Everyday Argument Assignment

From Mauk and Metz, Inventing Argument:


Argumentation: (1) The act of asserting, supporting, and defending a claim; (2) The art of discovering and defending what should be thought, what should be done; (3) The art of changing others’ minds while not losing your own.
We are surrounded by argument, both informal and formal. While our daily life may not be full of explicit debate, it is full of underlying values and unstated assumptions. This subtle argument shows up everywhere.

For example

from Facebook:

This is my town: Bemidji
14 hours ago
The hwy is so very slippery! The roads are too, but the Hwy is worse. I can hardly accelerate it is so slippery.


On Tumblr

BSU homepage

Or, more formal: popular science's trouble with trolls]

Academic Argument

Academic or formal argument involves making a debatable position appear reasonable or acceptable. This is the primary motive behind academic argument: to make others see the wisdom of a position or perspective.

The problem with opinions

To say that people are entitled to their own opinions greatly oversimplifies the human consciousness, which is actually a complex process of building, transforming, and trading opinions. It ignores how people really work in the world of ideas, and it ignores the power of language to shape our perspectives on the world around us (7).

“People are entitled to their own opinions.” Yes, indeed they are. However, this statement is often used to dismiss others’ opinions; it is used to stop exploration and cut people off from others’ arguments. In a democracy, in a community, what others think does matter.

So what is Rhetoric?

According to your text, “Rhetoric is the process of recognizing and using the most effective strategies for influencing thought” (8). The Greek philosopher Aristotle asserted that rhetoric is the ability to determine the available means of persuasion for each particular argument. The study of rhetoric is not just studying how to change people’s minds, but also the study of how language works to persuade.

For example, in most cases a child learns early on that adding “please” to her request for a cookie is more effective than just screaming “COOKIE!”

This is what we will be working on in this class.

Students of rhetoric ask questions about particular situations:

  • What is happening? Why should someone speak out?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What are the audience’s values and beliefs?
  • What kind of language or strategy would best appeal to those beliefs?

As Mauk and Metz write:
The goal of studying rhetoric is to examine the nuances of persuasive language as they appear in essays, reports, literature, slogans, advertisements, speeches, memos, policies, art, entertainment, and even actions. Rhetoric is key to the study of argument. In a sense, there can be no argument without rhetoric. (10)

And an assignment

Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and you had better if you want credit for it) is to find and bring to class five examples of informal or formal argument you encounter between now and class time next Wednesday.

Start a new wiki page on your name page called "Everyday Arguments" followed by your name. Example: Everyday Arguments Anna Hamann. Collect your examples and explain them a bit on that page. Tag your page with the tag "everyday." You must have one example from social media and one example of a visual argument. Any questions?

To tag a page: After you save your page click on the "tags" bottun at the bottom of the page. Type in "everyday" and then hit "save tags."

Due Wednesday, January 22

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