One of my favorite class discussions in our Public Speaking class at Appalachian State is on "Building Powerful Arguments." In it we talk about logos, pathos, and ethos, and deductive and inductive reasoning. In order to demonstrate how a logical appeal (logos) can be made with a deductive argument, we use the topic of abortion. I lead the class in an attempt to create a deductive argument for a pro-choice and a pro-life position. I emphasize how important it is to be able to accurately articulate the view of the opposing argument (that is, to the satisfaction of one who hold that view). If this simple step were taken in such discussions, much misunderstanding, straw-man arguments, and talking past each other would be eliminated. Deductive reasoning argues for a claim based primarily on the logical relationships of certain premises. First, the students must establish a major premise. This is an assumed principle that both sides should agree upon. Next is the minor premise. This is where the one logically connects the major premise to his or her claim. A simplified version of a deductive argument (a syllogism) for both sides of the abortion issue may look like this:
Major Premise: Women have a right to control their bodies and # of children. Minor Premise: Abortion is an exercise of that right. Claim: Protect abortion rights
Pro-Life Major Premise: Taking the life of another human is wrong. Minor Premise: Abortion is taking the life of a human. Claim: Stop abortion
There are other ways to argue both sides, but this is a start upon which both sides generally agree. Anyone have any suggestions on how to improve this beginning point for discussion? Next time I will explain how both sides usually criticize the logic of the other.