Argument for a categorical proposition

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Gerhardt, ENG 391

Write an argument supporting the probability of a categorical proposition (CP). A CP is deceptively simple. It looks like a simple definition, but you must offer “proof” because you are actually making an argument, claiming that a certain trend exists In academic terms, a CP is an assertion that places its subject in the category of its predicate thereby defining, characterizing or claiming the existence of a subject. In lay terms, in newspapers, magazines and on television, a CP can generally be called a “trend” and it usually takes the following form:

The United States is no longer amicable to immigrants.

The College Park government is manipulated by the Mafia.

Foreign audiences view an unrepresentative sample of American TV.

The state of higher education in the United States is faltering

Focus on an issue you are interested in, perhaps from your field of study. The topic you choose should remain the same for all the papers in this class. To support your CP, you will need to structure your paper around the definition of your predicate term. For example, if you are arguing that “In the last few years America has swung to the right,” you must define the “right.” You cannot simply rely on a dictionary. You should select from and /or shape the generally accepted meaning of the word in a way specifically useful to your argument. Your evidence, including statistics, quotes, personal experience and anecdotes, published authority, and hearsay, should be specific and forceful.

Remember: do not go into the causes, nor whether the problem is bad, nor solutions. We will address these arguments in later papers. At the bottom of the argument, write a one paragraph description of your audience. Document your sources according to MLA, APA or other recognizable style (see packet for MLA examples; we will discuss alternatives in class). Must have four sources, at least, for this paper. A good practice: two sources per page.

Gerhardt, ENG 391

In the CP, you established the existence of a problem. In the evaluation, you persuaded the audience that the problem is, in fact, a problem. Next, in a causal paper you will analyze how the problem or issue or trend came about. What caused it? Why, for example, did America’s small farms disappear? Why were cults so popular in the 70s? Why are there no good book stores, music stores, bakeries, or good restaurants in Prince George’s County?
First, identify what precisely you are investigating. You could examine the cause of an event that took place at a specific time (an airplane crash, a revolution, a war), or you could look at a trend, something that has developed over a period of time (declining SAT scores). Decide if your causes are “immediate” or “remote,” “precipitating” or “contributing,” “constraints” or “necessary/sufficient.” You don’t have to label them specifically in the paper, but understanding what type of causes you are working with will help you write the paper and stay focused.
You will probably find many causes. In your paper, focus only on one or two main causes. As you identify causes, you might find that your audience (reader) is likely to consider some causes more plausible than others, which will influence which causes you include in your argument. Your immediate aim in the causal argument might be to explain the workings of causes in a way your reader never thought of before.
Finally, do NOT propose solutions to the problem. Rather, save the solutions for your later proposal argument paper.
Remember, you must cite your sources (eight for this paper) and include a works cited page, according to MLA, APA or other recognized style. Also, please identify your audience at the end of the paper.


Gerhardt, ENG 391

In the CP argument, you established the existence of a problem by way of definition. Next, you will write a four- to five-page essay that evaluates that policy, program, situation or trend. An evaluation argument seeks to persuade its audience to make a value judgment about the morality/immorality, beauty/ugliness, goodness/badness of its subject.
Again, support your claim with sources; this paper willl require six (four from the previous paper and two new ones). Again, use a recognized style. And again, include a description of your audience at the end.
Congress cutting welfare is/is not smart social policy.

Robert Mappelthorp’s work is/is not artistic photography.

Bill Clinton was/was not a good president.
The formula:

X is/is not a good/bad Y.

1. Determine the category (Y) in which the subject belongs.

Remember to NARROW down your subject to the smallest relevant class. For example, in analyzing Bill Clinton’s worth, you would need to narrow the subject of “good president.”

Bill Clinton is/is not a good late 20th Century president. Or, Bill Clinton is/is not a good late 20th Century, Democratic President. And so on. Comparing him to George Washington or Herbert Hoover would be foolish and nearly impossible considering the influence of time, the size of the country during their respective presidencies, the political climate, the amount of the budgets, etc.
2. Determine the purpose of the class (Y).

What does a good late 20th Century president do?

Much has been written about how the presidency has changed in very recent years. Many experts believe that Clinton embodies all that is new about the presidency (and other world leaders--note the similarities between England’s Tony Blair or the Czech Republic’s Vaclav Havel). Most notably, presidents today are viewed more as “leaders”--people to whom the public turns for guidance. Presidents today act as “big brothers” rather than “stern fathers.” Past presidents operated more in the realm of “managers.”
3. Determine criteria for (Y).

Good later 20th Century Presidents do the following:

--offer spiritual or moral or psychological guidance

--convey easy, casual friendliness

--appear to be flawed in a human way
4. Give weight to the criteria

Which feature is most important, second important, etc.

5. Determine whether X meets the criteria.

Does your X meet the most important criteria? If your X meets only the least important, then you need to rethink it. List the ways in which your X meets the criteria for Y.


Gerhardt, ENG 391

In the categorical proposition we established the existence of a problem. In the causal paper we asked how a problem or issue or trend came about. In the evaluation we analyzed why the problem is a problem at all. In the proposal paper we propose solutions to the problem.
For the proposal paper, we will be pulling together the previous four papers and creating a longer document.
The Intro

First, create an opening or beginning that briefly highlights the problem and ends with a thesis that lets reader know what the paper is going to be about and what solution you plan to propose. This intro should account for about one page of the document.

The Body

Next, provide background for the reader by cutting and pasting from your CP, causal and evaluation papers. In this section of the argument, you are describing the problem in greater detail. This section should account for about five pages of the document.

For best results, use subheads to alert the reader of the different sections of the argument, as we discussed in class: The Problem, The Causes, The Evaluation. As we discussed, you can be creative with the subheads in accordance with your audience’s preferences.
The Solutions

Next, propose solutions. This section accounts for about five NEW pages of text. Use research to find specifics about your solutions, including costs and amount of time and man power required to turn around the problem, as we have been discussing in class. Your research will help in this area. You should not just make up solutions off the top of your head.

Lastly, you can end the paper by convincing the reader that the proposal should be enacted. Justify the need for change.
Remember, you can and should incorporate more pathos into this argument because you want the person to act. Appeal to the emotions through details and dialogues and scenes.
You must cite your sources and include a works cited page, according to a recognized style (see essay on pp. 154). Please consult at least 10 sources, no older than five years. Also, please identify your audience at the end. Eight to ten pages.

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