or listener towards a certain point of view the argument that forms the base for a conclusion must be valid. There are different types of premises that can be used to construct an argument, but the main thing to consider when including a premise in an argument is whether or not it lends support to the conclusion. For example it is no good including the premise ?Whales are large mammals? in our elephant argument because it does not support the statement that ?Elephants are the largest land animals?. ?A valid argument is one where the premises necessitate the conclusion? (Scott 1998, p.80). From this quote it can be seen that the conclusion stands purely on the premises. The same point is put much clearer by Lewis (1994, p.84) where he explains a valid argument as one in which, if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. It is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion not to be. Valid arguments are central for constructing persuasive communication. The statements that make up a valid argument should be connected logically in order to be persuasive.
Logic has become a broad area of study, which is primarily concerned with the necessity to connect premises correctly so that an argument becomes valid. We have already discussed why a valid argument is necessary for persuasive communication. It will now be shown that the method used to assess this validity is logic. ?Logic is concerned with the way that, within arguments premises do or do not lend support to conclusions? (Fogelin & Sinnet-Armstrong 1997, p.32). This quote is used to explain the purpose of logic within argumentation. It can be seen that logic is the study of whether or not arguments are valid. Windshuttle (1994, p.313) describes logic as the study of correct and incorrect reasoning. It is a study that clarifies the distinctions between good and bad arguments, telling us why some arguments are strong and should be accepted and why some arguments are weak and worthless. It can be seen that the reader (or listener) uses logic to examine an argument and decide whether the reasons behind the argument, the premises, are correctly, or incorrectly supporting the conclusion. A web page devoted to convincing people to become atheists goes to great pains in emphasising that logic should be used to decipher religious arguments. They stress the need for logic by saying:
Logic will let you analyze an argument or a piece of reasoning, and work out whether it is likely to be correct or not. You don’t need to know logic to argue, of course; but if you know even a little, you’ll find it easier to spot invalid arguments.
(The Atheism Web: Logic and Fallacies (n.d.), [accessed 2nd August 2000])
In the Macquarie dictionary, Delbridge & Bernard (1994, pg.338) define a fallacy as ?A technical flaw, which makes an argument unsound or invalid?. Illogical arguments are those that contain fallacies therefore arguments that contain fallacies are invalid. If an argument is not logical then it will become impossible for people to accept the conclusions that are made within a piece of communication.
Logic and argumentation go hand in hand. Without using logic in an argument the conclusion will not be accepted by the audience, making it invalid. ?Few things bother perceptive readers more than apparent logical inconsistencies? (Clark 1994, p. 121). Obviously ?bothering? your reader is not a good tactic when trying to be persuasive. Windshuttle (1994, p.315) observes that a piece of persuasive communication should be based on an underlying logic in order to be convincing. Logic is a solid ground to base an argument on if you wish the audience to be persuaded of the conclusion.
Using persuasive communication means trying to impose a view on the audience. When constructing a piece of persuasive communication the focus should be on supporting the conclusion with an argument containing a logically connected set of premises. The audience will decide on the validity of the argument by determining the correctness of the logic. A valid argument is one that contains no fallacies, so that the conclusion is logically correct based on the premises. Logic and argumentation go hand in hand in such a way that it is impossible to construct a valid argument without logic. A logical argument is the central part of developing a persuasive piece of communication. This essay has developed a logical argument that overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that logic and argumentation are central to persuasive communication.
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