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Argumentation The Center for Academic Excellence presents...

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1 Argumentation The Center for Academic Excellence presents...

2 Definition: In everyday life, the word “argumentation” has negative overtones and probably suggests that whoever is most aggressive—or whoever shouts loudest and most insistently— wins. In the academic sense of the word, it carries no such negative connotation. Instead, argumentation is a discussion which acknowledges the reasonable differences which exist among people. The Academy recognizes that no two human beings think alike, since we are products of our parentage, our places of origin, our ethnicities, our religions, our upbringing, our educations, our experiences, and even of the books we read.

3 What this suggests, of course, is that when people hold opinions different from our own, we have to assume that those opinions are sincerely held, are based upon reasoned analysis, and are not subscribed to arbitrarily, peevishly, maliciously, or as a matter of sheer deviance. In other words, we need to take other people seriously, to hear them out, to weigh their arguments against what we already know, and—after careful analysis, synthesis, and evaluation—to reformulate our own world view.

4 Ethics of Argumentation: When presenting argument, we have an ethical responsibility to be fair, reasonable, and well-informed about the issues at hand—aware of the counter arguments, and open-minded enough to engage in meaningful dialogue. We also have a responsibility to avoid both animosity and polarization. We do not wish to create an “us” versus “them” mentality.

5 When confronted with an argument, there are three appropriate ways to respond: 1.Refutation 2.Acknowledgment 3.Acceptance

6 Vocabulary of Argumentation : Issues Claims Evidence Assumptions Backing Authority

7 Issues are of three types: 1.Issues of substantiation (proof) 2.Issues of evaluation (judgment) 3.Issues of policy (regulations)

8 Let us take the issue of smoking and see how it operates under each of these types: 1.Issue of substantiation: Second-hand cigarette smoke is harmful to non- smokers. (This can be substantiated by fact.) 2.Issue of evaluation: Smoking is essentially immoral. (This is a moral judgment.) 3.Issue of policy: Smoking ought to be banned in all public settings. (This proposes a changing of the rules.)

9 A claim states your position in regard to an issue: Prince Hamlet, who is clearly sane at the beginning of the play, slowly descends into madness when he recognizes both his uncle’s treachery and his mother’s perfidy. Prince Hamlet is not, in fact, mad, but deliberately feigns madness, so that he is more easily able to take revenge upon his uncle. It is time for the United States to withdraw from Iraq, and to seek reconciliation with the international community which it has up until now chosen to alienate. Gay demands for equality threaten the very fabric of our society. If we are to save the family, we must insist upon marriage as a contract between one man and one woman, yielding no quarter to activist judges or to the gay agenda.

10 Claims, of course, need to be backed up with facts, examples, statistics, evidence, expert testimony, or personal (and therefore anecdotal) experience. Because our experiences and expertise lead us to variant conclusions, it is not always possible to brand someone right or wrong. Consider the following examples:

11 1.Claim: Professor X is a bad teacher. Evidence: He doesn’t grade our papers. He simply places a check mark in the right-hand margin and expects us, over the course of the semester, to figure out what’s wrong and to make corrections. The grade is only assigned at the end of the semester. Assumption: Good teachers assign grades. 2.Claim: Professor X is an excellent teacher. Evidence: He doesn’t grade our papers. He simply places a check mark in theright-hand margin and expects us, over the course of the semester, to figure out what’s wrong and to make corrections. The grade is only assigned at the end of the semester. Assumption: Good teachers foster inductive learning.

12 Who is to say that either argument is right or wrong? All that remains is to examine a wider array of factual and anecdotal evidence, and to draw reasonable conclusions based on what we learn.

13 Remember always that an academic thesis (the basic claim) has each of the following qualities: 1.It is CLEAR 2.It is ARGUABLE 3.It is QUALIFIED By qualified is meant that the conlusions are not stated categorically. They are not phrased in such a way as to suggest a definitive response or to suggest that the answer offers proof positive that there is no alternative to the conclusion. To state definitively that homosexuality is wrong, that the lifestyle is sinful, and that God hates homosexuals, so there can be no justification for gay marriage (particularly since the term “marriage” belongs to the Church) is an example of an unqualified conclusion. One might reach the same conclusion, but on the basis of less categorical criteria: It would seem that gay marriage, though affording comfort to homosexual couples, would not serve society in the same way that heterosexual marriage does, by guaranteeing the continuation of the species. Because society has a vested interest in fostering family life, gay couples are not owed the same societal privileges or protections as heterosexual couples.

14 Impartiality or Open-Mindedness: Academics have a basic responsibility to approach research impartially, to conduct it with an open mind, and to do so without some foregone conclusion in mind. The researcher should have no vested interest—financial, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise—in the outcome of the research, and should be willing to present all of the issues, arguments, and counter arguments, without concealment or fabrication. The Academic’s basic responsibility is to honesty and truth, even (and perhaps particularly) where the findings might be unsettling or unpopular, or where they might challenge the researcher’s own closely cultivated prejudices. Although these may be the ideals of academic research, they are not always easy to live up to, and research is often flawed in consequence.

15 The Ideals: The basic principles of research involve (a) thoroughly informing yourself of the issues, whether you agree with them or not, (b) presenting those issues to your readers in a fair and balanced way, and (c) reaching logical conclusions based on your research, rather than on your prejudices. In other words, you do not make the research fit your conclusions, you allow your conclusions to emerge from the research. These, then, are the ideals. Try to incorporate them into your thinking and into your writing. Balance Fairness Honesty Impartiality

16 Ma’at Thetis Tarot Card PowerPoint Presentation by Mark A. Spalding, BA, MEd, MA (2008). The End

17 Center for Academic Excellence Fort Wayne, Indiana


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