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September Eighth

Page history last edited by Sue Muecke 13 years, 9 months ago

A Twenty-First Century Guide to Rhetoric




What is Argument?


Seriously, what is an argument?


What is an academic argument?


What is rhetoric?



Rhetoric, noun:

1.  The art of using language so as to persuade or influence others

2.  The body of rules to be observed by a speaker or writer in order that he may express himself with eloquence.

3.  Speech or writing expressed in terms calculated to persuade - hence (often in deprecatory sense), language characterized by artificial or ostentatious expression


- Oxford English Dictionary



Asking the Right Questions: Stasis Procedures


Stasis, noun:

1.  A procedure of rhetoric by which one would ask questions in order to arrive at the point being contested in a debate



Arguments of Definition - What is the Nature of the Thing?:

Disagreement over the nature of a thing (X) or the validity of its inclusion in a specific category (Y).  In other words, is X a Y?

  • Is Pluto a planet?
  • Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay prisoners of war?  Are they criminals?


Arguments of Evaluation - What is the Quality of the Thing?:

Disagreement over values, importance, or worthiness.  In other words, is X good or bad?  Is X a good or bad Y?

  • Was the government's bailout of the banks a good idea?
  • Are wikis an appropriate tool for classroom use?


Arguments of Causality - What is the Cause of the Thing?: 

Disagreement over a given outcome or the circumstances that led to that outcome.  In other words, will X cause Y?  Is X caused by Y? 

  • Will decriminalizing the use/selling of marijuana reduce crime?
  • Will raising the minimum wage increase unemployment?


Proposal Arguments - What Actions Should be Taken?:

Disagreement over a set course of action or over whether any action should be taken.  In other words, should we do/not do X? 

  • Should gay marriage be legalized?
  • Should teenage murder defendants be tried as adults?



So How the Heck Do I Use These Things?!?


Stasis Questions at Work Everything's an Argument pgs. 26-27



The Rhetorical Triangle



Audience, Author/Speaker, Message

  • How does persuasion occur?
    • A rhetorician crafts a message designed to persuade a particular audience and then (often) responds dynamically to the reactions of that audience, thus altering the message.
  • What does this mean for our writing?
    • Rhetorically sound arguments must be accommodated to their audience.
    • Though truth may exist, there are multiple ways to state that truth.



The Artistic Appeals (Ethos, Pathos, Logos) - Everything's an Argument, pgs. 33-35 


Rhetoric is often crafted through the use of one or more of the artistic appeals

  • Ethos - persuasion based on the character, expertise, or ethics of the speaker
    • Pete Rose was an iconic major league baseball player who set many records in his career. 4,256 hits, 3,562 games played, 14,053 at bats, and 10,328 outs.
    • Michael Vick cannot be excused for his previous behavior but he can be forgiven and granted a second chance. First of all, he has admitted his guilt in a court of law and has accepted responsibility for it. He paid for his crime by going to jail and serving his sentence. He not only paid for his crime with jail time, but with lost earnings, endorsements, and a severe loss to his reputation. Michael Vick has tried to rectify his behavior by working with advocates for the more humane treatment for all animals.
  • Pathos - persuasion that manipulates or exploits an audience's emotions
    • Without alcoholism holding her back, [Lindsay Lohan] would be able to learn and grow from her poor choices and make progress in her life. But, this disease is holding her back and making it very hard, almost impossible, for her to not only control her actions but simply abide by the rules of her probation.
    • It’s just a video of a drunk guy talking stupid, eating a Wendy’s cheeseburger...What [David Hasselhoff] does on his own time shouldn’t change how people feel about his acting career. I’m sure most people have had worse nights than what we saw in this video.
    •  [Tiger] Woods really isn’t a bad guy and should be forgiven; he’s just had a slip up with the fame and fortune of his lifestyle. Can you blame him for this?
    •  Tiger [Woods] lost a lot of things from this, his marriage, investments, and endorsement deals. So don’t you think he suffer enough from this.


  • Logos - persuasion based on "logical" reasoning, often quantifiable grounds and evidence
    • Moving onto scientific evidence Randy Hendricks, an attorney of [Roger] Clemens, pointed out that Clemens pitching statistics showed no improvement of performance as seen in other players whose statistics changed quite noticeably.
    • [Michael] Jackson was proved innocent through a court of law, as he should be by the public.
    •  However what [Don] Imus did was say something out of line, exactly what we do every day, not try to bring slavery back. It's what black men say to one another, "what up nigger". It's what women sometimes call one another, "slut". It's a way of living in today's society.
  • Additional examples?



Assignment for Friday:

  • Read Everything's an Argument Chapter 5 ("Rhetorical Analysis")
  • Read "They Say/I Say" Chapter 12 ("'What's Motivating This Writer?': Reading for the Conversation")

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