Presentation on theme: "Writing Arguments Dr. Gary Cale. What is an Argument? First of all, what it is not. It is not a fight. Although you may, and probably should, feel passionate."— Presentation transcript:
Writing Arguments Dr. Gary Cale
What is an Argument? First of all, what it is not. It is not a fight. Although you may, and probably should, feel passionate about your topic, arguments are supposed to be intellectual activities not dog fights. However, an argument does involve two opposing points of view. This means that you must include the opposing side, even if only briefly.
Elements of an Argument According to Toulmin, arguments are composed of three main elements: Claims Claims Data/Evidence Data/Evidence Warrants Warrants
Claims Definition: A claim states your position on the issue you have chosen to write about. It answers the questions: What point will your paper try to make? and What belief or opinion will you be defending? A good claim is not obvious. Why bother proving a point nobody could disagree with?A good claim is not obvious. Why bother proving a point nobody could disagree with? A good claim is engaging. Consider your audience's attention span and make interesting claims which point out new ideas: teach the reader something new.A good claim is engaging. Consider your audience's attention span and make interesting claims which point out new ideas: teach the reader something new. A good claim is not overly vague. Attacking enormous issues whole leads only to generalizations and vague assertions; refrain from making a book-size claim.A good claim is not overly vague. Attacking enormous issues whole leads only to generalizations and vague assertions; refrain from making a book-size claim.
Claims A good claim is logical; it emerges from a reasonable consideration of evidence. (Note: this does not mean that evidence has only one logical interpretation. Reasonable people often disagree.)A good claim is logical; it emerges from a reasonable consideration of evidence. (Note: this does not mean that evidence has only one logical interpretation. Reasonable people often disagree.) A good claim is debatable. Claims that are purely factual and claims that are only opinion fail this requirement. You cannot argue matters of taste: e.g. Coca-Cola tastes better than Pepsi- Cola.A good claim is debatable. Claims that are purely factual and claims that are only opinion fail this requirement. You cannot argue matters of taste: e.g. Coca-Cola tastes better than Pepsi- Cola. A good claim is typically hypotactic (i.e., it uses subordinate clauses). Simple sentences rarely comprehend enough complexity to do justice to a well-conceived opinion.A good claim is typically hypotactic (i.e., it uses subordinate clauses). Simple sentences rarely comprehend enough complexity to do justice to a well-conceived opinion.
Claim Exercise Which of the following sentences make(s) a good claim? Teachers are posed with many problems today.Teachers are posed with many problems today. Polls show that today more minorities own businesses than ever before.Polls show that today more minorities own businesses than ever before. We must strive with every ounce of our national vigor to ensure that America has a bright future and that truth and justice will abide with us forever.We must strive with every ounce of our national vigor to ensure that America has a bright future and that truth and justice will abide with us forever. Ophelia is my favorite character in Hamlet because she is the most interesting.Ophelia is my favorite character in Hamlet because she is the most interesting. Though they seem innocuous, Hollywood movies are partially responsible for reinforcing cultural stereotypes in America.Though they seem innocuous, Hollywood movies are partially responsible for reinforcing cultural stereotypes in America. On a piece of paper, please explain why these claims are good or bad. Show this to your teacher as evidence that you have completed this much of the online workshop.
Data/Evidence Definition: the evidence which you cite to support your claim. Like a lawyer presenting evidence to a jury, you must support your claim with facts; an unsupported claim is merely an assertion. Data can include the following: Facts or statistics: objectively determined data about your topic. (Note: just what constitutes "objective" may be open to debate.) Expert opinion: the media and our essays are full of learned opinions which you should cite frequently, both to support your argument and to disagree with. Authors must be quoted and properly cited in your paper.
Data/Evidence Personal anecdotes: the most difficult kind of data to use well, for doing so requires a persuasive argument that your own experience is objectively grasped and is not unique to you. Personal experience can, however, help bring an argument to life.Personal anecdotes: the most difficult kind of data to use well, for doing so requires a persuasive argument that your own experience is objectively grasped and is not unique to you. Personal experience can, however, help bring an argument to life.
Warrant Definition: the warrant interprets the data and shows how it supports your claim. The warrant, in other words, explains why the data proves the claim. In trials, lawyers for opposing sides often agree on the data but hotly dispute the warrants. (And a defense attorney's failure to offer strong warrants may result in a warrant for the defendant's arrest.) A philosopher would say that the warrant helps to answer the question, "What else must be true for this proposition to hold?"
Warrant A good warrant will be a reasonable interpretation of facts. A good warrant will not make illogical interpretive leaps. A good warrant will not assume more than the evidence supports. A good warrant may consider and respond to possible counter- arguments.
Warrant Exercise Find warrants which will interpret the data to support the claim in the following passages: Claim: President XYZ should be applauded for his policies on minority owned businesses. Data: The NYT reports that more minorities own businesses today than ever before. Warrant: Claim: Any American can grow up to be the President. Data: Joe Blow came from a poor town in a poor state to become president. Warrant: Write down all possible warrants and show your teacher your work.
Warrant Exercise Find warrants which will interpret the data to support the claim in the following passage: Claim: The school system itself promotes racial tension in its effort to provide America's children with a good education. Data: There's a lot of racial tension in many schools these days. Warrant: Now, go back and attack the warrant you have just formulated. How might the data be interpreted in ways that do not support the claims? Write down all possible warrants and show your teacher your work.Now, go back and attack the warrant you have just formulated. How might the data be interpreted in ways that do not support the claims? Did you find the claims to be problematic? The data? Show your teacher your work.
Three Appeals to Audience While there's no infallible formula for winning over every reader in every circumstance, you should learn how and when to use three fundamental argumentative appeals. According to Aristotle, a person who wants to convince another may appeal to that person's reason (logos), ethics (ethos), or emotion (pathos). If we think of these three appeals as independent and of the writer as choosing just one, however, we miss the point. The writer's job is to weave the various appeals into a single convincing argument. As you continue to expand and develop your ideas, look for ways of combining the three appeals to create a sound, balanced argument.
Three Appeals: Reason Much of the clear thinking we do in our everyday lives follows logical principles, but in a less formal and systematic way than the thinking of a research scientist. And for most occasions this informal reasoning is adequate. Briefly, informal reasoning requires clearly linking your general claims with concrete, specific data. When our thinking begins with specifics and moves toward a generalization, we are moving inductively. So, for instance, if you ate several hard, green apples and then draw the general conclusion that all hard, green apples are sour, you would be using inductive reasoning. Of course, if you only ate a couple green apples before you reached your conclusion, you might be over-generalizing. But more on logical fallacies later.
Three Appeals: Reason Reasoning that moves in the opposite direction (from general to specific) is called deductive reasoning. Here, you take a general principle that you know to be true and use it to understand a specific situation. For instance, you may know from experience that as a general rule bad weather reduces business at the golf course. You may also learn that today's weather will be cold and rainy. From these two pieces of knowledge, you can produce a third, more specific piece: Business at the golf course will be slow today. Determine what is missing in this example: Bill never turns in his assignments, so he'll fail the course. Write down what is missing and show your teacher your work.
Three Appeals: Ethics No matter how solid your reasoning, your audience may not accept your argument unless they're also convinced that you're a person of wisdom, honesty, and good will. If you misrepresent the evidence, misunderstand the implications of your own value structure, or seek to hurt some individual or group, you can expect to alienate your readers. The best way to put ethical appeal in your writing is to build a strong, healthy relationship with your readers. Convince them that they can trust you to be fair, honest, well-informed, and well-intentioned. Then, having established that trust, don't betray it.
Three Appeals: Emotion Many people believe that emotional appeals by their very nature subvert reason and are therefore better left to TV hucksters than to writers who want their ideas taken seriously. Because this common view has some validity, emotional appeals must be used with restraint and discretion, or they may prove counterproductive. Nevertheless, while an argument founded mostly on feelings and emotions may be superficial and biased, an argument that is carefully reasoned and honestly presented probably won't be hurt by a bit of pathos. In fact, it may be helped.
Three Appeals: Emotion One way to build pathos is to illustrate or dramatize an idea. This may involve little more than folding short descriptive and narrative examples into the argument. Are you arguing that your city needs to take stiffer measures against drunk drivers? Why not find a place to include a description of the face of a child who was injured in an accident caused by drinking? Or you might want to tell the story of a driver who caused several accidents because the individual's license was never revoked. Including such narrative and descriptive passages can help readers feel the urgency of your proposition so that it gets beyond the level of abstract intellectual speculation and becomes a matter of immediate human concern.
Logical Fallacies When you attempt to employ logic to support claims in your papers, your reasoning is sometimes weakened because you are presenting fallacious arguments. It is important for you to be able to identify and eliminate fallacies in your writing. Although we do not have time to go into detail on logical fallacies, I do want to touch on some of the ones I see all the time in and out of the school setting. Feelings Distraction from the Argument Misinformation Generalization Irrelevant Connections
Logical Fallacies Logical fallacies weaken your arguments. Every writer needs to become adept at spotting his/her fallacies. Every citizen must become adept at spotting logical fallacies in the words of those in authority. Logical fallacies can be broken down into five categories: Feelings Distraction from the Argument Misinformation Generalization Irrelevant Connections
Logical Fallacies Feelings: Quite often, writers appeal to their audiences' feelings to attract attention to and elicit agreement with their ideas. Although this can be effective, manipulating audience feelings is not employing logic, and it does not make a writer's argument stronger. Logical thinking never involves feelings. Appeal to Force: The writer threatens the audience, explicitly or implicitly, with negative consequences if the claim is not believed. Ex: If you do not believe in God, you will go to hell.
Logical Fallacies Appeal to Pity: The writer begs for the approval of the claim; the audience may agree because they feel sorry for the arguer. Ex: I cannot get a job because the public education system failed me; I have to steal to survive. It is society's fault, not mine. (Actually, it might be society’s fault.) Appeal to Gallery: The writer uses emotive language that will produce a desired effect on a group or "gallery" of readers. By appealing to the fears or interests of the audience, the writer hopes to gain approval. Ex: Same-sex marriage must be prohibited, or the family structure as we know it will collapse.
Logical Fallacies Distraction from the Argument: This type of fallacy often happens when writers do not have strong support for their claims. Distraction is also used if the opposition's view is strong and logical; then, writers have a tendency to attack the context instead of the argument. Attacking the Speaker (Ad Hominem): The writer reduces the credibility of the opposition by attacking them personally for who they are and not for what they say. The validity of logical reasoning does not depend on the morality of the speaker. Ex: Oprah Winfrey's diet advice is useless; she has had problems with maintaining her weight for most of her life, bouncing back and forth between being overweight and slender.
Logical Fallacies Shifted Burden of Proof: The writer challenges those with an opposing view to defend their arguments; this puts the writer in a position in which s/he can deny the opposition's assertions. Ex: The author writes that animals shouldn't be killed because they can feel pain, but he doesn't prove that they can. For his argument to persuade me, he has to give me positive empirical evidence of animals' ability to feel pain. Straw Man: The writer does not attack the argument that the opposition sets forth. The arguer may attack one of the opposition's points as if it were the whole argument, distort what the opposition is attempting to express, or exaggerate the opposition's argument to the point of satirizing it. Ex: Al Gore's support of the discussion of sexual orientation issues on ELLEN is dangerous: he advocates the exposure of children to sexually explicit materials, which is wrong.
Logical Fallacies Misinformation: Sometimes, writers present questionable or ambiguous reasons to sustain their arguments. A logical demonstration of a belief, however, must be conclusive and convincing to be effective; any doubtful premises leads the audience to believe that the conclusion is weak. From Ignorance: The writer's argument is simply that the point has not been proven otherwise. The fact that the counterclaim has not been proven does not make a claim correct. Ex: I believe in God because no one can prove that a god doesn't exist.
Logical Fallacies False Cause: The writer points out as the cause of an event something that is not the actual cause, or the writer has insufficient evidence for making a causal link. If the identified cause is not the real cause, nothing assures that the point of discussion is true. Ex: Because the Iranians have nuclear weapons, we should attack them to protect ourselves. Questionable Premises: The writer's reasons for holding a belief are not as obvious to the audience as they are to the writer, and the writer does not back up the claim with enough support. This fallacy also occurs when the writer introduces an unsupported value judgment. Ex: All judges are fair-minded individuals; therefore, Judge Ito is fair in his decisions.
Logical Fallacies Generalization: Some writers stereotype and generalize their ideas to make a powerful statement. Writers must avoid generalizations because once an exception is found, the argument is discredited. Popularity: The writer bases the argument on the belief that if an idea is held by a large group of people, it is true. Ex: Millions of people are Marxists, so Marxist economic and political theories are correct.
Logical Fallacies Particular Experiences: The writer makes a rule out of particular experiences to support the claim. As soon as an exception to the derived rule is found, the rule fails to support the argument. Ex: All Greek food causes illness; when I traveled through Greece, I got food poisoning. Property in the Whole: The writer makes a claim based on the belief that a whole always possesses the characteristics of its parts, which is often untrue. Although this belief is sometimes acceptable, it is not universally applicable, so the appropriateness of using this idea must be determined on a case by case basis. Ex: Since many of the students at St. Cloud State University get A's, St. Cloud State must be a top-rated school.
Logical Fallacies False Alternative: The writer only presents some of the alternatives for solving a problem when more possibilities exist because the writer assumes that the list of alternatives created is exhaustive. Ex: In the United States, one can vote for either Democrats or Republicans
Logical Fallacies Irrelevant Connections: Some writer’s arguments fail not because of the information given, but because of the types of connections established between parts of the argument. Consecutive Relation: The writer assumes that because two events occur consecutively or concurrently, they are causally related. Ex: I believe in supernatural beings because every time I drive past the cemetery where my grandmother is buried, a light on my dashboard flashes. Her spirit causes this because it never happens otherwise.
Logical Fallacies Slippery Slope: The writer bases the claim on the assumption that if a particular event occurs, so will other undesirable events. However, there are no reasons to believe that the subsequent events will occur. This fallacy is usually caused by fear. Ex: If we put limits on the right to bear arms, soon all of our Constitutionally-given rights will be taken away. Two Wrongs Make a Right: The writer defends an action on the grounds that someone else has done something similar. Ex: Residents of St. Cloud should not have to recycle plastics because those who live in Waite Park are not required to.
Logical Fallacies Circular Reasoning: The writer defends the claim by using the conclusion as one of the premises to support the conclusion. Ex: God exists because the Bible says so. The Bible is a reliable source because it is the word of God. Okay, that’s enough of that. Please now go through your own papers and look for logical fallacies. Show your teacher what you have found. I am willing to bet that you have any number of fallacies present. Use this material as evidence that you have completed this portion of the online workshop.
Form of an Argument Arguments take many forms depending on the audience and purpose. In general, however, they have six parts: Introduction or Lead The Back Story Claim or Proposition Refutation of Counter-Arguments Reasons Conclusions
Form: The Lead In the lead, you will draw your reader into the argument, build common ground, establish your tone and style, and establish your credentials. You will probably clarify why the issue is important. In other words, you will be building ethos. (You will also give us a very good idea where we are heading in your paper. See the workshop on Writing Good Leads for more information.)
Form: The Back Story In this section you will the story behind the argument and provide any necessary background as well as clarify the issue by explaining the situational context. Always characterize the issue in terms that are favorable to your point of view.
Form: The Claim Soon after the lead and the back story (remember, depending on the issue and audience knowledge, you may not have to include much back story), you must state your claim. A claim is, of course, an arguable opinion. Most writers, especially if they are arguing about a complex issue will also provide readers with an organizing statement, a road map of sorts to show the reader where they are going. For example, sentence two is an organizing statement. Although MTV programmers argue that Beavis and Butthead are nothing more than cartoon characters, they are actually dangerous role models. They promote cynical nihilism, violent misogyny, and the bankrupt morality of situational ethics.
Refutation of Counter-Arguments In classical arguments, after the claim came the refutation of the opposition’s arguments or what is called the counter-arguments. You do not necessarily have to refute the opposition’s arguments in a separate section; however, sometimes this works. Most writers interweave the counter-arguments with the author’s arguments. In any case, you must fairly examine and refute the opposition’s arguments the best you can. Sometimes this means merely acknowledging that other opinions exist or conceding that they have valid points. More often, though, it means systematically destroying the other sides’ arguments via superior examples and reason. This means, of course, that you must know what the other side thinks; you cannot just know your side.
Form: Your Reasons In this, the largest section of your paper, you will develop and support your own case. You must rely primarily on reason, using facts, examples, expert testimony or authority, statistics, and so on. You must also determine how you will disclose your points. Although many of us have been taught to go from least to most important—a strategy that creates a natural build—sometimes starting with your second most important point, then moving to points of lesser importance, before delivering your best point, the knockout punch, works best. This way you start strong, bury your weakest points in the middle, and end with your best idea. You end on a high note.
Form: Conclusions Whatever you do, end strongly. You must finish with conviction. After all, if you aren't convinced, why should your reader be? You might end with an amplification (ringing conclusion), a review of your main points, a reference to something in your introduction, or a plea for action. You might also want to invite and facilitate defections from the opposition.
Now What? Now it is time for you to apply all this theory to your own work. If you are working on an argumentative (or even persuasive) paper, you should closely examine your paper for 1) Toulmin’s argumentative structure, 2) strong argumentative strategies (and especially logical fallacies), and 3) a coherent form or structure of the essay. Show your teacher how you have utilized the material in this workshop so that you can receive 1.5 hours of credit. Print out this last page as proof that you finished the online Argumentation workshop. Good luck and happy arguing!