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Structuring Arguments

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Heather Hall

on 18 September 2013

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Transcript of Structuring Arguments

Structuring Arguments

Toulmin Argument
British philosopher Stephen Toulmin, "The Uses of Argument" (1958)

Methodology for argumentation which accurately describes the way people make convincing and reasonable arguments

Uses qualifiers such as "sometimes," "often," "presumably," "almost"

Critical thinking habits
Evidence and Reason
Develop a claim with reasons to support it or find evidence that backs up the point
(Claim): this college campus needs more officially designated spaces for parking bicycles
(Grounds/Support/ Reasons):

Personal experience-
twice a week for two terms he had been unable to find a designated parking space for his bike
several of his friends told similar stories; one had even sold her bike
the ratio of car to bike parking spaces was 100 to 1, whereas the ratio of cars to bikes registered on campus was 25 to 1
the campus police chief told the college newspaper that she believed a problem existed
Enthymemes (Arguments in Brief to test logic) / Evidence/ Data/ Grounds
In arguments that we read, claims might be widely separated from the reasons offered to support them.
When shaping our arguments, put claims and reasons together early in the writing process to test your logic
bicycle parking spaces should be expanded because the number of bikes on campus far exceeds the available spots
It's time to lower the drinking age because I've been drinking since I was fourteen and it hasn't hurt me
Violent video games should be carefully evaluated and their use monitored by the industry, the government, and parents because these games cause addiction and psychological harm to players
don't eat the mushroom--it's poisonous
ISSUE: Which car should we buy?

Enthymeme 1: We should buy this Geo Metro because it is extremely economical.
Enthymeme 2: We should buy this used Volvo because it is very safe.
Enthymeme 3: We should buy this Ford Falcon because it is red.

What are the assumptions?
The logical and persuasive connection between a claim and the reasons and data supporting it
Answers the question "How exactly do I get from the claim to the data?"
Like a search warrant, a sound warrant in an argument gives you authority to proceed with your case
Tells readers what your (often unstated) assumptions are
Claims and warrants only create the skeleton of an argument. They only suggest the scope of the evidence you have yet to assemble
CLAIM and GROUNDS: NASA should launch a human expedition to Mars because Americas need a unifying national goal.
WARRANT: What unifies a nation ought to be a national priority
On a personal level, Americans want to be part of something bigger than themselves (pathos)
In a country as regionally, racially, and culturally diverse as the United States, common purposes and values help make the nation stronger (ethos)
In the past, enterprises such as westward expansion, WWII, and the Apollo moon program enabled many--though not all--Americans to work toward common goals (logos)
The American people are politically divided along lines of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and class (fact as evidence)
A common challenge or problem often unites people to accomplish great things (emotional appeal as evidence)
Successfully managing a Mars mission would require the cooperation of the entire nation--financially, logistically, and scientifically (logical appeal as evidence)
A human expedition to Mars would be a valuable scientific project for the nation to pursue (appeal to values as evidence)
Debatable and controversial statements or assertions you hope to prove
Claims worth arguing tend to be controversial; there's no point worrying about points on which most people agree
Twelve inches make a foot
Earth is the third planet from the sun
Claims should be debatable and demonstrated using logic or evidence
NASA should launch a human expedition to Mars.
Vegetarianism is the best choice of diet.
It's time to legalize medical use of marijuana.

Assumption for Enthymeme 1: We should by the car that is most economical
(Economy is the major criterion we should use in selecting a car)

Support and Refutation
Agree with criterion but disagree with the stated
reason/ grounds/ support
The Geo Metro isn't as economical as another car
The Volvo isn't as safe as another car
Disagree with the criterion, the stated
Decision should be based on cargo room or performance
Assumption for Enthymeme 2: We should by the car that is most safe
(Safety is the major criterion we should use in selecting a car)

Assumption for Enthymeme 3: We should by the car that is red
(The color red is the major criterion we should use in selecting a car)
What does the color have to do with buying the car?
How do you get from the facts to the claim?
We would need some kind of argument to "back up" this unstated assumption that redness is the major criterion we should choose:
a warrant
Don't eat the mushroom--it's poisonous.

Claim: Don't eat the mushroom

Reason/ Grounds/ Support: It's poisonous

Warrant: That which is poisonous shouldn't be eaten. If something is poisonous, it's dangerous to eat

Parts of the Toulmin Model
assertion you hope to prove
(primary component)

Evidence/Grounds/ Data-
support/rationale for the claim
(primary component)

connection (often unspoken)
between "claim" and "evidence"
(primary component)

Backing/ Support-
support for the warrant, why the warrant is a logical assumption
(secondary components which supplement the primary component)

Rebuttal/ Reservation-
potential objection to the claim, necessary to make your argument appear more complete since you have considered oppositions
(secondary component)

limits put on the claim
(secondary component)
Toulmin Model

You should use a hearing aid
Evidence/ Grounds/ Data:
Over 70% of all people over 65 years of age have hearing difficulty
A hearing aid helps most people to hear better
Hearing aids are available locally
(What if I can't figure out how to make the hearing aid work?)/ There is a technical support desk that deals with technical problems
Hearing aids help "most" people
The federal government should ban smoking
Grounds/ Support/ Reason:
Smoking causes serious diseases in smokers and endangers nonsmokers as well.
The Constitution was established to "promote the general welfare," and citizens are thus entitled to protection from harmful actions by others
SEE PPT. Practice on Moodle
What makes Toulmin's system work so well in the real world is that is acknowledges that "qualifiers"--words and phrases that place limits on claims, such as "usually," "sometmes," "in many cases"--play an essential role in arguments.
Toulmin logic encourages you to limit your responsibilities in an argument through the effective use of qualifiers
CLAIM: You will get into law school.
GROUNDS: Your LSAT scores are in the 98th percentile
WARRANT: High LSAT scores are an important factor in law school admissions.
QUALIFIER: it is likely
REVISED CLAIM: Your LSAT scores are in the 98th percentile, so it is likely you will get into law school.

Rebuttal/ Reservation
Conditions of Rebuttal: Potential objections to an argument
Understanding and reacting to these conditions are essential not only to buttress your own claims where they're weak, but also to understand the reasonable objections of people who see the world differently.
Anticipating objections broadens your horizons and likely makes you more open to change
Outline of the Toulmin Argument
The federal government should ban smoking
Smoking causes serious diseases in smokers.
Nonsmokers are endangered by second-hand smoke.
The Constitution promises to "promote the general welfare."
Citizens are entitled to protection from harmful actions by others.
The United States is based on a political system that is supposed to serve the basic needs of its people, including their health
Numbers of deaths attributed to second-hand smoke.
Lawsuits recently won against large tobacco companies, citing the need for reparation for smoking-related health care costs
Examples of bans already imposed in many public places
(Authority) Cite the surgeon general
Smokers have rights too (RESPONSE- the ban applies to public places; smokers have the right to smoke in private)
Smoking laws should be left to the states (RESPONSE- the power of the federal government to impose other restrictions on smoking, such as warning labels on cigarettes and bans on cigarette advertisements on television has survived legal challenges)
Such a ban could not be enforced (RESPONSE- the experience of New York City, which has imposed such a ban, suggests that enforcement would not be a significant problem)
Qualification: The ban would limited to public spaces
Revised Claim: The federal government should ban smoking in public spaces.
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