As the question of what constitutes a proper persuasive post on a blog site has come up recently, readers might find my entries from the very first month I blogged interesting. The related posts on "Discerning Reasonableness" in that month touch on the same point that came up this month - that the type of argument people put forward is as important as the content itself in determining whose judgment can be trusted. In the older posts, I use a completely nonpolitical controversy as my example, in order to get political bias (mine or theirs) out of the picture.
For those few of you who have followed this site for years, you will see that this is a recurring theme for me. Few of us are expert enough in many subjects to evaluate the information presented. If someone insists that the wheat crop in Russia is collapsing, while the next commenter insists it is increasing, I have little way of knowing which is correct. The sources I might consult are presumably known to both disputants, who have taken that info into account. I am forced back onto other means of discerning reasonableness, such as previous reliability, any fit with other things I know to be true, and credibility of other sources.
I take as my special focus a set of related aspects of the argument itself:
1. What are the basic grounds of the argument? (Appeal to authority, first principles, social acceptability, emotionality, first hand experience, anecdote, statistics, history)
2. Is the logic sound and consistent?
3. Is there emotional leakage in the presentation that suggests some other motive is in play?
4. How do the disputants respond to being challenged? What counterarguments do they use? Do they seem to be reading and understanding the other side?