An argument is a statement or group of statements called premises intended to determine the degree of truth or acceptability of another statement called a conclusion. Arguments can be studied from three main perspectives: the logical, the dialectical and the rhetorical perspective.
In logic, an argument is usually expressed not in natural language but in a symbolic formal language, and it can be defined as any group of propositions of which one is claimed to follow from the others through deductively valid inferences that preserve truth from the premises to the conclusion. This logical perspective on argument is relevant for scientific fields such as mathematics and computer science. Logic is the study of the forms of reasoning in arguments and the development of standards and criteria to evaluate arguments. Deductive arguments can be valid, and the valid ones can be sound: in a valid argument, premisses necessitate the conclusion, even if one or more of the premises is false and the conclusion is false; in a sound argument, true premises necessitate a true conclusion. Inductive arguments, by contrast, can have different degrees of logical strength: the stronger or more cogent the argument, the greater the probability that the conclusion is true, the weaker the argument, the lesser that probability. The standards for evaluating non-deductive arguments may rest on different or additional criteria than truth—for example, the persuasiveness of so-called "indispensability claims" in transcendental arguments, the quality of hypotheses in retroduction, or even the disclosure of new possibilities for thinking and acting.
In dialectics, and also in a more colloquial sense, an argument can be conceived as a social and verbal means of trying to resolve, or at least contend with, a conflict or difference of opinion that has arisen or exists between two or more parties. For the rhetorical perspective, the argument is constitutively linked with the context, in particular with the time and place in which the argument is located. From this perspective, the argument is evaluated not just by two parties (as in a dialectical approach) but also by an audience. In both dialectic and rhetoric, arguments are used not through a formal but through natural language. Since classical antiquity, philosophers and rhetoricians have developed lists of argument types in which premises and conclusions are connected in informal and defeasible ways.