Writing the Argumentative Essay
- “. . . the art of influencing others, through the medium of reasoned discourse, to believe or act as we wish them to believe or act.”
Structure of Argument
- Motivational Appeals
- Assumption(s) that have been taken for granted
Features of Argumentation
- Know your audience and be sensitive to their views
- Use the language to make your point, but be careful not to misuse language
- Your own
- You must look like you know what you’re talking about
- Educate yourself on the issue(s) before writing
- Borrow from authority
- Be sure to give appropriate credit where due
- Who is your audience?
- Qualities you should presume of your audience:
- Assume they are as knowledgeable about your topic as you are.
- Assume they are aware of common knowledge.
- Assume they could be fundamentally opposed to your argument and be sensitive to their prejudices –
- Don’t Alienate Your Audience
- Argue from logic and reason
- Do NOT base your entire argument on:
- Religious Conviction
- Avoid fallacious logic
- There are a multitude of formal errors in logic, known as FALLACIES
Some Common Fallacies
- Hasty Generalization
- Faulty Use of Authority
- Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
- False Analogy
- Ad Hominem
- False Dilemma
- Slippery Slope
Faulty Use of Authority
- Misuse of a source
- Fitting the quotation to your own needs
- If four out of five dentists prefer Colgate, don’t use the one dentist who prefers Crest as your authority!
Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc
- “After this, therefore because of this”
- Faulty Connection Between Two Things Being Compared
- “Against the Man”
- Attacking the person rather than attacking an issue.
- If you don’t like this administration’s policies, and want to see them changed, don’t attack the President, address the issues you want changed.
- “Black or White Fallacy”
- There are only two alternatives, no room for compromise and no grey areas.
- Nearly every issue has at least two sides, and somewhere, someone has determined that the OTHER side is the only legitimate approach.
- Nothing is black and white; there are shades of grey everywhere!
- The assumption that “A” will inevitably lead to “B”
- Then “B” will inevitably lead to “C”
More Common Fallacies
- Begging the Question
- The Straw Man Fallacy
- “Two Wrongs Make a Right”
- Ad Populum
- Appeal to Tradition
- Faulty Emotional Appeal
Begging the Question
- The statement being argued actually assumes the issue has already been proven true.
- An argument that assumes itself
Straw Man Fallacy
- Set up a slightly different problem and attack it, rather than the problem at issue
“Two Wrongs Make A Right”
- “But all my friends are doing it…”
- Diverts attention away from the question at issue
- “It does not follow”
- Erroneous Cause and Effect Reasoning
- Uses irrelevant information to back of a claim
Appeal to Tradition
- “But we’ve always done it that way before…”
Faulty Emotional Appeals
- Don’t base your whole claim on an appeal to emotion
- Don’t use emotional appeals that are
- Irrelevant to the argument
- Draw attention away from the real issue
- Appear to conceal another purpose
- Adapted from:
- Elements of Argument: A Text and Reader
- By: Annette T. Rottengberg
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