Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens

I’ve been studying types and forms of arguments. Although I would probably say that I don’t argue with anyone. I prefer to think that I positively convince people to think in an alternate way than their original direction. And to the extent that I can do so in a subtle and gentle way, I think can be powerful without be well, argumentative.

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A short digression to note that I’ve disappeared from blogging unintentionally over the last few weeks as travel, family and work keeps me stretched. One interesting fact about blogging, I never know if anyone reads my pieces or if I’m just howling in the wind. But I think people read my blog and I hope my thoughts resonate at least some of the time. So my study of arguing hasn’t been the cause of my disappearance but it has been a topic of interest over the last few weeks.

In A Rulebook for Arguments, I’ve learned there are different types of arguments including arguments by example, arguments from authority, arguments about causes, and arguments by analogy but by far, the most interesting form of argument to me is categorized as deductive arguments.

Modus pollens refers to the mode of putting. Its direct if-then form is the easiest to follow (for me) and is likely the form behind most of my arguments. Building more conditions may make for a stronger case and a more sophisticated argument but the argument’s basic form is the same. The weight of the argument comes not in its form but in its content.

In contrast, modus tollens denies information while still using the if-then form. Where pollens gives, tollens take. It’s easier to follow the form when it’s reduced to basics such as: If p then q. Not q. Therefore not p. Weston’s examples are easy to follow and at under a 100 pages, it’s a travel book.

I don’t have proof (yet) but I suspect learning forms of arguments will improve my ability to argue, or persuade with tact. And knowing what type of argument I’m choosing will help me build a better case. And since I want to be successful in arguing my case, studying and practicing are good ways to get there.

How does arguing fit into software testing consider this basic modus tollens: If this software has x number of high severity defects then the software isn’t ready to be used in the field. If the software isn’t ready, then it’s not time to ship.

I learned from my dad that if I could argue my case with facts and not emotions then I was more likely to get the results I wanted. My dad always enjoyed a good logical debate. And now, it occurs to me that studying the topic of arguments might help even more. At least that’s my inductive reasoning behind my studies.

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