Many people have no idea how to construct a good argument. I say this because I have argued with them and they lack logical skill. They aren’t stupid people, they just have trouble with the math of logic. Yes, I said math. When I was in high school (such a brief time ago(cough)) I took a logic class. Like most of my classes, I exerted the necessary energy to pass and little more, but I do recall the mathematical plotting of arguments which I enjoyed. As an electronics technician, it means even more to me now. That’s right, electronics and logical arguments are tied together with my friend, Boolean Algebra. To keep it simple, I will just talk about AND and OR equations and for this brief illustration talk about two supporting proofs only. Also, for logic, it should be noted that in building an argument, each statement/clause has only two values: True (1) or False (0) (yay binary!)

Wait, come back. I promise I’ll make this simple. AND is multiplication so if your argument is built with AND both supports must be TRUE for your hypothesis to be TRUE. So, where X and Y are supporting facts and Z is the hypothesis:

X * Y = Z. Replacing X and Y for TRUE or FALSE (0 or 1) we can see how the math bears out.

1 * 1 = 1

1 * 0 = 0

0 * 1 = 0

OR arguments are addition. I know you think the very word AND implies addition, but logically and mathematically it doesn’t work that way. So using the same variables:

X + Y = Z

1 + 1 = 1 (I know you want a 2 there, but it’s TRUE or FALSE, logic does not allow for SUPER TRUE)

1 + 0 = 1

0 + 1 = 1

The point here is that for OR arguments, every support stands on its own so that only one need be true to support the argument. OR arguments are much stronger than AND arguments because of this. If you build a nice string of OR supports, you might lose multiple points and still win the debate. A long string of ANDs gets weaker with each point because all are needed to support the case.

There are other connections between supports other than OR and AND, but these are the most commonly used. Be careful with ANDs; they require great support for each clause and can become cumbersome. Frequently they have the appearance of being convoluted as support is pulled in from various sources to prove a point and they can be easily broken unless the tied points are common known facts.

You can also string ANDs and ORs together:

Politician X said A but did B and said C but did D and said E but did F therefore Politician X is a liar.

Now to say X lied you only need to prove one contrasting set of facts, so though you grammatically use and, logically some of them are ORs. Using the same variables:

A AND B OR C AND D OR E AND F = L (for liar) Mathematically:

(A * B) + (C * D) + (E * F) = L

Especially when you are presenting in writing, diagramming your argument mathematically can help to show you weaknesses. It is impractical to stop a verbal conversation to do so, but try working out the math of your arguments after a discussion to help with improvement. You can also diagram your opponents argument to help you see their weaknesses. Chances are, you will jump into the same hot button issue more than once, so if you can evaluate in between those times, you can get a different view of the arguments that will likely help you the next time around.

Now don’t you wish you would have listened in school when your teacher told you that math was a part of everything? I know this went into some abstract places for some of you; when I start talking Boolean algebra with my wife, her eyes glaze over like Krispy Kreme donuts and I have to start talking about fabrics and color schemes to bring her back. Really, it’s not that hard, and if you enjoy debate, it’s worth pursuing. Note: if you start digging in to Boolean, you will find that the symbols I used were not the common symbols used in this form of logic. I did this to simplify and if you decide to dig in, you will see I *really* did simplify. Even the basics can be powerful though if you learn how to use them.

Jacquard, earth-tones, pink, metallic, hmmm… Let’s paint the living room. Ok you’re back. I will get back to the civility next time when I discuss presenting your argument. Can someone get me a donut? I’m suddenly hungry.