Argument Review in Context

Argument Review in Context
Claims, Reasons, Evidence, Warrants, Acknowledgements/Responses
To date we’ve covered quite a bit of information on the structure of argument in the context of
news media. There are a number of points that we’ve covered under each topic, and this
packet should help to organize those points.
First, before writing your introduction (with, of course, a status quo, destabilizing condition and
consequences), there are a few questions that should be asked –you could write these
questions down for each paper you write and try to answer them, because they’ll provide the
focus for your paper:
1.) What do you think? • CLAIM
2.) Why do you think that? • REASONS
3.) How do you know that’s true? • EVIDENCE
4.) Why do the reasons/evidence support the claim? • WARRANTS
5.) What about alternative views or contrary evidence? • ACKNOWLEDGEMENT/RESPONSE
For Claims:
• Is the claim contestable
• Does the claim declare something –i.e. (to quote Gertrude Stein) is there any there
• Is the claim supportable with evidence?
• Does it pass the reversal test, i.e. can you re-state the claim as its own opposite and does
it still make sense?
• Is the claim laid out as a well-structured problem statement in your introduction, with a
status quo, a destabilizing condition that shakes up that status quo, and consequences
that answer so what?
• Four kinds of claims:
1.) Policy Claims: Something should be done or avoided
We should considered films more deeply; we should not consider
current “political” rock and roll as honestly political; we should/should
not invade Iraq.
2.) Claims of Value: Evaluate or judge something
The CBC is a better model of broadcasting than PBS or NPR; Nightline
does a better/worse job of examining a subject than NOW; Sesame
Street teaches people how to watch TV, not their ABC’s.
3.) Claims of Fact: What was, is and shall be
Saddam Hussein has terrorized his neighbors and his own populace
and will do so again; people respond to film simply as if they were
Beavis & Butthead, and as a result we get simple-minded films;
political rock used to consider the relation of the musician to the
music, but now does nothing of the sort.
4.) Claims of Definition: Argue how something should be defined or categorized
Political rock should consider the relation of the musician to the music;
Sesame Street should be considered as educational in the traditional
sense; news media in the US tends to fall either into public or
commercial categories, each with its own pros and cons.
For Reasons:
• Do your reasons explain why you think the audience should accept your claim?
• Do they represent judgments not shared by your audience (i.e. are you already
preaching to the converted? If so, where’s the argument?)
• Do your reasons rest on evidence? Remember, reasons exist in our heads, while what the
reasons are based on (evidence) is out there in the world.
• Recall the reasons we saw in Whatever, Dude and/or Nevermind: first they both
presented a kind of status quo with the kind of films/music we get today and our
responses to them, made a claim about that status quo (the destabilizing condition), and
then went on to show how something either could be or was once different, and THEN
showed evidence through either the analysis of One-Eyed Jacks or Rage Against the
Machine and Gang of Four.
For Evidence:
• Could it be looked up?
• Is the evidence not contestable (at least for the time being)?
• Is it comprised of representations of states of affairs that are treated as facts?
Remember, reasons rest on evidence, while evidence rests on itself.
• How closely do you need to match your readers’ expectations?
• How strongly will your readers resist your claim –will your evidence need to be stronger if
they will be more resistant? Along with that, how fully do you expect your readers to
accept your claim?
• Recall Postman’s arguments about educational television and how it taught people to
learn; or the evidence presented in the lyrics of Rage Against the Machine as not
actually political; or our own and a few Senators questions about the evidence
presented in President Bush’s speech advocating an invasion of Iraq.
• The four maxims of quality evidence
1.) Is it accurate?
2.) Is your reportage of evidence accurate enough?
3.) Is your evidence representative?
4.) Are you using reliable sources?
For Warrants:
• Does is assert a logical connection between your reason/evidence and your claim?
• Does the warrant include both your reason and your evidence?
• Can it be assumed, or does it need stating?
• Remember, warrants can be thought of as if/then statements that name a general
circumstance and state a general inference based on that circumstance (like a
proverb); warrants tend to fail when they are rejected as untrue or they don’t apply to
the reason and/or claim.
• Think of a warrant as that thing at the end of your reasons/evidence that links those
things back to your claim –if it’s not obvious from the paragraph itself, a simple statement
asserting this is necessary.
• Recall Nightline and how we were looking for some warrants to tie all the loose
“evidence” back to some claim; or President Bush’s speech where we considered if the
reasons and evidence presented actually supported the claim being made.
• Warrants Checklist:
1.) What is your warrant?
2.) Is it true?
3.) Are your specific reasons/claims legit examples of your warrant? i.e. does your
reason match your warrant, and does your claim match your warrant.
For Acknowledgement/Response:
• Acknowledgements:
Raise alternative views, reasons, claims, warrants
Show how an argument can be located amongst a field of other arguments
Give a nod to possible concerns you think your audience may have with the
Recall how Postman did go into how what Sesame Street did do, it did well –it
was just something other than what it claimed to do.
• Responses:
Accept or reject an acknowledged alternative or explain problems within your
own argument.
Think of President Bush’s speech and some of the responses he had to engaging
in more UN inspections.
Qualifications can:
• Limit the range of a claim
• Provide a limit for the quality of evidence being used
• State conditions needed for a claim to apply.