Daniel T. Richards

Daniel T. Richards

Digital Strategist & Rhetorician

Dead Sopranos Can’t Sing: Arguments “From the Stronger”

If I can’t beat my grandpa at basketball, then I can’t beat LeBron James. Fact.

We hear this kind of argument a lot. It can be humorous, poignant, often compelling. It’s a favorite of lawyers and children and a great set up for Horatio Caine jokes.

It’s called argument a fortiori (ah-four-tee-OR-ee) or “argument from the stronger.” And it can be hours of rhetorical fun.

Here’s why…

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An Introduction to Argument

Valid but not sound!No Candy Crush coating: Arguing is hard.

I don’t mean shouting down your opponent until he relents. I don’t mean repeating the same discredited point over and over again. I don’t mean name-calling or bringing up irrelevant facts. That’s what we accept as argument these days (especially on the Internet), but it’s all #ArgumentJunk.

Let’s define our terms.

Holding a gun to someone’s head and commanding them to empty their wallet is not an argument. Blackmailing someone is not an argument. Hypnotizing someone is not an argument. The use of force is never an argument.

A picture by itself is not an argument. Stats by themselves are not arguments. Emotions and feelings are not arguments. Disintegrated data are not arguments.

Telling your child to sit down is not an argument. A Biblical commandment is not an argument. An order from a drill sergeant is not an argument. Unsupported assertions are not arguments.

So what the heck is an argument?

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