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How are arguments supported?. Presented by Ms. Harris January 2011. How about some cold hard FACTS!?.

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how are arguments supported
How are arguments supported?
  • Presented by Ms. Harris
  • January 2011
how about some cold hard facts
How about some cold hard FACTS!?
  • Using facts are a powerful means of convincing. Facts can come from your reading, observation, or personal experience. Facts cannot be disputed. This makes them a strong form of evidence. Examples:
    • Grass is green.
    • All cats are animals.
    • Jumping out of airplanes without a parachute is hazardous.
when are facts not good support
When Are Facts NOT Good Support?
  • Facts can be interpreted or presented in skewed ways, which may result in skewed or erroneous conclusions. Personal opinions (such as “ Ms. Harris is the BEST English teacher ever”) are never facts, they are claims. Examples:
    • Grass is green. (in the winter?)
    • Stalin was a famous man, loved by many people.
    • It's a fact that the French are smelly and snobbish (Though this may be a “truth”, it is not a fact)
how can numbers support
How can numbers support?
  • Using statistics can provide excellent support for your argument. Arguments employing amounts and numbers are concrete and therefore support claims because they use logic and facts. BE SURE STATISTICS COME FROM GOOD SOURCES! Examples:
    • Over 26.7% of Americans are obese according to the CDC.
    • Unemployment in Washington D.C. is at 9.8%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
    • During each game, Sean Hill of the NY Islanders spent an average of 20:09 minutes on the ice.
what should i consider with empirical evidence
What should I consider with empirical evidence?
  • It is EXTREMELY important to make sure that the authoritative information you choose is actually accurate and relevant to your point. Sometimes, so-called authorities are not what they seem or information is misleading. Examples:
    • My two friends in Florida think that Miami’s a better place to visit than Chicago. (Note: these are biased sources.)
    • My grandmother, who has property worth over $2 million, believes that estate tax laws need overhauling. (Note: she’s probably not an expert in tax law, and she has a vested interest.)
    • Movie critic Eleanor Lyttle writes that Star Wars Revenge of the Sith is “wondrous” and “a must- see.” (Note: the actual quotation read: “Revenge of the Sith is a horrific film. It is a wondrous waste, but it is a must-see if you want to understand what a truly bad move looks like.” In this case, obviously, the quotations are used out of context.)
    • Dr. Petrelli endorses energy drinks to boost metabolism. (Note: who is Dr. Petrelli?)
when numbers alone not enough
When numbers alone NOT enough...
  • Using examples or anecdotes from your own experience can enhance meaning and also engage the reader. Personal examples make your ideas concrete. These real-life examples allow a reader to relate to the issues personally. Examples:
    • For many years, my best friend’s husband beat her—the police did nothing about it; therefore, we need better laws so domestic abusers can be punished more stringently.
    • Immigration laws should allow amnesty to illegals—my father came here from Mexico twenty years ago, and he has worked 50 hours a week to support us. If he is deported, he will leave behind his children, who are citizens. I do not think this is fair to all of us.
sufficient vs insufficient
  • For personal experience to be convincing it must also be applicable, present reasonable background understanding, show a universal or general situation, and be related to the argument somehow. Examples:
    • I've never been to Australia, but it seems from all the movies I’ve seen about the place that they all like to drink and barbecue.
    • My experience in visiting Canada on a high school trip showed me that their medical system is superior to ours.
    • Cats are not friendly. My neighbor’s cat never comes to me when I call it.
be careful of fallacies
Be careful of FALLACIES
  • Fallacies are argumentative flaws. Arguments that sound correct are not necessarily correct, you need to look for the fallacies used in the argument.A fallacy is not actually an error in the facts used for an argument (that's just bad research), but a flaw in the reasoning used by the person making the argument. Examples:
    • Faulty causation, also known as the post hoc fallacy. In this fallacy, someone identifies two phenomena and determine that they have a causal relationship because one happened before the other. Examples:
      • "My child received his vaccination (cause), and a couple of weeks later he started showing signs of autism (effect)."
      • "My team keeps on winning (effect) as long as I wear my lucky socks (cause)."
other common fallacies
Other Common Fallacies
  • False Analogy - A false analogy relates one thing to another because they are similar. However, the similarity is usually not the main point of focus.For example: "Since marijuana (cannabis) is a natural plant like nicotiana (which is used to process tobacco), marijuana should be legalized."Even though both plants are natural, marijuana affects the human central nervous system and causes an "altered state of mind," making it much more harmful than tobacco.
  • Ad Hominem - An ad hominem is when an arguer attacks the character of a person rather than the argument the person is making.For example: "How can a convict talk about good business practices."This argument does not actually address the person's business ethics, instead it attacks the person's character by calling him/her a convict.
  • Hasty Generalization - Things like stereotypes, where a judgment is made based on generalizations rather than the actual situation.For example: If all amateur poker players you have played against were bad, you may think "All amateur poker players are bad."An assumption is being made that the poker players the writer has played against accurately represent every other amateur poker player.
  • Faulty Use of Authority - This occurs when an argument is considered true just on the basis of who is making the argument (rather than judging the evidence).For example: Celebrities endorsing products that have little to do with their credentials. Think about sports stars endorsing cell phones.
  • Doubtful Cause - Also known as Post Hoc, a Latin phrase which means: "After this, therefore because of this." Basically, claiming that something happens because of something else that normally happens before it (wow that was a bad explanation... the example's easier to understand).For example: Think about Pavlov's dogs. Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell, so a non-critical thinker may say: "If Pavlov's dogs are salivating, someone must have rung a bell."Obviously, Pavlov's dogs did not only drool when they heard a bell, they could just have been hungry.
common fallacies con t
Common fallacies con’t
  • Dicto Simpler - Kind of like a hasty generalization, except in this case, the fallacy is based on an unqualified (or over-simplified) generalization.For example: The idea that "drugs are bad" could mean that aspirin or cold medicine could be considered bad.
  • False Dilemma - Also known as "either-or arguments." This fallacy occurs when a person believes there are fewer choices (usually yes/no) than are actually available.For example: A fun little saying: "He loves me, he loves me not."There's also "he likes me," "he doesn't even know my name," and the complete opposite, "he hates me." The false dilemma doesn't take into account the varying degrees of the abstract word, "love."
  • Two Wrongs Make a Right - Two wrongs do not make a right... common sense anyone?For example: If someone insults you, and you retaliate by insulting them, two wrongs have occurred... but no one's in the right.
  • Appeal to Ignorance - Assuming that a claim is true simply because it has never been proven false.For example: This may be a bit controversial, but existence of the afterlife and God (or gods) has never been proven either way.Claiming that the afterlife and God exist simply because it has never been disproved should be avoided.
  • Slippery Slope - Claiming that one thing (usually) leads to another thing.For example: Flashing is considered a graduated crime. People that are convicted of flashing usually slowly move up to (graduate to) murder.If you conclude that all flashers will eventually commit murder, you are committing the slippery slope fallacy.
in conclusion
In conclusion
  • Initially use your notes as a guide to determining the sufficiency of evidence. Eventually with practice, your critical ear/eye will reveal whether or not an argument is properly supported.