ARGUMENT What argument is not: Mere contradiction A nasty, winner-take-all fight A shouting match A popularity contest A bully beating someone up Dishonest rhetoric (what sounds good “wins” even if its invalid or illogical) A propagandistic spectacle (the best manipulator “wins”) What argument is: A series of statements leading to a proposition An open-minded debate; the most convincing case “wins” The pursuit of truth; everybody who favors truth “wins” A rhetorical strategy used to persuade audiences in an ethical manner A claim made convincing by logical reasoning and evidence What people do when they implicitly or explicitly disagree but need to negotiate an agreement A strategy for exerting influence or expressing conviction A reasonable disagreement among freely held Your willingness to articulate your relationship to others who have taken a stand on an issue Your position on an “arguable issue” (of substantiation, evaluation, or policy) Your attempt to persuade your reader through use of “the appeals”—ethos, pathos, and logos What is a “rhetorical stance” with respect to argument? Trimbur: the way writers coordinate ethos (the writer’s character as projected in the text; personality; attitude; the writer’s credibility, fairness, authority), pathos (readers’ emotions, state of mind, intensity of belief as aroused by the text), and logos (the writer’s message; the force of the logical line of reasoning) as interrelated components in persuasive writing What are the “parts of an argument”? The claim The logical reasoning and evidence in support of the claim The presence of opposing views, the counterargument(s) A refutation of opposing views, counterargument(s) Terms to know (Trimbur): claim, evidence, enabling assumption, backing, differing views, and qualifiers Critical Thinking As you probably have realized, argumentation is an important “critical thinking skill.” In fact, it is all the critical thinking skills rolled into one. Argumentation teaches you to question, analyze, respond, evaluate, and synthesize. All of these ways of responding to information involve critical thinking and problem solving. When you argue a position you learn to examine the positions of others—the quality of their opinions, the quality of their logic, the fairness of their assumptions. You also learn how to close the gap between you and those who are different from you—those who disagree with you—you learn to recognize and respect disagreement and you learn the value of establishing common ground. Exercise Analyze the parts of the argument in the exchange of letters between Darcy Peters and Marcus Boldt (pp. 64- 66). Explain each writer’s rhetorical stance by describing his/her use of the “three appeals” (pp. 75-76). Ethos What image of Ms. Peters’ character is created by her letter? How would you describe her personality? Her attitude? Does she seem fair? Authoritative? Credible? Cite reasons why or why not. Ask the same of Mr. Boldt’s character based on his letter. What’s his personality, attitude, fairness, credibility? Pathos What emotions does Darcy Peters’ letter evoke? Marcus Boldt’s? Are these the emotions the writer intends, do you think? Logos How would you sum up Darcy Peters’ message to Boldt? Does she use a logical line of reasoning to make this message persuasive? Explain. Analyze Boldt’s letter in the same way? What’s his essential message? Is he logical in his response? Is the exchange of letters between Darcy Peters and Marcus Boldt an exercise in futility? Trimbur says that the letter exchange between Peters and Boldt was a failure because neither side is likely to be convinced by the other. What reasons do you think Trimbur would name if he were pressed to explain the reason for that failure further? Why isn’t Boldt persuaded by Peters’ letter, and why isn’t Peters likely to be persuaded by Boldt’s? • Darcy Peters wants to write on behalf of all the families in her area, but her attention never wavers from her own situation. She has no objective information that would help Boldt, who as an elected official needs to act on behalf of an entire community, see the larger picture. She has only her personal case as evidence that this is a useful program. It’s not convincing. She assumes that Boldt should care about her, when his responsibility is to consider the needs of everyone in his community, not just her individual family. • Boldt claims to be speaking on behalf of “all taxpayers” while at the same time he makes it clear he only has the concerns of the people who voted for him in mind. Other times he seems to hide his own views behind the anonymous mask of “the taxpayer.” Both of these evasions make him seem disingenuous. He floats seamlessly back and forth between speaking for the “taxpayers” and for his “constituency” (which aren’t exactly the same group). Worse, Boldt’s assumptions about Peters and her family are offensive; his tone is insulting and degrading. The biggest reason is that the they make no effort to acknowledge their differences and find common ground. They are working from completely different assumptions which need to be negotiated. Neither writer makes his/her assumptions clear, but they can be summed up as follows: Peters assumes that everyone (“other families”) should have equal access, equal opportunity to education enrichment. She considers that her family’s lack of access to educational opportunities which other do have access to puts her in a compromised position; she reports feeling like a “victim” of the system. The system isn’t working for her but against her. The “haves” can choose to pay their way, the “have-nots” can choose to can apply for assistance, but the “have-a-little-but-not- enoughs” have no choices available to them. This leaves her with a sense that the system is unfair. Boldt assumes, on behalf of the “taxpayers,” that Darcy Peters and her family have arrived at their situation by choice and because they have been irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, and maybe even stupid. He implies that she and her family have been freeloading. (“What arrangements have you made to repay this program at some future date?”) In the name of his “constituency” (not all the taxpayers, but just the ones who voted for him), he implies that tax dollars have been wasted and that his mandate from the voters is to slash programs that provide “no discernable return” on taxpayers’ investment. The Peters family may want the same educational opportunities that others have, but they don’t need the same educational opportunities that others have. Not until these kinds of differences are acknowledged and clarified can either side begin to negotiate and find common ground. Once Darcy Peters becomes more aware that Boldt has to consider the whole picture, the whole community, she might find more effective ways to argue that the Readiness to Learn Family Learning Center is a worthwhile program that deserves continued funding because it benefits the whole community. She will realize she needs to provide evidence that other families have benefited, not just her own. She’ll see the need to present factual evidence that the families who do benefit are giving back to the community in various ways—that there is a “return on the investment.” Such a letter would have a much better chance of being persuasive. I’m not sure if it’s possible for Boldt to change the kinds of assumptions he’s making about Darcy Peters and her family. The prejudices he expresses are probably deep-seated and difficult to budge. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t address them head on and refute them as best as one can. Is the Peters family an irresponsible, obstinate, lazy, stupid pack of freeloaders? Probably not. If you’re aware that your opposition is likely to prejudge you or your position in that harsh a way, if you see that coming, you can take some steps to fend it off, to acknowledge and refute those perceptions before they assemble themselves into an impenetrable barrier.