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The Classical Model in Argument

Chapter 3 of "The Well-Crafted Argument Across the Curriculum"

Peter Grevstad

on 21 January 2014

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Transcript of The Classical Model in Argument

The Classsical (Aristotelian) Model in Argument
The chapter begins with the claim that fashioning and presenting a strong , convincing argument has concerned rhetoricians for more than 2500 years. One learns to master the art of persuasion by using a pre-determined structure, known as the Classical Model. This is an interdisciplinary model for argument.
Rhetoric, or the art of using language persuasively,
has a long history, dating from Plato, Aristotle, Quintillian, and Cicero. It has had a major influence on Western education, discourse, and public life, ever since.
Traditionally, rhetoric was taught as oratry, and was
considered basic as a foundation for professional life. The aim of this type of learning was to teach students to communicate clearly and convincingly. Rhetoric was considered professional, political (deliberative), legal (forensic) and epideictic (celebratory, or laudatory). The Platonic tradition continued under his student Aristotle, and finally the latter gained ascendency, as it is a middle ground between idealistic truth-seeking (Plato) and the pragmatism of the Sophists.
The Classical Model of argument follows a defined formula, which is presented here:
I Introduction
A. lead-in
B. Overview of the situation
C. Background
II Position Statement (thesis)
III Appeals (to ethics,character or authority (ethos); to
emotions (pathos), and/or to reason (logos).
Evidence: statistics, results, findings, examples, laws, or authoritative commentary (expert opinion).
IV Refutation (also called rebuttal), sometimes presented at the same time as the evidence
V Conclusion (also called peroration)
A. Highlights of key points in argument
B. Recommendations
C. Restatement of thesis
Organising an argument in this mode is not as
difficult as it might seem. There is an introduction with a thesis statement, background information, evidence to support the thesis, refutation of opposing views, and a conclusion.

Questions you should ask yourself are 1) What is my reason for writing this argument? 2) What is the best way to introduce the problem? 3) Which assumptions (wrong ones) need to be identified and rebutted? 4) How can my stance be made the most persuasive? and 5) How will the audience react, and what should I plan to do to prepare for these reactions in advance?
When you have obtained the textbook, please read the essay on pp 101-104, and consider the questions which follow it.
Using the elements of Classical Argument
The introduction presents the topic or problem, and briefly states the thesis. It also gives the problem a clear context, and it engages the reader, who should be eager to see 'the whole picture'.
Appeals and evidence reinforce each other, and we
could say that they work symbiotically. The task is to demonstrate, beyond doubt, that the thesis is valid, and reasonable. Facts and appeals must, in order to change readers' minds, be conveyed in a way that allows readers to see a logical path to the thesis statement.
Again, the appeals attempt to convince readers using appeals to ethics, character, or valid authority (ethos); to appeal to emotion, compassion or sympathy (pathos); to appeal to logic, sound reason, and decision-making (logos).

Remember, it is absolutely necessary to have strong evidence. There is both direct evidence (scientific data or empirical data), and indirect evidence, which uses formal reasoning that takes the reader through an analysis step-by-step.
You might also (especially in a presentation) use
visuals in an argument. Consider the visuals we examined and discussed last week. Visuals appeal to the following: security, or freedom from fear; strength and power; appeals to youth; and appeals to compassion. Remember, you need hard data to support your claim, and for this reason visuals can also be in the form of charts and graphs by reputable experts (i.e. StatsCan).
A case in point...
Using the article distributed in class, form a
small group, and plan a Classical argument either for
or against the release of paparazzi photographs to the media. Which kinds of appeals would you use? How would you convince readers to accept your point of view? Would you be able to incorporate visuals?
Remember, though...
Though you will use differing kinds of
evidence, you must ensure that it is relevant (relating
directly to the claim), accurate (do fact-checking!) and documented properly in APA, thorough (conveying as much information as possible/is necessary, and timely (the five-year rule, unless you're using points of legal precedent.
Refutation is reference to opposing views, and
rebutting them. This is sometimes the most difficult
element of the process of constructing an argument. Do not be tempted to trivialize the beliefs of others; recognise that disagreements are rooted in deeply personal values. Also remember that "unless we have the courage to permit these beliefs to be challenged, perhaps modified, maybe even abandoned, learning and personal growth cannot take place"!!
"Knowledge consists not of disembodied facts but of negotiated ideas [...] The health of our own ideas depends on a steady influx of fresh viewpoints, just as a body of water must be continuously replenished to avoid becoming stagnant [...] The aim of refutation is to demonstrate the limitations or errors of challenging views" (White & Billings, 2013, p. 114).
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