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Intro to Evaluative Arguments. Stasis Theory: Part II. Toulmin Arguments . The Toulmin system is a way of schematizing your arguments. It helps you to think through the assumptions underlying your assertions. Enthymemes .

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intro to evaluative arguments

Intro to Evaluative Arguments

Stasis Theory: Part II

toulmin arguments
Toulmin Arguments

The Toulmin system is a way of schematizing your arguments. It helps you to think through the assumptions underlying your assertions.


The heart of the Toulmin argument is the enthymeme. This is a sentence comprised of a claim and a reason.

EX: “Superman is a good superhero because he is very strong.”

Claim = Superman is a good superhero

Reason = because he is very strong.

supporting components of toulmin arguments grounds
Supporting Components of Toulmin Arguments : Grounds
  • An enthymeme (claims + reason) is supported by grounds.
  • Grounds are the evidence behind the generalization in the reason.
  • In the Superman example, the reason was, “because he is very strong.” The grounds would be, “he was able to pick up automobiles when he was a toddler”
supporting components of toulmin arguments warrant
Supporting Components of Toulmin Arguments : Warrant
  • The warrant is the assumption that underlies your enthymeme. In a sense, it is the logical bridge between the claim & the reason
  • In the Superman example, “Superman is a good superhero because he is very strong,” the assumption (warrant) underlying the argument is that “good superheroes are very strong”.
supporting components of toulmin arguments backing
Supporting Components of Toulmin Arguments : Backing
  • The backing is the explanation or justification of the warrant. This is a good point in your thinking at which to be self-critical: does your warrant in fact make sense?
  • For example, the backing behind the assumption (warrant) that good superheroes are very strong is that “famous superheroes are very strong – such as Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, and so on.”
  • However, a critic could point out that Batman and Inspector Gadget are superheroes, but mainly by virtue of their hardware, not their strength.
toulmin arguments revision
Toulmin Arguments: Revision
  • After having examined the backing behind the warrant that subsudizes my argument (enthymeme), it is obvious that I need to re-think my reason.
  • At this stage, I might say that “Superman is a good superhero because he uses his powers to help people.” Now my grounds, backing & warrant have changed, so I would need to examine them anew.
X & Y
  • Synonymous with the terms “genus” & “species”
  • X is the individual case; Y is the larger group to which X does (or does not) belong.
  • This is applicable to both definitional and evaluative arguments
x y continued
X & Y Continued
  • The Oxford English Dictionary is the most authoritative dictionary in the English language
  • X = The OED; Y = authoritative English language dictionaries
  • This pinot noir is an excellent wine
  • X = this pinot noir; Y= excellent wines
definitional vs evaluative arguments
Definitional vs Evaluative Arguments
  • The “X is or is not a Y” format is very similar for both definitional and evaluative arguments
  • The distinction is that definitional arguments merely claim that X is a Y; evaluative arguments examine whether or not X is a good, efficient, effective, attractive or potent (to name a few possibilities) Y
definitional vs evaluative arguments criteria
Definitional vs Evaluative Arguments - Criteria
  • Like definitional arguments, evaluative arguments are focused on defining criteria for the “Y” term, and then evaluating the “X” according to those criteria.
  • A 3-sentence summary of an evaluative paper:

- A good Y meets criteria A, B & C

- X meets the criteria A, B & C

- Therefore X is a good Y

  • Unlike definitional arguments, evaluative arguments are often most controversial in their choice of criteria. Expect to defend your selections.
standards for criteria
Standards for Criteria
  • Criteria are often established according to what is normal OR according to what is ideal.
  • Some situations lend themselves to different kinds of criteria – be self-aware about your selection. In formulating a mission statement, you want to be ideal. In suggesting drug treatment methods, it may be imperative to consider what is normal.
mitigating circumstances cost
Mitigating Circumstances & Cost
  • Be aware that, if you argue for mitigating circumstances in your criteria, you will have a harder sell. (“I shot John Lennon because I hated my father”)
  • Keep in mind the issue of cost (in time, money, spirit, &c.); the most superlative X is useless if it is too expensive, hard-to-use, time-consuming, &c.
building your evaluative argument 1 choose your y
Building Your Evaluative Argument – 1) Choose your Y
  • Determine the most suitable Y category for your X.
  • Choose the smallest possible Y (within reason).
  • “ is the best website” is less informative that “ is the best on-line bookstore.”
building your evaluative argument 2 choosing criteria
Building Your Evaluative Argument – 2) Choosing criteria
  • Select your criteria by considering the function of your Y term.
  • What is it supposed to do? “Granny Smiths are the best baking apples” – Baking apples should stay firm when cooked and not become cloyingly sweet
  • “Arabella is the best candidate for this engineering internship” - A good engineering intern should be skilled with computers and capable of following highly detailed directions.
building your evaluative argument 3 4
Building Your Evaluative Argument – 3 & 4
  • 3 – Use the Y term’s purpose to generate criteria
  • 4 – Sort the criteria by importance
  • You may want to assemble your criteria in you paper in order of increasing strength of argument & importance.
building your evaluative argument outline
Building Your Evaluative Argument – Outline
  • Introduce your issues & why evaluating X is problematic or controversial
  • Summarize opppsing vies
  • Refute or concede to opposing views
  • Present your own claim
    • Criterion 1
    • Criterion 2
    • Criterion 3… &c
  • Sum up your evaluation (conclusion)
testing your evaluative argument
Testing Your Evaluative Argument
  • Will my audience accept my criteria?
  • Are my criteria based on the smallest applicable class for X?
  • Will readers acccept my weighting of the criteria?
  • Do I need to defend my use of normal/ideal criteria?
the end

The End

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