Competitive Communication: A Rhetoric for Modern Business

By Barry Eckhouse | Go to book overview

4
REFUTATION
Argument as Inquiry

In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious.

-- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Some theorists of argumentation seem to believe that we should consider the purpose of argumentation to be persuasion. Although persuasion is a purpose of argumentation on some occasions, we must recognize that argumentation can and does fulfill another equally important purpose, namely inquiry.

-- Jack Meiland, Argument as Inquiry


■ Planning an Argument: Opposition

As we have seen, writers may expect to increase their chances of success in reasoned persuasion if they construct an argumentative plan, test the plan by examining the syllogism it is based on, and check for weaknesses by examining it for several fallacies. By doing this, writers will have determined the strongest case they can make, and they will have considered many of the options available to engage and influence the thinking of their skeptical readers. They will also become aware of the more critical assumptions on which they must rely in the course of presenting their case.

Nevertheless, writers who do not move beyond the plan that represents their point of view will probably fail to win the assent of their readers. Although the plan as it stands does a very good job of representing the writer's point of view, it represents only the writer's and not the reader's opposition to it. Of course, the argument itself is born from opposition, so we must assume the writer has a reason for arguing. We

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