Writing a Classical Argument
The goal of the argument is to persuade your audience, to adopt your position.
The thesis of an argument is called a claim.
There are two components of an argument, truth seeking and persuasion.
Truth Seeking – Finding the facts, and verifying the sources of the facts. Regardless of your stand on the issue, which may mean that you need to change your opinion.
Persuasion – making your point, and defending it with facts, not opinion. Need to stick to our position and our understanding of the facts, in order to convince others.
An argument is not a fight or a pro/con debate. In an argument there is no winner or looser. In a debate it is an answer of who won vs was a best solution derived.
An argument should be thought of as deliberations. An argument becomes both a process and a product using this method.
Exploring Classical Argument
An initial position on an argument is sometimes called your personal ideology. A set of basic values, beliefs, and assumptions, that makeup who you are. Ideologies that are not firmly bound by facts can be changed. As you evolve your argument, you may decide to change your opinion.
Understanding Classical Argument
Five Stages of Arguers
1. Argument as personal opinion.
Typically this person argues with deep passion. They will typically have circular arguments. The facts will be little to none, and most likely unsubstantiated.
2. Argument structured as claim supported by one or more reasons.
This person is able to form a list of reasons that validate his argument. They can now create structured sentences that have logical statements, but may or may not be grounded with facts.
3. Increased attention to truth seeking.
This person forms and acts on a process of understanding of the issue. They listen and take in account other student’s ideas and possibly change their stance on the issue, based on different viewpoints.
4. Ability to articulate the unstated assumptions underlying their arguments.
This person reads his audiences and his own understated assumptions.
5. Ability to link an argument to the values and beliefs of the intended audience.
This person is able to apply assumptions of belief and values of his target audience and form his argument to be sympathetic to these things.
Creating an Argument Frame: A Claim with Reasons
The structure of your argument should be a question that focuses on the argument, your claim, and one or more supporting reasons. Supporting reasons should start as because clauses.
Finding an Arguable Issue
An issue can be defined as a question that invites more than one reasonable answer. This excludes arguments based on personal tastes. Apparently you can frame the issue question as either yes / no or as an open ended question. Even if the question is framed as yes / no it will be more complex than a simple pro / con evaluation. How you pose your question will structure the argument.
Stating a Claim
A claim is the side you choose to be on. It should be a concise one sentence answer. As you work on your argument, your claim may change.
A claim should be supported by reasons and evidence. A reason is defined as a subclaim that supports your main claim. Reasons should use words like “because, therefore, so consequently and thus”. These will allow you to break up your argument into multiple sub parts.
Articulating Unstated Assumptions
An unstated assumption is a silent assumption that links your reasons with your claim. The statement: The family was justified in killing the starlings because starlings are pests. has an understated assumption that killing pets is justifiable. This is important because your audience has to believe your assumption.
Using Evidence Effectively
Evidence is facts, examples summaries of research articles, statistics, testimony or other relevant data. Personal experience can be used but might require additional facts.
Facts are good for providing support for an argument; however some people might bring up counterfacts.
Examples / Personal Experiences:
Sometimes it is ok to use hypothetical situations, to convey examples of your claim.
Summaries of Research:
This is a very common way to justify your claim.
Another common form of evidence.
Expert testimony is another good way to advocate your claim.
Subarguments can develop a persuasive analogy, hypothesize about consequences, or simply move the argument forward, through a list of points.
Evaluating Evidence: The STAR Criteria
the STAR criteria was developed by rhetorician Richard Fulkerson. STAR Stands for: Sufficiency, Typicality, Accuracy and Relevance.
Sufficiency: Is there enough evidence?
Typicality: Are the chosen data representative and typical?
Accuracy: Are the data accurate and up-to-date?
Relevance: Are the data reveant to the claim?
When using evidence, you must understand your audience and decide whether or not they will credit or discredit the source. Interpreted data is most often skewed and smart audiences will know that.
Addressing Objections and Counterarguments
Anticipating Objections: An Extended Example
You need to try to figure out what objections people have with your argument. Almost like playing devils advocate, arguing for the sake of arguing the other side. You should then support your argument in response to the counter points someone may bring up.
Using a Planning Schema to Anticipate Objections
A Planning Schema works well to anticipate objections, by allowing the writer to look at his paper and try to imagine some possible counter points the audience will form.
Responding to Objections, counterarguments and Alternative Views
One of the best ways to defeat a counterargument is to summarize them fairly.
Rebutting opposing views – calling into question the counter arguments and their supporting evidence or underlying assumptions or both.
Conceding to Counterarguments – it is not weak to concede to an argument. Conceding to an argument may allow the reader / audience to trust you more. However, you should shift to a different field of values where your argument is stronger, and continue on with those values.
Qualifying your claim – Adjusting the scope of your claim, using a limitation will make your claim stronger. If you say “All boys are good at sports” anyone can argue this, but if you say “Almost All boys are good at sports” this is a limitation.
Appealing to Ethos and Pathos
There are three proofs in an argument:
Logos – The appeal to reason
Ethos – The appeal to the speaker’s character
Pathos – The appeal to the emotions and sympathetic imagination.
Appeal to Ethos
A reader’s trust will increase the persuasiveness of an argument. Whenever you present yourself as a credible and trustworthy source, you are appealing to ethos.
Appeal to Ethos:
1. Demonstrate that you know your subject well.
2. Be fair to alternative points of view
3. Build bridges toward your audience by grounding your argument in shared values and assumptions.
Appeals to Pathos
Appeals to the emotions are often irrational and irrelevant. Some believe that appealing to pathos is undervalued on the grounds that arguments should be rational rather than emotional. However, they can play to your audience and deepen their understanding of the human element within your argument. One of the best ways to think of pathos is an appeal to the audience’s values and beliefs.
1. Use vivid language and examples – humanize your argument / appeal.
2. Find audience-Based Reasons – Know your audience and their background, appealing to this may swing your argument in to favor in their eyes.
A brief primer on informal fallacies
Informal fallacies are instances of murky reasoning that can cloud an argument and lead to unsound conclusions.
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc (“After This, Therefore Because of This”) – Mistaking a sequence for a cause.
Hasty Generalization – Claims based on insufficient or unrepresentative data.
Either/Or reasoning – when a complex, multisided issue is reduced to two positions without acknowledging the possibility of other alternatives
Ad Hominem (“Against the Person”) – Attacking the arguer instead of the argument.
Appeals to False Authority and Bandwagon Appeals – support for the fact that a famous person or “many people” already support it.
Non Sequitur (“It Does Not Follow”) – when no connection is made between the claim and the reason.
Circular Reasoning – When you state your claim and then state it again as a reason (typically re-worded).
Red Herring – raising unrelated or irrelevant points, to throw the audience off track.
Slippery Slope – fear that one step in a direction we don’t like inevitably leads to the next step with no stopping place.