Spence: The Power of Story Telling (1)

We have finished the philosophical section of Gerry Spence’s book “How to Argue and Win Every Time”. In that book, Gerry goes deeply into the factors that give argument its importance. But that does not tell us how to  construct and deliver argument. That is next.

Gerry first talks about structure. How does one structure a winning argument? The answer is simple The strongest structure for any argument is a story. This idea is rooted in the philosophy of Hans Vaihinger (and can be found in his book “The Philosophy of ‘As If’“). that philosophy argues that inductive and deductive reasoning are not the only forms of thought. There is also fictional reasoning – where we take something as true. Whether it is so or not, we act on its truth. It is the power of myth that inspired Borges, Marquez and Campbell.

To find this power, we need to visualize rather than proselytize. So arguing that a dangerous road needs to be replaced, you don’t harp on duty. You tell the story of the dangers encountered when you go down that road with your daughter.  Innocent people caught in danger that should not be there. You don’t memorize that. you see it.  This is the way we experience reality and that is why this structure is so powerful.

Where do we start? One way to start is with the ending – the climax. A case about defective car brakes mys tart with the car crash caused by the defect. Did the driver get killed? We wind out after we get the facts of the case. We find out that the driver died, He was a young man. We find out who he was and what promise his life had.

this starts with a thesis. The thesis is the logic that holds together the facts of the story. For example, a manufacturer’s greed is responsible for the driver’s death. To prepare our story, we then ask a series of questions

  • What do we want?
  • What is the principal argument that supports us?
  • Why should we win what we want`(what facts, what reasons, what justice exists to support the thesis)
  • And last, what is the story that makes all of the above arguments?

the above list is the road map. Next up, we will take a trip using that road map, a step at a time.


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