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3.1.2: Argumentation

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    To a nonconfrontational person (like me), argument is a dirty word. It surfaces connotations of raised voices, slammed doors, and dominance; it arouses feelings of anxiety and frustration.

    But argument is not inherently bad. In fact, as a number of great thinkers have described, conflict is necessary for growth, progress, and community cohesion. Through disagreement, we challenge our commonsense assumptions and seek compromise. The negative connotations surrounding 'argument' actually point to a failure in the way that we argue.

    Check out this video on empathy: it provides some useful insight to the sort of listening, thinking, and discussion required for productive arguments.


    Video: The Importance of Empathy by Lifehacker

    Now, spend a few minutes reflecting on the last time you had an argument with a loved one. What was it about? What was it really about? What made it difficult? What made it easy?

    Often, arguments hinge on the relationship between the arguers: whether written or verbal, that argument will rely on the specific language, approach, and evidence that each party deems valid. For that reason, the most important element of the rhetorical situation is audience. Making an honest, impactful, and reasonable connection with that audience is the first step to arguing better.

    Unlike the argument with your loved on, it is likely that your essay will be establishing a brand-new relationship with your reader, one which is untouched by your personal history, unspoken bonds, or other assumption about your intent. This clean slate is a double-edged sword: although you'll have a fresh start, you must more deliberately anticipate and navigate your assumptions about the audience. What can you assume your reader already knows and believes? What kind of ideas will they be most swayed by? What life experiences have they had that inform their worldview?


    "Conversation" by Jim Pennucci is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This chapter will focus on how the answers to these questions can be harnessed for productive, civil, and effective arguing. Although a descriptive personal narrative (Section 1) and a text wrestling analysis (Section 2) require attention to your subject, occasion, audience, and purpose, an argumentative essay is the most sensitive to rhetorical situation of the genres covered in this book. As you complete this unit, remember that you are practicing the skills necessary to navigating a variety of rhetorical situations: thinking about effective argument will help you think about other kinds of effective communication.

    Chapter Vocabulary

    Vocabulary Definition
    argument a rhetorical mode in which different perspectives on a common issue are negotiated. See Aristotelian and Rogerian arguments.
    Aristotelian argument a mode of argument by which a writer attempts to convince their audience that one perspective is accurate.
    audience the intended consumers for a piece of rhetoric. Every text has at least one audience; sometimes, that audience is directly addressed, and other times we have to infer.

    a persuasive writer's directive to their audience; usually located toward the end of a text. Compare with purpose.

    ethos a rhetorical appeal based on authority, credibility, or expertise.
    kairos the setting (time and place) or atmo
    logical fallacy a line of logical reasoning which follows a pattern of that makes an error in its basic structure. For example, Kanye West is on TV; Animal Planet is on TV. Therefore, Kanye West is on Animal Planet.
    logos a rhetorical appeal to logical reasoning.
    multipartial a neologism from 'impartial,' refers to occupying and appreciating a variety of perspectives rather than pretending to have no perspective. Rather than unbiased or neutral, multipartial writers are balanced, acknowledging and respecting many different ideas.
    pathos a rhetorical appeal to emotion.
    rhetorical appeal a means by which a writer or speaker connects with their audience to achieve their purpose. Most commonly refers to logos, pathos, and ethos.
    Rogerian argument a mode of argument by which an author seeks compromise by bringing different perspectives on an issue into conversation. Acknowledges that no one perspective is absolutely and exclusively 'right'; values disagreement in order to make moral, political, and practical decisions.
    syllogism a line of logical reasoning similar to the transitive property (if a=b and b=c, than a=c). For example, All humans need oxygen; Kayne West is a human. Therefore, Kayne West needs oxygen.

    This page titled 3.1.2: Argumentation is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Shane Abrams (PDXOpen publishing initiative) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.