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5-1. Identifying Rhetorical Devices. The aim of this tutorial is to help you learn to identify examples of rhetorical devices from chapter five. Go To Next Slide. 5-2.

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Identifying Rhetorical Devices

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-1

Identifying

Rhetorical Devices

The aim of this tutorial is to help you learn to identify examples of rhetorical devices from chapter five.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-2

This process of finding and evaluating rhetorical devices is both an art and a science. It depends on an understanding of how arguments work, knowledge of the various rhetorical devices, as well as an ‘eye’ for differentiating these tactics from one another and from good arguments.

On the following slides you will see example ‘arguments’ which may contain rhetorical devices.

Though not every type of rhetorical device is illustrated, the techniques demonstrated here apply to all sorts of rhetorical devices.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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Biker: “I refuse to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I don’t believe in doing business with communist countries.”

Reporter: “But Japan isn’t communist.”

Biker: “Well to me they are.”

First we need to identify the conclusion of the argument. An argument relies on an inference linking the truth of the premise(s) to the truth of the conclusion. Rhetorical devices can often be spotted by noting how the argument fails to make this inference.

So, what is the biker’s conclusion here?

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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Biker: “I refuse to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I don’t believe in doing business with communist countries.”

Reporter: “But Japan isn’t communist.”

Biker: “Well to me they are.”

The biker is concluding that Japan is a communist nation. How do we know this? Well, the only other viable option for the conclusion is that the biker refuses to buy Japanese motorcycles. However, he is not really arguing for this, just stating it.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-5

Biker: “I refuse to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I don’t believe in doing business with communist countries.”

Reporter: “But Japan isn’t communist.”

Biker: “Well to me they are.”

The next step in looking for rhetorical devices is to inspect the way the argument tries to prove the conclusion. A good argument will, for one thing, have relevant premises that provide good evidence that the conclusion is true.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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Biker: “I refuse to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I don’t believe in doing business with communist countries.”

Reporter: “But Japan isn’t communist.”

Biker: “Well to me they are.”

It seems the biker is arguing that Japan is communist simply because she says so.

Does this seem like a good argument?

This is a rhetorical device.

Based on what you learned from the text, identify the variety of rhetorical device at work here.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-7

Biker: “I refuse to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I don’t believe in doing business with communist countries.”

Reporter: “But Japan isn’t communist.”

Biker: “Well to me they are.”

Does the biker actually present a reason for

rejecting the reporter’s criticism?

Is communism a factual matter or a subjective matter?

This is an example of the subjectivist fallacy.

Even if we grant that there is a reasonable dispute whether Japan is communist or not (and this is a stretch), the Biker’s retort does not serve as a response to the reporter. He doesn’t argue at all, he just dismisses the reporter.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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I’m a disabled Vietnam veteran. Why can I only get a six-month license to sell pretzels from my pushcart? You have to be a foreigner with a Green Card to make a living in this country.

Again, the first step is identifying the conclusion.

Next, inspect the way the argument tries to support this conclusion.

Ask yourself what the support is and how it is tied to the conclusion.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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I’m a disabled Vietnam veteran. Why can I only get a six-month license to sell pretzels from my pushcart? You have to be a foreigner with a green card to make a living in this country.

The conclusion here is unstated, though readily apparent from the second sentence. If we dig a bit, we can see that this person is concluding something like, “I should get more than a six-month license to sell pretzels.”

There are two types of rhetorical devices here.

Can you spot them both?

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-10

This example contains two different fallacious

appeals to emotion.

In the first case, the arguer attempts to evoke a listener’s pity by referencing his status as a disabled veteran. If his status as a disabled veteran is relevant to his pushcart license, he does not say why.

The second part of the example attempts to evoke our anger at the status of immigrants in our country. Again, this emotion is irrelevant to his conclusion. If he wants to argue that immigrants have too many rights he can, but that would be a different argument.

References to emotions can be relevant,

but these are not.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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The United States is under no obligation to pay its debts to the United Nations. Here we are, the biggest contributor to the UN Budget, and we only get one vote out of 185.

So, what is the conclusion of the argument?

Identify it and then inspect the sort of

proof that is supplied.

Are there good reasons to believe this conclusion?

Is this an example of a rhetorical device?

If so, what type?

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-12

The conclusion here is that the United States is under no obligation to pay its dues to the UN. Why? Because we only get one vote out of 185 while our dues are more than 1/185th of the total.

Is this a good reason?

It might be wrong for the United States to shoulder such a financial burden. However, this fact does not mitigate our debts. We could argue that the financial burden of the UN needs to be redistributed, but this is a separate issue from paying what we owe now.

This is two wrongs make a right fallacy.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

5-13

There must be life on other planets. Imagine how lonely we’ll find the universe if we discover that we’re the only ones here.

Again, the first step is identifying the conclusion.

Next, inspect the way the argument tries to support this conclusion.

Ask yourself what the support is and how it is tied to the conclusion.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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The conclusion here is that life exists on other planets. The evidence? If life does not exist on other planets, we’ll be too lonely.

Think about it. This claim could be argued for.

Someone might use a probability argument, citing the huge number of galaxies and such. Or, someone might cite recent information about Mars or data from SETI.

These would not be conclusive arguments, but they would be arguments.

This is nothing more than wishful thinking.

There is no evidence offered at all.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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Judge Cunningham keeps striking down our state gun control laws. She had better say good-bye to any hopes for a Supreme Court appointment, as long as we have a Democrat in the White House.

Again, the first step is identifying the conclusion.

Next, inspect the way the argument tries to support this conclusion.

Ask yourself what the support is and how it is tied to the conclusion.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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This argument’s unstated conclusion is something like: Judge Cunningham should change her position and declare our gun control laws to be Constitutional. Why? Well, if she doesn’t then her career is in jeopardy. Is this a good reason?

Look again at the conclusion. In order to logically argue that the Judge should change her position, someone would have to show that her reading of the laws or the Constitution is wrong.

What we have here is a blatant appeal to fear. It is, really, a threat; she either changes her views or else… We hope that Judges don’t base their views on career advancement.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes my proposal. You know that I trust and honor your judgment. Even if you do not approve of my request, I am happy just to have had the chance to present this proposal to such qualified experts. Thank you.

Again, the first step is identifying the conclusion.

Next, inspect the way the argument tries to support this conclusion.

Ask yourself what the support is and how it is tied to the conclusion.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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This argument’s unstated conclusion is something like: “You should approve of my proposal.” Why? Well we hope that the proposal itself contained the arguments and justifications for why it should be approved. What we have here doesn’t seem like an argument at all. What is going on?

This is a clear example of apple polishing, an attempt to engender the favor of the audience and, importantly, to shift this favor to the conclusion the person is arguing for.

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Identifying rhetorical devices

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  • This tutorial has not looked at every type of rhetorical device from the chapter. However, as you have seen, the basic strategy for solving these types of problems is the same in every case.

  • Find the conclusion.

  • Note the evidence cited and how it applies to the conclusion. Is it relevant? Are there unwarranted assumptions?

  • Realize that the specific names for types of pseudoreasoning were created to fit common sorts of fallacious reasoning. Even without studying logic you can determine what is wrong, and since you have studied, you can connect the problem with the name.

This is the end of the tutorial.


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