Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Quarreling, Arguing, and Debating

We have lost sight of the difference between argue and quarrel so much that we often use them as synonyms of one another. Arguing is reasoning based on facts; quarreling is wrangling angrily over personal preferences using facts or not.

We quarrel from entrenched positions; the winner of a quarrel is whoever shouts loudest. We argue to persuade the person we are talking to, to change their view; the winner is the one who has more of the facts supporting their side. When we quarrel we don’t care for facts. If the person we are quarreling with presents a fact that totally disproves our position, we try to weasel our way around it by not replying to the point or replying with a never-ending series of irrelevant points.

Debate raises the bar another notch. A debate has a referee and names for the logical faults or fallacies debaters make. The most obvious one that we see daily in US politics is the ad hominem “at the person” fallacy. This fallacy occurs when we not only do not address the point, but attack the character of its proponent. When Republicans ague against a Democratic proposal by claiming that Democrats are socialists and communists, they are arguing ad hominen, not arguing with facts, but hoping to divert the debate through guilt by association.

Some of the other names of fallacies found in quarreling and not arguing or debating, are (1) “begging the question”, assuming the proposition being proven in the arument, (2) “circularity”, arguing false relations, e.g. that because y comes later than x, y is caused by x, and (3) “bandwagoning”, arguing that everybody knows x, therefore x must be true.

So long as our politicians argue from unproven and unprovable facts (or outright lie about the facts), and use logical fallacies to divert attention from the points they are trying to make, they are just quarreling. We should stop calling these meetings among candidates debates and call them quarrels. Everything is for show in the primaries, letting the US electorate see who is the best actor, which candidate can best pretend to be intelligent.

7 Responses to “Quarreling, Arguing, and Debating”

  1. Ibnu Hanaffi Says:

    Hye Dr,

    I planned to bookmark your website but cancelled the plan after I found these 2 mistakes (and I stopped reading by then) in your article here.

    1. …the different between argue and quarrel (it’s ‘difference’ right?)

    2. … an fact (isn’t it ‘a’ fact?)

    Just need some clarification, are those mistakes intentional?


  2. Robert Beard Says:

    No, but thank you for pointing them out. I’ve given up trying to be perfect and relied on the forgiveness of my readers for my typing skills, which have deteriorated since my stroke. Most people can see through the superficial things like typing skills and not presume a connection between those and my intellect, as I overlooked your misspelling of “Hi”.

  3. Rich Says:

    Good morning Doctor,

    In the first sentence, second paragraph of the discussion, I believe that “argument” is supposed to be “quarrel”.

    I very much enjoy getting my daily vocabulary lesson. Keep up the good work.



  4. Robert Beard Says:

    Thanks, Rich. You’re right. I’ve made the change.

  5. Thaddeus Langerman Says:

    I would like to 10x you for 2012 posts and Happy New Year for 2013 !

  6. FRED B Says:

    I have just been having an argument with a relation who ended up by calling me an argumentative person. Is he right in saying that, bearing in mind he was arguing with me? Isn’t it an example of the pot calling the kettle black?

  7. Benjamin Says:

    I wa s glad to search and find it in you website. I think you are right. So. I believe in argument as a way of demistifying one another as well as broadening perspectives. Few people are sane enough to argue and but results to instant quarrel.

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