Common Arguments

Here is a short list of arguments that commonly occur in debates or discussions. This will help you quickly think of arguments in a debate.

1.Rights

  • Many great debates in society hinge on the issue of rights. Everyone has rights but giving some people more rights means taking rights away from other people (for example, giving victims the right to live free from fear of criminals means taking away from criminals the right to move or sometimes even live, or giving women the right to abortion means removing the right to life).
  • Here are a list of some established rights – rights that are recognized by most governments and international treaties (like the UN Convention of Human Rights); the Right to
    • Life
    • Education
    • Freedom from Persecution
    • Equal Employment, regardless of Race, Religion, Gender and Sexuality
    • Choose and Practice your Religion

2.Choice

  • In most societies, the right of an individual to choose is considered fundamental. The right to choose their government, what they eat, where they go, what they watch and so on. This is based on the idea that because human beings have the logical capacity to make their own decisions they should always be allowed to do so.
  • Governments usually step in and prevent people from doing things when
    • their actions can harm another person (for example, the choice to drive fast)
    • they cannot make a fully informed or rational choice (because they do not have the capacity or information to choose, like children or if they are misinformed)
    • their choice gives up all choice (like death or slavery – although this is contentious, not every society supports this idea)

3.The Role of Government

  • From the two arguments above (Rights and Choice) we can see that Governments have a tough job (and by this we mean the government of a country and not the government team). They have to balance between the wants of all the different people in their countries. There are two clear approaches of Government;
  • Big vs Small Government
    • This is a difference of how much involvement a government takes in each person's life. A big government is very involved – they take moral positions, they are more involved in welfare and education. They believe that Government should use their power to make life better for everyone. A Small Government is the opposite – they believe that Government is ineffective and cannot decide for everyone. They believe Governments should only do the things that people cannot do themselves (like national defense or justice) and people should choose everything else themselves.
  • Utilitarian vs Deontological Government   
    • This is a difference of how decisions are made. Utilitarian means what has the most benefit for the most number of people. Deontological means using a principle or idea, a moral sense of right. For example, many criminals re-commit crimes when they are released. A utilitarian position would be, to protect more people, to not release the criminal (or to kill him or her), whereas a deontological view is that the criminal has rights to and another way has to be found.

4.Feasibility

  • This argument assesses whether something can be done or not, rather than whether it is right or not to do something. This is also known as arguing about practicality argument.

5.Backlash

  • This is about the negative reaction to a specific policy or action, from a group of people who are not directly involved. For example, legalizing prostitution could result in backlash from religious or women's groups

6.Slippery slope / Ripple effect

  • This argument is about the long term effect of a specific act. Often when a government or a person does something, they continue to act in the same way. In the long term, this could have negative (Slippery Slope) or positive (Ripple Effect) consequences. For example, if we legalize euthanasia because we recognize that people with great suffering can choose to die, then the slippery slope could lead to legalizing suicide too. Or legalization of euthanasia could have the ripple effect of recognizing other choices of people with terminal diseases, like their choices of treatment, rights over their property etc.

7.Message to society

  • This argues that actions send a certain message, and beyond the direct consequence of that action, there can be a message to people that will influence their thought. For example, legalizing prostitution sends the message that women are sex objects.