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"Freedom of speech is established to achieve its essential purpose only when different opinions are expounded in the same hall to the same audience...The opposition is indispensable."

What Exactly is Argumentation?

Defining Argumentation














Think back to the last argument you had with someone. It was probably a passionate exchange of upsetting words. Generally, people in this kind of situation leave the conversation frustrated, upset, and with nothing accomplished; neither of the arguers resolved the issue.  Often times, however, if either of the arguers took some time to plan out what they were going to say--in the same way that a writer would plan how her/his argument paper would be addressed--the argumentative discussion would be more effective.

“When writers construct arguments, they try to avoid emotional outbursts that often turn arguments into displays of temper. Strong feelings may energize an argument—few of us make the effort to argue without emotional investment in the subject—but written argument stresses a fair presentation of opposing or alternative arguments.  Because written arguments are public, they take on a civilized manner. They implicitly say, ‘Let’s be reasonable about this. Let’s look at the evidence on all sides.  Before we argue for our position, let’s put all the reasons and evidence on the table so everyone involved can see what’s at stake.’” (Excerpts taken from The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, A Custom Edition, by Stephen Reid)

Writers who Construct Good Arguments Remember to...
  • consciously decide the rhetorical situation or writing occasion. This means that writers:
    • look at the social or cultural context for the issue,
    • consider where this written argument might appear or be published,
    • look at the audience and asks what they already know and believe,
    • consider the audience's alterative viewpoint, and
    • consider the audience's neutral viewpoint and wonder if they are likely to listen to both sides before deciding what to believe.
  • focus on a debatable position or claim, and
  • support each claim with sufficient evidence,

(Excerpts taken from The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers, A Custom Edition, by Stephen Reid)

The Importance of Knowing How to Argue...

"Give me liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."--John Milton, poet

In Thomas Moore's book Utopia, a resident of the city Utopia explains to readers that one of their society's greatest accomplishments is that they can openly debate and discuss various viewpoints; each Utopian has been trained to discuss and argue respectfully. It is the Utopian belief that through true argument, "TRUTH" can be found. In our society, we know that "truth" can be very subjective, but Thomas Moore's assertion in his book points out something very interesting: That through argument one can find answers.

Argument is also a means for one to express her/himself. Every person is judged based upon her/his own opinions. It would be a great tragedy, then, for others to misunderstand your opinion and to mistake you for believing in something with which you most definitely disagree. It is through argument, then, that all persons can adeptly learn how to effectively communicate beliefs, opinions, and ideas to a variety of different people and groups.

An Argument is NOT...
  • a quarrel involving name-calling and fallacious statements instead of concrete, well-thought out arguments,
  • an opinionated dispute of ideas without any real evidence backing the opinions,
  • factual information that is not debatable,
  • a rant that completely disregards the audience, and
  • ideas that are unfounded by logic or empirical truth.