Everything’s an Argument
What is argument?
NOT a fight
NOT a pro-con debate
The goal is not to WIN, but to find
and promote the best belief or course
Think of it as a cooperative inquiry
Searching for truth
What is rhetoric?
In popular usage, rhetoric often
means empty or deceptive language
Another related meaning is decorative
or artificial language
Aristotle’s definition: the art of
determining what will be persuasive
in every situation
Explicit or Implicit
Class discussion activity
Half of the groups will examine fig.
1.4 and the other half will examine
Discuss in groups and then we will
present our findings
Defining features of argument
An argument requires justification of
Two conflicting assertions and an
attempt to resolve the conflict
through an appeal to reason
Unstated assumption, or warrant
Argument combines truth seeking
He believed that the good person’s duty is
not to win an argument but to pursue truth
We live in a pluralistic, multicultural world
with competing visions of truth
You must forge a personal stance based on
your examination of all the evidence and
your articulation of values that you can
make public and defend
Argument is a process and a
A process in which the best solution is
A product can be a person’s contribution to
Informal discussions, speeches
Many written types- grant proposals, legal
briefs, newspaper editorials, articles, blogs,
advocacy web sites,etc.
Visual arguments and documentaries
Who writes arguments?
Lobbyists and advocacy groups
Business professionals, labor union leaders
Lawyers and judges
Citizens and students
“Petition to Waive the University
Separate class into three groups.
Group 1: University Standards Committee
Group 2: college students
Group 3: mathematics teachers
Arrive at a group decision on whether to
exempt this student from the math
A successful argument…
Considers the needs of the audience
What are their expectations?
What are their values- personal,
What is their attitude toward the
Arguments should always be tailored
to suit the needs of the audience.
Finding issues to explore
Good writing grows out of good
talking- talk with friends, be open to
issues around you
Explore ideas by free writing
The believing and doubting game
Play the Game
A student should report a fellow
student who is cheating on an exam
or plagiarizing an essay.
Free write as a believer- what are all
the reasons to agree?
and again as a doubter- do your best
to find counterexamples that
undermine the idea
Bring texts and conflicting ideas into
conversation with one another
Playing these ideas against each other,
creating a tension that forces you to keep
expanding your perspective
What would writer A say to writer B?
Effective discussion are one way to foster
dialectic thinking- Socratic seminar
Obstacles to argument
The fanatical believer
The fanatical skeptic
Lack of shared assumptions- One
can’t argue about the causes of global
warming with someone who doesn’t
believe that global warming is real
Classical Structure of Argument
Introduction- memorable scene, illustrative
story, startling statistic. Conclude with
Background and presentation of writer’s
position- reasons and evidence
Summary and critique of alternate views
Conclusion- often includes a call to action
Classical structure is good for a neutral
Compare with textbook p.172-173
The Rhetorical Triangle
CLAIM + REASONS
Issue questions- the origins of
Working in your group, decide which
of the following questions are
information questions and which are
issue questions. Many could be
either, depending on the rhetorical
context. For such questions, create
hypothetical contexts to show your
1. What percentage of public high
schools in the US are failing?
2. What is the cause of failing public
schools in the United States?
3. What is the effect of violent TV shows
4. Is genetically modified corn safe for
5. Should a woman with newly detected
breast cancer opt for a radical
mastectomy or a lumpectomy?
Once you have an answer to your
issue question, you have created your
Your claim is your essay’s thesis
statement, a one-sentence summary
answer to your issue question.
Next, you must support your claim
A reason is also called a premise.
Claim: Women should be barred from joining military
Reason 1: Women for the most part don’t have the
strength or endurance for combat roles.
Reason 2: Women in close-knit combat units would
hurt unit morale by introducing sexual jealousies.
Reason 3: Women haven’t been socialized into
fighters and wouldn’t have the “kill them with a
bayonet” spirit that men can get.
Reason 4: Women would be less reliable to a combat
unit if they became pregnant or had to care for infants
or small children.
Developing claims and reasons
In groups- pick an issue and develop
a claim supported by several reasons.
Express each reason as a because
clause. Then write out the working
thesis statement by attaching the
because clauses to the claim.
NOTE: Don’t use the word “prove” in
The Core of an Argument: The
Enthymeme (The Toulmin Model)
“Women should be allowed to join combat
units because the image of women in
combat would help eliminate gender
stereotypes” is an incomplete logical
structure called an enthymeme. Its
persuasiveness depends on an underlying
assumption or belief that the audience
must accept- in this case, that gender
stereotypes are harmful and should be
eliminated. If the audience is unwilling to
supply the missing premise, then the
Let’s try to identify underlying
Enthymeme: Rabbits make good pets
because they are gentle.
Underlying assumption: Gentle animals
make good pets.
Enthymeme: Racial profiling should not be
used by airport screeners because it
violates a person’s civil rights.
Underlying assumption: Civil rights are
more important than security.
Such underlying assumptions are called
warrants. The warrant is the value, belief,
or principle that the audience has to hold if
the soundness of the argument is to be
guaranteed or warranted.
The supporting evidence that causes an
audience to accept your reason is called the
grounds (facts, data, statistics, causal links,
testimony, examples, anecdotes).
Claim: I should be exempted from the
Reason: because in my chosen field of
law I will have no need for algebra
Grounds: testimony from lawyers and
others that lawyers never use algebra
Warrant: General education requirements
should be based on career utility
Audience based reasons
Which of the two reasons would be more
persuasive to the audience?
Audience: young people ages 15-25
a. You should become a vegetarian because
an all vegetable diet will help you lower
b. You should become a vegetarian because
doing so will help eliminate the suffering of
animals raised in factory farms.
Letter to the Editor assignment