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Humanities Libertexts

2.7: Finding the Responses to the Counterarguments

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    After a writer summarizes another perspective, they will signal that they are switching back to their own perspective. If they have not already given a hint about their attitude to the other side, they will have to make their response clear now. Do they see the counterargument as completely wrong-headed, or as having some merit?

    If the writer completely disagrees with the counterargument, they will follow up their description of it by pointing out its flaws. This direct rebuttal will bring the readers back to the writer's side. If they have just conceded a point, they will now emphasize the reason why their own argument still holds. The more the writer has credited the counterargument, the more they will need to explain why readers shouldn't accept it, at least not completely. Below are some phrases which can point toward the problem or limitation of the counterargument.

    Attitude to the Counterargument

    Phrases that Signal a Response to a Counterargument

    If the writer considers the counterargument totally wrong:

    • This idea misses the fact that _____________.
    • I disagree because _____________.
    • This depends on the assumption that _____________ which is incorrect because _____________.
    • This argument overlooks _____________.
    • This argument contradicts itself _____________.
    • This is mistaken because _____________.

    If the writer partly agrees with the counterargument:

    • It is true that ___________, but___________.
    • I do concede_____________, and yet___________.
    • We should grant that_____________, but we must still acknowledge that ___________.
    • We can admit that____________ and still believe that ___________..
    • I acknowledge that _____________, and yet we should nevertheless recognize that _____________.
    • Critics have a point that _____________; however it is more important that we focus on _____________.
    • Admittedly, _____________. However, ___________.
    • Of course, _____________, but I still insist that__________..
    • To be sure, _____________; but _____________.
    • There may be something to the idea that _____________, and yet _____________.

    In the border argument example, the writer concedes that the counterargument does have merit: "I admit that completely open borders would put our security at risk." Immediately, the writer responds, "But surely there are ways to regulate the border without criminalizing people who are driven by need and good intentions." The word “but” signals the transition from concession back to the writer's own side. In the map, we can put the rebuttal below the counterargument and use the arrow to show it supporting the main claim.

    The top half of the graphic is a chain of reasons.  The first reason "We would feel it was right to cross the border without permission" is in a box with an arrow next to it pointing to the next reason, "We should recognize illegal crossing as ethical," which in turn has an arrow from it pointing to the reason "Border walls and detention centers are unjust," which points to the final claim, "We need a new policy that offers respect and help to migrants."   Below, in red, with an arrow pointing up toward the final claim, is the counterargument "Completely open borders would put our security at risk."  Below the counterargument is the response to the counterargument, in black: "Rebuttal: there are ways to regulate the border without criminalizing people." This response has an arrow from it pointing up toward the main claim to show that it supports the main claim.