Counter Argument - The E

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Three Stages of Counterargument
STAGE 1: ACKNOWLEDGMENT
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a paraphrase, with useful examples, of an argument posed by your potential opponents
proof to your readers that you can, not only understand the complex ideas of your opponents, but digest
them clearly for the edification of your readers.
remains neutral in tone
introduces the counter-argumentative process
EXAMPLE OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Many advocates of extreme rendition charge that the word "torture" is a rhetorical usage, and
that the methods employed to extract information from hostile agencies deserve an image makeover. Vice
President Dick Cheney, for example, insisted in a 2009 interview with PBS that “we [the United States]
don’t torture,” stating that the term “enhanced interrogation” was sanctioned by the Justice
Department. Cheney added, “A great many Americans are alive today because we did all that.”
Extreme rendition, it is argued, is ultimately an effective method of detainment and interrogation whose
reputation is tarnished by the semantics of terms like "torture."
STAGE 2: ACCOMMODATION
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a statement conceding to the merit of some part of the opposing argument-- either in the argument, itself,
or in the character and values of the arguer
establishes common ground.
shows you are representing the opposition as fairly as possible.
points out logic, values, interpretations, motivations that you respect in the opposing argument
shows you are capable of empathy and understanding.
is careful to agree ONLY IN PART with the opponent
proves you've chosen an opponent of equal or greater strength
EXAMPLE OF ACCOMMODATION
. . . One can find these arguments persuasive in that the most controversial issues of our day hinge on
semantics and torture is no different. Terms such as "pro-life" and "pro-choice," for example, clearly
illustrate this. Words such as "torture" are clearly undercut with a prejudice formed by such history
lessons as the Spanish Inquisition or the Killing Fields.
STAGE 3: REFUTATION
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Argue against the opponent on the terms introduced by you in acknowledgment, OR Subvert the choice
of criteria used the opponent, by introducing what you believe to be a more valid set of criteria to
discuss the argument.
remains even-tempered and uses a rational tone
responds by addressing those parts of the opposing argument with which you CANNOT agree:
interpretations of the facts; inappropriate examples
subverts logic or questions the values in the opposing argument, in defense of your own position.
Three Stages of Counterargument
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does not veer off topic: stays focused on the criteria introduced in acknowledgment
EXAMPLE OF REFUTATION
. . . However, the need to put "spin" on the reputation of "torture" is, itself, an indication that the word
has power, not because it is in the common vocabulary of a nation, but rather because it conveys an
underlying truth about the cruelty and inhumanity that the word "torture" connotes. Phrases such as
"enhanced interrogation" are not merely euphemisms; they absolve us of the responsibility to qualify and
rationalize the barbarous methods of interrogation used in favor of contemplating effective, businessstyle strategies in the extraction of sensitive information in the interest of national security. It
dangerously portrays extreme rendition as matter-of-fact and "business as usual." It trivializes
arguments about how much "enhanced interrogation" is enough. (How can performance be enhanced
too much, after all?) In a very real way, such arguments about semantics work insidiously upon the
character of a nation because they persuade the unwitting public to coat the issue of torture with a veneer
of semantics. It hides, once again, behind the same "means justifies the ends" debate that keeps us
distracted in the subtleties of torture when the obvious, general immorality of it goes unchallenged by us.
Pitfalls
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Avoid becoming shrill in your tone.
Address the issue at hand to avoid making ad hominem attacks or red herring arguments.
Be sure to do a full and thorough job of accommodation; do not, for example, write, “My opponent
might make a good point, but . . .”
Don’t forget to include examples in every stage of the counterargument.
Be certain that your refutation doesn’t change the topic capriciously. If you do intentionally change the
issue that was introduced in the Acknowledgment, make sure that you explain your rationale.
Identify the source of your opposing arguments as specifically as possible, and represent your opponent
fairly and honestly.
Persuasive-Argumentative Essays
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Devote one portion of your essay to an anticipation of the opposing arguments.
Dedicate a single paragraph to a single opposing argument.
Include all three stages--Acknowledgment, Accommodation, and Refutation--in a single paragraph:
Impress readers with your sophisticated and subtle reasoning, and used sources, not only for their information,
but for the authority and expertise that they can loan you.
Refutation is not about logic only. Appeal to your readers’ emotional sensibilities and their values.
Make the process intellectually enjoyable to yourself, without creating the impression that you are sparring with
adversaries.
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