The PURPOSE of Persuasive writing or speaking is to convince the READER/Listener of your Thesis. You do this by using FACTS from reading,experience and experts. Your Proof will seldom be ABSOLUTE; therefore, you need the greater weight of evidence. The reader/listener is the jury . They weigh your evidence.
- Reasons vs personal opinions
- Specifically stated facts
- Contrary views that are disputed by you rather than ignored
- An avoidance of the Fallacies of reasoning
To test your own arguments or the arguments of others look for flaws in reasoning. Incorrect reasoning weakens your writing. Incorrect reasoning can be caused by carelessness, prejudice or dishonesty.
FALLACIES OF REASONING
1. Hasty/ Sweeping Generalization
- Absolute situations are rare. Reality is in degrees.
- Avoid: "Everyone has fond memories of high school." "Men are better at sports than women." "All advertising is lies." Be careful with terms like "all", "always", "everybody", "nobody", "none".
2. False Extremes--Either/Or Position
- Don't reduce a complex issue to only two possibilities.
- Things are seldom black or white. eg. "The department must either raise its grading standards or bury forever the ideal of academic excellence." This is misleading because it ignores the existence of other less extreme possibilities.
3. Straw Man
- A straw man argument occurs when you misrepresent an opposing view to make it seem weaker than it is. eg. "Opposition to nuclear weapons testing in Canada is simple anti-Americanism."
4. Circular Reasoning/Vicious circle
- This error occurs when a person restates a generalization as a reason for accepting the same proposition. eg. "Exercise is healthy because your body needs exercise." "The play was popular because the audience liked it"
5. Post Hoc Arguments/Unfounded assumption of cause
- This error occurs when a person assumes that because one thing followed another thing the first item caused the second item. or Since 'B' followed 'A', 'A' caused 'B'. eg. "I broke my leg because it was Friday the 13th." "Some students who work part-time fail a course; therefore, working part-time causes students to fail." These are not logical consequences.
6. Two Wrongs
- A bad action is not justified by another wrong action. eg. "That chemical company pollutes the river; therefore, we were right to blow it up." "He was a creep,so I will be a creep too."
7. False Analogies Analogies
- may make strong emotional appeals, but their logic may be weak. Analogy is effective only when there is a basic similarity between compared terms. eg. "University administration argues for new rules because it should be run like a business" But University is not equal to a business.
8. Prediction of Consequences
- Be careful when predicting that an act will have positive or negative consequences. ex. 'If you take our course, you too will become rich."
9. False Assumptions
- One false assumption can cause all of your arguments following to be invalid. eg. "Without advertising, no cities could exist."
10. Faulty Evidence Misuse of authority
- Beware or incomplete quotations. eg. The critic said, "Most of the movie was unbelievably bad, but there were a few moments of high comedy." The ad the next day read, "High Comedy"...The Toronto Dispatch.
- Watch also for misuse of statistics, skewed samples, and anecdotal information.
11. Non Sequitur (It does not follow)
- Eg. If a famous actress uses Crest toothpaste that has no relation to the quality of the toothpaste. eg. "A man does not beat his wife;therefore, he is a good husband."
12. Begging the Question
- When you beg the question you assume the truth of what needs to be proven. eg. A politician says, "Our feeble government, greatly in need of reform must be placed in new hands." eg. A student challenges a "C" grade on the grounds that she is an "A" student. The premise in both of these is what is under question
13. Ignoring the Question
- Sometimes in arguing people raise irrelevant points that distract from the real issue.
- A) Red Herring eg. A government defends itself on a charge of corruption by saying that the budget is balanced.
- B) Attack The Man/Woman eg. "I'm a liar...so are you." "I'm a crook, well you're a racist" "Your mother wears army boots."
- Watch out for any stereotypes. eg. "People such a you..." Ex. "A nurse must check her patients."
15. Argument to ignorance
- Watch out for these types of claims:
- 1. It must be true it hasn't been proven false.
- 2. It must be false it hasn't been proven true.
16. Loaded Question/Fallacy of the complex
- Eg. "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" This demands a yes or no answer and both are answers may be wrong. Lawyers sometimes try to use these questions.
- Eg. "It hasn't happened for a long time ;therefore it's bound to happen." or "It keeps happening ; therefore, it will keep happening"
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2003 Karen E.Hamilton