Difference between argument and persuasion:
Argument (discover the truth) — Conviction
Persuasion (know the truth) — Action
Writers use evidence and reasons to discover some truth; they persuade when they think they already know the truth.
Arguments: use evidence and reasons to discover some form of a truth, that a claim is true or reasonable, or that a course of action is desirable.
Persuasion: the term reserved for work that’s aggressively designed to change opinions through the use of both reason and other appropriate techniques. For writing that sets out to persuade at all costs, abandoning reason, fairness, and truth altogether, the term, propaganda, seems to fit. Some would suggest advertising would work as well.
Other Purposes/Goals of Argument are worth considering
–Arguments to Inform: Main purpose is to inform audiences about something they
Examples: Sales/advertising/political campaigns
–Arguments to Convince: Examining a preponderance of evidence to convince the
Examples: Causal arguments—global warming
–Arguments to Explore: Takes the form of an exploration, either by you or with others
The “opponent” is often the status quo or a current trend that is puzzling to the audience
and needs to be explored.
Examples: Analytical arguments
–Arguments to Make Decisions: Arguments that help the audience make sound
Examples: Weighs out the pros and cons of an argument
–Arguments to Meditate or Pray: These arguments depend on the purposes of the
writer, as well as on the content surrounding the plea and the people it seeks most
directly to reach.
Examples: Speeches; Eulogies
Occasions for Arguments
Arguments about the Past (Forensic Arguments)
Topic= Blame (guilt and innocence)
Debates about what happened in the past.
—Did the defendant sexually harass her employer?
—Did the company deliberately ignore evidence that its product was deficient?
—Was the contract properly enforced?
Forensic arguments also rely on precedent, actions, or decisions in the past that inform policies/decisions in the present.
Arguments about the Future (Deliberative Arguments)
Topic = Choice (options)
Legislatures, congresses, parliaments are called deliberative bodies because they establish policies for the future.
—Should two people of the same sex be allowed to marry?
—Should the United States build a defense against ballistic missiles?
Arguments about the Present (Epideictic/Ceremonial Arguments)
Topic = Values (tribal rhetoric and beliefs)
Epideictic, from the Greek, originally meant “to show” or “display.” These arguments answer questions about the worthiness (or lack thereof) of some person, product, institution, or object.
–Tend to be heard at public, ceremonial events, inaugural addresses, sermons,
eulogies, graduation speeches, civic remarks.
–Speaks to contemporary values—the ethical premises and assumptions that are
widely held or contested within a society.
Kinds of Arguments
Another way of categorizing arguments is to consider their status or stasis (place) – that is, the kind of issues they address. Thais is called Stasis Theory. In ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, rhetoricians defined a series of questions by which to examine legal cases. The questions would be posed in sequence because each depended on the question before it. Together, the questions helped determine the point of contention in an argument, the place where disputants could focus their energy and arguments.
—Did something happen?
—What is its nature?
—What is its quality?
—What actions should be taken?
Arguments of Fact — Did something happen?
–usually involves a statement that can be proved or disproved. Examines
Arguments of Definition – What is the nature of the thing?
–Involves determining one known object or action belongs in a second –
and more highly contested – category.
Examples: Is a human fetus a human being?
If one argues that it is, then a second issue of definition arises:
Is abortion murder?
Is video game playing a sport?
–To put forth definitions, and then those definitions would have to
become the focus of debates themselves.
Arguments of Evaluation – What is the Quality of the thing?
–Such arguments are concerned with degrees.
Examples: The corvette is a better sports car than a viper (for the
What is the nuclear capability of North Korea?
Evaluation arguments present criteria and then measure individual people, ideas,
or things against those standards. Both the standards and the measurements can
Proposal Arguments – What Actions should be taken?
–Presentation of research to document existing conditions.
–Leads to the development of proposals to address the issue.
–When the need is already obvious, the argument is spent describing and
defending the solution.