Assignment 5: Rebuttal Argument - Newberry

Assignment 5: Rebuttal Argument
Simply stated, argument is the rhetorical strategy of expressing one’s point of view through a rational
defense of that view. Unlike other rhetorical strategies, which might be used simply to
inform/educate or entertain/delight, the purpose of argument is almost always to move/persuade. It
can be used to ‘inform’ others of the truth, but since there is often disagreement over the truth, we
are generally using argument to convince others to change their erroneous views or adopt desired
courses of action. And while arguments ultimately rely on the reasoning behind them, they are
usually not effective in changing others unless we also make use of ethical and pathetic appeals.
In Glenn’s terms, there are three modes of arguing: defending the expression of one’s stance,
rebutting an opponent’s stance, and inviting someone to consider a new stance. I am asking you to
write a rebuttal of someone else’s stance.
The term “rebuttal” often carries with it a confrontational aura, but in most cases of rebuttal,
aggressive confrontation does very little to move an opponent closer to one’s own position. In most
types of sophisticated disagreements, opponents concede points to each other and search for
common ground (which is usually the main ethical appeal in arguments). This behavior shows a
willingness to engage, and it also creates a positive tone for the disagreement. By trying to make a
meaningful connection with your opponent, by discovering shared goals and assumptions, and by
actively listening, you are far more likely to accomplish a productive and civil conversation.
Assignment Protocol:
Please find a specific argument with which you disagree. Write a rebuttal of that argument. Your
rebuttal could take the form of a traditional essay, a personal letter to the author, an open letter, or a
response piece for a newspaper. Many other genre possibilities exist as well. Consider who you want
your audience to be, and consider what type of forum might work best for a productive
Your medium must be a written argument that will be read (and not a speech that will be heard).
Also, you must also have an actual chance of convincing your opponent. Thus, unless you receive
special permission, you may not write on abortion. (The temptation is to argue with a non-believer
on the basis of the truth of the Bible, or to argue against a Christian while ignoring the fact that they
accept the Bible as source of truth. This does not work in the course of a three-to-five page rebuttal
essay; however, if you’ve proven yourself to be a solid writer/think, I will give you permission if
you’ve framed the rhetorical situation well.)
Assignment Goals:
Most rebuttals accomplish most, if not all, of the following goals. Your rebuttal essay should
accomplish several of these as well:
Identify the specific claim against which you will argue.
Responsibly summarize the alternative position. Be fair and rigorous.
Establish common ground (your primary ethical appeal)
Find a point or points of disagreement.
Explain your good reasons for disagreeing with the alternative argument (such that
logical appeals are the bulk of your essay; you must do research).
Explore other ideas, arguments, and possibilities that your opponent discounts or
Try to persuade the audience to move toward your position (either by believing what you
believe or doing what you wish them to do).
Not all rebuttals contain all of these elements, but most of these elements should be represented in a
complex rebuttal.
Types of Disagreements:
People disagree for different reasons. Here are a few ways to think about how you might disagree
with someone else’s argument: you might disagree with a basic fact, or a definition of a key term, or
the value of something (good/bad; desirable/undesirable; right/wrong).
You might disagree about the proper course of action that should be taken in light of the facts, or
you might disagree about the cause of a problem. You might disagree with the analogies, metaphors,
and descriptions that someone uses in an argument. Perhaps the argument just does not feel right.
You might disagree with someone because they seem untrustworthy (although beware of ad
hominem fallacies). You might disagree with someone’s fundamental assumptions about the world.
You might disagree because your opponent relies on fallacies.
Usually in the course of a complicated disagreement, one person disagrees with another for a
combination of reasons, but in most cases, one or two particular kinds of reasons prove to be more
important than the others.
Grading Standards:
In this assignment, I am looking to see that you have done the following things well:
1. Explained the importance and context of the issue you are debating;
2. Fairly and rigorously addressed the claim to which you offer a rebuttal;
3. Clearly identified your competing claim;
4. Established ethos in the opening paragraph(s) of the essay;
5. Provided logical appeals to support your claim and research-backed evidence to support
those reasons;
6. Developed your argument in a manner and style suitable for your audience;
7. Used either a deductive or inductive argumentative structure;
8. Clearly established the point of each paragraph;
9. Avoided fallacies;
10. Moved the reader along using clear transitions;
11. Provided a strong pathetic appeal in the conclusion;
12. Followed correct MLA formatting guidelines; and
13. Constructed your argument with the grace and style I have come to expect of all of you.
Please note: Your rebuttal MUST be accompanied by a copy of the argument you have
chosen to rebut. This assignment is not complete without a copy of the original argument.
Incomplete assignments will not be graded and will accrue appropriate late penalties until
the complete assignment is submitted.