Reasons, Claims & Warrants

J is just out of the bath. M is braiding her hair.

"L and I have arguments at school," J says.

"Oh?" I worry about this. Arguments between first graders can be brutal. "What sorts of arguments?"

"Well, L says we have to do one thing, and I say we have to do another. And that is the argument."

"Hmm. That sounds more like a disagreement to me." Another teachable moment. I have already admitted my weakness for these things. "If you want to have an argument, you have to provide reasons for what you want. And reasons for those reasons."

J looks at me. "Reasons for the reasons?"

"Those are called warrants. Like right now, Daddy is braiding your hair. Why are you doing that, M?"

"So it doesn't get tangled while J sleeps."

"So that is your reason. But why," I press, "is that important? What is motivating your argument?"

"It will take ten minutes tomorrow morning to brush J's hair if it is not braided, and it will hurt. So we are saving time and aggravation."

"So those are your warrants."


J mulls it over. Then she burps.

"That," I say, trying not to giggle, "was unwarranted."

"No, it wasn't," J retorts. "I made you laugh, and when someone laughs, that is the end of the argument."

So there.