Making an Argument
An argument is a persuasive communication used to espouse one’s point of view that is seen by the recipient as contrary to another point of view. The underlying purpose of the argument is to convince the recipient that the position held in the communication is the superior or appropriate position.
Overarching Objectives of the Argumentative Communication
While presenting an argument in a plausible speech, you would first want to state your stance in a consistent and cohesive manner, supporting your points with authentic sources. You will also want to make your audience believe that you are a trustworthy speaker and that your arguments are morally and ethically correct. Treating the viewer with respect is a must, which means that nothing you say should make them defensive.
Strategy and Structure of a Argument
Classical theory on the structure an strategy behind communication provides us with the following elements:
- Exordium – It is the introduction of your argument to prepare the listener for your argument.
- Narration – It is to provide relevant information to contextualize your argument to the audience.
- Division – Outlining the key points.
- Proposition – It is the introduction of your primary claim in the speech.
- Confirmation – Provides the evidence to authenticate your argument.
- Refutation – Introduces the audience to potential objections of the argument and then counters and refutes them.
- Digression – Departing from the main subject to present other matters.
- Peroration or Epilogue – Concluding part of the argument.
The pattern guides you through preparing your document and can serve as a checklist to make sure that you are ready. Stephen Toulmin’s rhetorical strategy focuses on three main elements:
- Claim – Your statement of belief or truth.
- Data – Your supporting reasons for the request.
- Warrant – You create the connection between the claim and the supporting rights.
The essence of this rhetorical strategy lies in the fact that it leads the audience through a logical set of steps which allows them to easily follow the argument as it explicitly states the claim, and then establishes a clear connection between the said claim and the data. It will enable the reader to grasp the writer’s reasoning.
Argumentation Strategies: GASCAP/T
Following is a useful way of chronologically remembering seven important argumentative strategies:
- Generalization – Anything which stands true for a compelling example of a well-represented sample should hold for anything similar or the entire population as well. For the STAR system to be reliable, we need an (S) sufficient number of (T) typical, (A) accurate and (R) reliable examples.
- Analogy – If any two scenarios, things or ideas are simply observed to be similar, they will potentially be alike in other ways too. Adverbs that end with “ly” are watched as they qualify or lessen the relationship between the examples. “Probably”, “maybe”, “could”, “may” or “usually” weaken the relationship.
- Sign – Empirical evidence like statistics, facts or case studies are indicative of meaning, as in a stop sign is a message to “stop.” The relation between sign is evaluated, and the correlation is noted where the presenter says what the symbols mean and whether they do a fair job on their own.
- Consequence – If any two situations always appear together, they can be said to have a causal relationship. Example: “After the fact, therefore because of the fact.” There is no apparent connection, and it sounds confusing.
- Authority – A credible source would usually convey authentic information. Institutes, boards, and people, in general, have agendas and definite opinions.
- Principle – It is an argument supported by the speaker’s personal experience. Is the policy being invoked accepted in general? Is the warrant, claim or data related to the principle stated in reality? Are there any common exceptions?
- Testimony – The personal experience involved. Is the testimony authentic and believable? The STAR system is used to help evaluate the testimony.
A single strategy is enough to make an argument some of the times, but it is better to combine many strategies resulting in a valid argument.
Other Important Considerations in Forming an Argument
Any evidence provided should be:
- Supportive – Provided examples need to be representative; statistics should be accurate, evidence authoritative and information authentic.
- Relevant – Given examples should be pertinent to the claim and not be completely incomparable.
- Effective – Quality is given more preference over quantity, in that only the best available information including data/statistics and facts should be provided to support the claim, and no additional examples should be cited.
Emotions can be defined as psychological and physical responses to stimuli that we experience as feelings. Individuals can be motivated, manipulated or even exploited by their emotions; though, constant emotional appeal can end up impeding the audience’s ability to receive the message. Joseph A DeVito laid out five essential properties of emotions to describe the role they play in communication:
- Emotions Are Universal
- Emotional Feelings and Emotional Expression Are Not the Same
- Emotions Are Communicated Verbally and Nonverbally
- Emotional Expression Can Be Good and Bad
- Emotions Are Often Contagious.
Logic concerns reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. That is, we reason based upon known principles and truths. Logic plays an important role in persuasion, as does the use of false logic. Another word for false logic is a fallacy. Fallacies or articulate tricks rely on shallow references without fully substantiating the facts or reasoning in the argument. They might even twist facts for their own benefit. Some relevant fallacies are:
- Red Herring – Introduction of information made to distract the recipient from the main point or subject.
- Straw Man – Giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.
- Begging the Question – Assuming statement made is true. In other words, such as using a premise to support itself.
- Circular Argument – The reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with. For example, “If A, then B; We have “B, so we must have A”.
- Ad Populum – Concluding a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it.
- As hominem or “Argument against the Man” – Genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the position.
- Non Sequitur or “It Does Not Follow” – When what is presented as evidence or reason is irrelevant or adds very little support to the conclusion.
- Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc “After this, Therefore because of This.” – Since event Y followed event X, event Y must have been caused by event X.
Richard Johannesen provides several points that can be used while communicating that may be unethical:
- Use false, formulated, twisted or meaningless evidence to support arguments;
- Deliberately use misleading reasoning;
- Lie and present yourself as an “professional” on a subject;
- Use unrelated appeals to remove any attention from the cause;
- Keeping your audience in consideration before linking your idea or proposal to end results which are irrelevant in reality;
- Hiding your true intent, your motive, your position as a professional of a viewpoint or the group you are a part of;
- Misguide, hide, or misrepresent the undesirable features or scope of consequences;
- Use appeals that are emotionally lacking an aiding base of evidence or logic;
- Present over-complex, difficult situations into simple views or choices;
- Demonstrate fake certainty where degrees of odds could be more precise;
- Promote the thing that you don’t trust yourself.