Skip to main content
Humanities Libertexts

9.7: Combining Different Approaches to Trust and Connection

  • Page ID
    56609
  • Audio Version: Click to stream recording of page (June 2020):

    Just as arguments can change tone and emotional appeal, they can appeal to trust differently and create different imagined relationships with the reader at different moments. Arguments don’t need to choose one point of view and stick with it; many arguments move between “I,” “we,” “you” and the impersonal, shifting from sentence to sentence. Too many shifts could be jarring for the reader, but some variety can be refreshing. Thus, a single argument can offer different ways for the reader to relate to the ideas at hand.

    For example, the sample border argument we have analyzed starts with a personal declaration, but if it stayed with "I" throughout it would never be able to make an argument about policy. Usually, the first person in argument is combined with other approaches so that the argument can be extended beyond the personal. Let’s look at how the appeals to trust and connection shift in the last two paragraphs of the border argument:

    Argument Excerpt Notes on the Point of View

    If I were raising children in an impoverished third-world community plagued by violence, and if I had a chance to get my family to the U.S., I would take it.

    “I”: The argument starts out with a personal declaration of what the author herself would do. The repeated emphasis on the “I” provides a contrast to most news accounts which refer to undocumented immigrants as “they.” It attempts to reverse a sense that such immigrants are an outgroup.

    The mention of the word "family" provides the first hint of the appeal to shared values around family loyalty and caring for family members.

    I would try to cross a border illegally so my children would get enough to eat and would have a more stable childhood and a chance at a better education and a better career.

    This focuses on a shared value around parents' obligation to nurture their children with references to children's basic needs.
    What parent would sit on their hands and tell themself, “I want to give my child a better life, but oh well. If I don’t have the papers, I guess it would be wrong”?

    The paragraph ends with a third-person rhetorical question, implying that all parents would do the same. Saying this in the impersonal third person conveys the idea that it is a neutral, objective fact.

    The argument imagines and rejects as ridiculous an “I” statement by an imaginary parent. This statement is deliberately exaggerated in its contrast between the powerful emotional phrase "give my child a better life" and the rather mundane "I don't have the papers."

    If most of us, under desperate circumstances, would cross the border without permission and feel no moral qualms about doing so, then we must recognize this crossing as an ethical, reasonable act.

    The argument switches to "us" and "we," extending the initial personal statement to include the readers in a group united by a sense that their obligation to nurture their children takes priority over the obligation to follow immigration law.

    If it is ethical and reasonable, then how can either a wall or a detention center be on the side of justice?

    The impersonal rhetorical question implies the general claim that walls and detention centers are not right.
    We must find a policy that treats migrants as we would want to be treated--with empathy, respect, and offers of help. The argument returns to the “we,” ending with a sense that writer and readers are united with a common, urgent moral purpose.