Letter from Birmingham Jail
• Who is the speaker?
• Who is the audience?
Example 1
• In “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin
Luther King Jr. says, “I gradually gained a bit
of satisfaction from being considered an
extremist. Was not Paul an extremist for the
gospel of Jesus Christ?”
• Claim (main idea):
• Extremism is not a negative thing.
• Support (evidence of main point):
• Paul was an extremist.
• Warrants (underlying assumptions):
His audience is familiar with Paul’s teachings.
His audience respects Paul.
Extremism is considered negative in most cases.
Paul being extreme would make extremism okay.
His audience would want to be like Paul and would therefore consider
anything Paul did to be positive.
• Paul’s actions are considered extreme by most.
Example 2:
• Also in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King says, “One has a moral
responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint
Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all’.”
• Claim (main idea): It is okay to disobey some laws.
• Support (evidence of main point): Some laws are unjust.
• Warrants (underlying assumptions):
• Justice has a similar definition for everyone.
• Saint Augustine is a familiar figure.
• Saint Augustine’s words hold weight.
• There are different types of laws.
• There are ways to differentiate between just and unjust laws.
Group Activity: Analyze advocacy
• http://www.aspca.org/
• http://www.peta.org/index.asp
Questions to ask
• What is the purpose of these sites?
• Do they speak to the same or difference
• How are images, video , color, or other
elements used for emotional appeal?
• How do they use logical appeals?
• What is the overall tone of each site( ie. is one
more radical, commercial, or business-like?
How does this affect ethos?
Logical Fallacies
•Ad hominem (literally, “to the man”): Instead of finding fault with the argument, one finds fault with
the arguer, substituting irrelevant assertions about the person’s character for an analysis of the
argument itself.
•Begging the question: Assuming a premise when trying to prove a conclusion. For example, “My
client would not steal because he is an honest man.”
•Either/or reasoning: Reasoning based on either/or situations. For example, “Either you’re pro-choice
or you’re against the advancement of women in American society.”
•Equivocation: Using the same term with two or more meanings or referents; ambiguity. For example,
“All banks are beside rivers. Therefore, the financial institution where I deposit my money is
beside a river”
•Faulty analogy: Using an overextended metaphor that may concentrate on irrelevant,
inconsequential similarities between two situations. For example, “Where there is smoke, there is
•Faulty causality: Assuming that because one incident follows another, the first necessarily causes the
second. For example, “I got an A on my paper because I was nice to the teacher.”
•Faulty generalizations: Jumping to a conclusion from inadequate evidence. For example, “I got a C on
my English paper. I suck at English.”
Logical Fallacies cont.
•Hyperbole: In contrast to understatement, hyperbole exaggerates conditions for emphasis or
effect. There are a thousand reasons why more research is needed on solar energy.
•Non-sequitur: An inference or conclusion that does not follow from the premises or evidence, or
a statement that does not follow logically from what preceded it
.•Red herring: Ignoring or avoiding the issue, or raising an irrelevant point to throw the audience
•Slippery slope: Asserting that one step in the “wrong” direction will inevitably lead to the worstcase scenario
.•Straw man: Arguing against a position which you created specifically to be easy to argue
against, rather than the position actually held by those who oppose your point of view. Attacking
an exaggerated or caricatured version of your opponent’s position. For example, on the Internet,
it is sometimes common to exaggerate an opponent’s position so that a comparison can be made
between the opponent and Hitler.
•Understatement: The opposite of hyperbole, an understatement deliberately expresses an idea
as less important than it actually is, either for ironic emphasis or for politeness and tact. The 1906
San Francisco earthquake interrupted business somewhat in the downtown area.
• Economic citizenship and the rhetoric of
coffee and do reading response.