Potentiality Argument Definition Essay

European Grey Wolf

Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress.... –John Muir

Argument Essay Assignment Objectives
Why an argumentative essay?

Most of the papers students write in college are arguments. This should not be surprising. We are surrounded by them. Every time we watch television, surf the Internet or read a magazine, we are bombarded with ads. Ads are persuasive arguments trying to get consumers to buy or do something. Here are a couple of ads that use interesting twists to make their argument: Kleenex Tissue Ad 1990- "Teach Them Not To Share"

  • Irony is "theuseofwordstoconvey one meaningthatistheoppositeofitsliteralmeaning" ("Irony").
  • What is ironic about this ad?
  • What is the main argument of the Kleenex ad?

Save America's Forests

    • What is ironic about this ad?
    • What is the main argument of the "Save America's Forests" ad?
    • Is irony an effective way to make an argument?
Elements of argument

When writing or analyzing arguments, we begin by examining how the argument appeals to the reader.  There are three types of appeals utilized in arguments: logos or logical, pathos or emotional, and ethos or ethical appeals.

  • Logos or the logical appeal relies upon well-developed, well-organized and well-reasoned arguments supported by evidence from reliable, authoritative sources. When writing argumentative essays and papers, we rely heavily upon the logical appeal to make our case.
    • The evidence utilized in the logical appeal is usually research-based evidence: statistics, clinical studies, any empirical evidence collected carefully and methodically.
    • This is also why we write in third person. We let the evidence drive our arguments, so readers do not think our work is based upon our biased viewpoint.
  • Pathos or emotional appeal recognizes that humans are emotional beings. The key to using the emotional appeal successfully in papers is to provide an opportunity for an emotional response and not to try and orchestrate an emotional response.
    • An example of the wrong use of an emotional appeal are infomercials for organizations like Care. While there is no doubt their work and message is important, they try to manipulate the audience with the use of emotional music, manipulative photographs, with an emotional narrative running beneath the music and images. While this may be okay for non-profit organizations, it does not work in college papers. Do not try to manipulate your audience this way.
    • Also, do not try to use emotionally charged language. Stay in third person and avoid sounding biased, accusatory or self-righteous. As a writer, the people you are trying to persuade are the people who either disagree with you or are not sure. By sounding accusatory or self-righteous, you will put the opposition on the defensive, and you have already lost your argument.
    • The proper use of emotions is through narrative case studies. Case studies provide the opportunity to appeal to readers' emotions. The key is not to tell the readers what to feel or to try and manipulate the readers to feel a specific emotion. Instead, writers tell the story and allow the readers to decide how they want to respond. Readers can become emotionally involved with the topic or not. It is up to them. This works well for social issues like hunger and homelessness, bullying, child abuse, or illegal immigration.  The blending of specific case studies with empirical evidence creates a deeply meaningful approach to argument. If I am talking about homeless children in America, by providing the statistics on the large number of children effected by this issue along with stories of the struggles of specific children, this drives the point home. We have a name and face to go with those numbers making the argument very human.
  • Ethos or the ethical appeal relates to the writer's personna being projected through the work. By using an unbiased tone and unbiased language, we project an image of trustworthiness and credibility. That is also why we use credible sources. We, as writers of college papers, do not have any credibility yet with our audience. By using authoritative, reliable sources, we borrow their credibility to help persuade readers to adopt our point of view. We are effectively saying, it is not just me that thinks this way. Here is a testimonial from Dr. So and So and his research that supports it. The research, surveys or clinical studies provides the evidence that supports the argument.
  • Looking back at the ads above, what types of appeals did those ads use?

Beyond the use of these appeals, there are some other elements to consider when analyzing or writing arguments: audience,purpose, a well defined issue, compelling evidence, refutation, and persona.

  • Audience: What audience does the writer have in mind? Who is the target audience the writer is trying to persuade?
    • As a writer, your audience is the first consideration. This determines the language you will use, the sources you will cite, and the approach you will take.
    • For example, if I were writing an anti-abortion paper, I would address a panel of scientists much differently than a church congregation. Some of my sources would change, and my language use would probably change. For scientists, I would sound more clinical. For the church congregation, I would sound more emotional.
    • My evidence would change, too. For scientists, I would use clinical evidence. For a church congregation. I would use sacred text.
    • What if my target audience were children instead of adults? Once again, some of my sources would change and my approach would be different.
  • Purpose/Thesis: Why are you writing it? What are you trying to prove?
    • The purpose is the thesis statement.
    • As a writer, you need to know why you are writing the paper.
    • It cannot be just to fulfill a requirement.
    • It is imperative that your position is clear. What exactly are you arguing? It should be very apparent which side you are on and why.
    • Provide the reasoning behind your position.
    • Remember: do not state it overtly like this: The purpose of this essay is to prove that potential dog owners must research breeds in order to choose dogs that best suit their lifestyles and opt to spay or neuter them if the overcrowded dog population is ever going to be solved.
    • This is considered weak.
    • That said, I do have a good thesis statement if I drop the initial part: Potential dog owners must research breeds in order to choose dogs that best suit their lifestyles and then spay or neuter them if the overcrowded dog population is ever going to be solved.
    • Here is an example from a student paper. Although the American flag is worthy of great esteem, the government cannot take away the right to desecrate the flag without taking away all that it stands for–freedom.
  • A Well-Defined issue: What exactly is being argued in the paper? What is included or not included?
    • As a writer, it is your job to set parameters around your argument. Be sure to clearly explain the main argument of the paper. For example, if I were writing an anti-abortion paper, I might set the parameters around third trimester. This defines exactly what will be included and what will not be included. In this example, the paper is against third trimester abortions only, not abortion in general.
  • Compelling evidence: What kinds of evidence are utilized in the paper? Is the evidence sound? Does it come from authoritative sources?
    • Be sure to use reliable sources. Do not just Google the topic and grab the random information that may pop up. Google Advanced and Google Scholar help you filter some of the information, but be sure to evaluate the sources you choose.
    • Use journal articles when possible because they are usually written by authorities in a specific field. They will provide multiple sources for their information because they must cite their sources.
    • Remember to include a variety of evidence, including facts, data, examples and subject matter expert opinion.
    • When using Internet sources, pay attention to the URL. What is the domain name? Is it a .edu, .net, .com, .org, .gov, .mil? How does this influence the information being provided?
    • Who is the author? What is the author's background?
    • A part of what makes your argument compelling is the variety of sources that you use and the credibility of those sources. You cannot win an argument with random information.
    • Do not rely heavily upon a single source to carry your paper. A variety of sources shows that you have done your diligence as a writer and increases your credibility.
  • Refutation: Does the author anticipate the opposition's main arguments? Is the author prepared with counterarguments and compelling evidence that can persuade the opposition to adopt a different view?
    • Refutation or rebuttal is incredibly important to your argument. You cannot write a one-sided argument.
    • You must first briefly identify an opposition's point. Then immediately address it with counterarguments and compelling evidence.
    • As stated earlier, it is the opposition that you are trying to convince. So, how well you handle this section of your paper will determine its effectiveness as an argument.
  • Persona: What is the author's attitude toward the topic? It is hostile, sarcastic, irate, or reasonable? What kind of language and tone are being used?
    • We touched on this when we talked about the ethical appeal.
    • Your tone needs to be calm and reasonable.
    • Your language needs to be honest, clear and respectful.
    • Avoid aggressive, confrontational or biased language and tone.
How to write the argument . . .

First, you need to determine what kind of argument you are writing. Are you writing a position paper? Sample topics would include illegal immigration, wolf protection programs, paying college athletes. Or, are you writing a solution paper, solving a problem? Sample topics include bullying, homelessness, pollution. Next, identify what you already know about this topic. Write a brief outline establishing what you want to argue on this topic? Establish the purpose of your argument. Establishing this before you start researching the topic will make it easier for you to determine what you need to cite in your paper. Next choose an appropriate format.

  1. Block
  2. Rebuttal Throughout - only works with position topics

Block:

I. Introduction & Thesis Statement

II. Background information - this section is necessary for solution arguments but sometimes unnecessary for position arguments.

A. Define key words and terms that will help to define the parameters of your argument B. Provide background information. If I want to solve global warming, I first need to explain what it is and how it works, so I can show readers how my solution will fix it. C. Establish the severity of the problem. In real life, solutions cost money. If you want taxpayers to pay for it, you need to clearly establish that the problem is severe and must be addressed.

III. First claim: For death penalty because it will stop overcrowding

A. Give statistics on overcrowding B. Give statistics on future problems if no solution is provided C. Explain how the process will help D. Explain how if appeal process is limited this will further help the situation E. Transition

IV. 2nd claim: For death penalty because it will stop repeat offenders

A. Give statistics on repeat offenders who commit murder B. Give statistics if this is not stopped C. Explain how process would work if implemented D. Explain how this would also stop overcrowding because repeat offenders would not be imprisoned E. Transition

V. 3rd claim: for death penalty because it costs less money

A. Give statistics on the cost of housing B. Compare that to the cost of a limited appeal process C. Explain how this will work if implemented D. Explain how this too relates to previous info E. Transition

VI. Rebuttal: Rebuttal of anti-death penalty arguments

A, List a few of the opposition's counterarguments (three) B. Take each one, one at a time, and supply statistics to prove it wrong, example would be to prove that innocent people won’t be executed C. #2 Rebuttal: No other democracy uses it, their side, your side with statistics to prove them wrong D. #3 Rebuttal: Death penalty cheapens value of life: their side, your side with statistics to back it up. E. Transition

VI. Conclusion

Rebuttal Throughout

I. Introduction and thesis

III. First Rebuttal -Death penalty is barbaric

A. Opposition side B. Your side C. Statistics to support your side and prove them wrong D. Explanation of how this will help society E. Transition

IV. 2nd rebuttal - death penalty no other democracy

A. Opposition side B. Your side C. Statistics to support your side and prove them wrong D. Explanation of how this will help society E. Transition

V. 3rd rebuttal - killing innocent people

A. Opposition side B. Your side C. Statistics to support your side and prove them wrong D. Explanation of how this will help society E. Transition

VII. Conclusion

Resources for Writing Arguments:

Argument Rough Draft

  1. Develop a argumentative essay rough draft using block or rebuttal throughout
    • Typed MLA formatted Argumentative essay,
    • Four pages of text
    • Plus MLA formatted Works Cited page
    • Must use 5 sources, two must be database sources
    • Provide copies of the sources used in the paper: web pages, database article pages, xeroxed copies of books,
    • Must include in-text citations that identifies the source for the evidence
    • Papers will not be accepted without these minimal requirements. 
  • Illustrate ability to use third person point of view effectively in an argument.
  • Present a thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph.
  • Support the thesis using RESEARCH MATERIAL and specific details.
  • Illustrate the ability to argue a position or a solution argument.
  • Support the thesis using research material and specific details.
  • Do not list sources in your Works Cited page that are not cited somewhere in the text of your paper.
  • Failure to cite works quoted in your paper is considered plagiarism resulting in a failing grade on this paper. Be careful.
  • Click the "Submit" button and follow the directions for submitting your work..

Remember when using sources, you have the entire article, but the reader only has the quote or paraphrase that you have used in your paper.  Be sure and explain the full implications of your quote.

  • Review your rough draft 
  • Create a final draft with an MLA Works Cited page 
  • Turn in your annotated source material you list in your Works Cited




argumentative essay

Why a argumentative essay? The ability to write a convincing essentially non-biased argumentative research essay is critical in college writing.  

You must use five different sources in this paper.

Note: check the list of taboo topics before you begin writing your paper.


Assignment Information

step one
Choose a topic that you can argue either a position or a solution. For example, to argue a position would be to argue for or against something, like the death penalty. To argue a solution is to argue how to solve something, like how to solve the air pollution problem in Phoenix.

Example: The Effects of PC on Higher Education


step two
On a blank sheet of paper, write your topic down and at least 5 reasons in support of and 5 reasons against your topic.  
Or, if you are writing a solution paper, look at at least five different solutions for the problem.  

step three
See how the pros and cons relate. Decide which you want to write about. Do you want to focus on the pros or the cons. Pick the one you feel offers the most possibilities for exploration.  
Or, choose the solution that seems the most logical, the most doable.  

step four
Freewrite. Look at your diagram for ideas  

step five
Transform your chosen topic into a "Guiding Question" and write it down.  

What is the main question that your essay will answer?  

Example:  

What are three main effects of Political Correctness on Higher Education.  

step six
Find at least three sources to help you answer your guiding question. You must use these sources in your work either in a quote, paraphrase and/or summary. 

  1. source guidelines
  2. Use 5 sources.
  3. Use database sources and web pages. Be sure and turn in copies of your resources with your final paper. I will not accept any paper without the sources turned in to me.  
  4. Create a Works Cited page from your sources.


step seven
Now that you have gathered your information and collected new information, create an outline of your paper.  

step eight
Answer your "Guiding Question" directly with your thesis statement.  

Why are literary works being banned when their overall theme is positive? Because of over-zealous proponents of Political Correctness, once celebrated literary works like Mark Twain's  Huckleberry Finn, William Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Harper Lee's  To Kill a Mockingbird are being banned despite their important universal themes.  

step nine
Check your outline. Place your thesis at the top of the outline followed by the causes or effects: I. II. III. Under each main point, place two main specific points that will support the general topic sentence and the thesis. Use capital letters for the specific points.  

step ten
Write the rough draft.  

step eleven
Revise the rough draft. 

Assignment: Answer the following questions regarding developing the argument.

 1. Describe in one or two sentences the types of evidence you need for a convincing argument essay.

  1. Describe the three types of appeals: rational, emotional and ethical. Why does a good argument use all three?
  2. In your ENG101 Argument Essay, how many sources must you use?


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License by Lynn McClelland and Marianne Botos.

145988460004/05/201612:30pm

The Argument From Potential

I'd like to take a shot at a very popular argument that dominates the debate about two very important topics, namely abortion rights and the legislation of stem cell research. As you might guess from the title of this post, I'm talking about the argument from fetal potential. It's also an argument usually voiced by religious people, which is why I chose to include this in my Counterapologetics 101 series despite the fact that it doesn't strictly qualify as a theological argument.
The argument from fetal potential usually is presented like this:

Premise 1: All persons have a moral right to life.
Premise 2: Since all persons have a moral right to life, all potential persons also have a moral right to life.
Premise 3: The human fetus is a potential person.

Conclusion: The human fetus has a moral right to life.

Usually, neither side disagrees with premise #1. Premise #3 is also largely uncontroversial, although one might argue that the reality of stem cell research involves using embryos that are left over "spares" from in-vitro fertilization, which would simply remain frozen or go to waste if not used for research. Anyhow, for obvious reasons this defense does not apply to the abortion debate, so we'll ignore it for now and take the argument from potential at face value.

The usual defense is an objection to the second premise of the argument ("people have a right to life, so the same must be true for potential people"). It has been pointed out that the argument from potential is never brought up outside the abortion and stem cell debates. To claim that if Z is true for X, it must also be true for a potential X is seen as logically lacking. Bioethicist Peter Singer, for example, points to cases where this is obviously not the case:

There is no rule that says that a potential X has the same value as an [actual] X, or has all the rights of an [actual] X. There are many examples that show just the contrary. Pulling out a sprouting acorn is not the same as cutting down a venerable oak. To drop a live chicken into a pot of boiling water would be much worse than doing the same to an egg. Prince Charles is the potential King of England, but he does not now have the rights of a king.
(Peter Singer, Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press 1993, page 153)

More absurd examples are thinkable: As a physically healthy young male, I am a potential soldier, yet I do not have the rights or duties of one. I am also a potential husband and father, but that is hardly enough to make me eligible for the states family support. I am also physically able to rob old women, but can't be convicted for crimes unless I actually committed them.

Pointing out examples like this is usually enough to win the average pro-life-vs-pro-choice-debate. There are some people though, who are not that easily thwarted.
I've recently stumbled across a paper by Bertha A Manninen, published in "Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine". (All following quotes are from this paper.) In it, she seeks to refute Singer and those who share his views, arguing that in many cases potential does, in fact, matter:

The task that the pro-potentialist now faces is to explain why the fetus' potential is a morally relevant characteristic that justifies extending to it a right to life. I believe that this can be done. What I want to do now is refute Paul Bassen's point that " [n]owhere outside the abortion debate itself is there a precedent for supposing that future prospects can create a present sake [15]" by discussing examples that seems to run contrary to this assertion.

The first example she gives is the moral right to a health insurance, as demanded by article 25 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[...] potentially ill individuals, like my child or myself, also have a moral right to health insurance. But why do we accord this latter group health insurance, even though they are not actually sick? Because possessing health insurance, even in the absence of an impending illness, also constitutes a great benefit for potentially sick people and a deprivation of health insurance also constitutes a harm for potentially sick people. (Emphasis in the original)

She goes on to cite the moral right to an education and some other examples, to finally arrive at the conclusion that

A potential X may be granted the same moral rights as an actual X in virtue of its potential if its potential generates an interest in such a moral right; that is, if possessing the moral right constitutes a benefit for the potential X and a denial of the moral right constitutes a harm. (Emphasis in the original)

Which, I think, is spot on. The only problem is that it does not at all relate to the case of a bunch of cells that we call an embryo, not even to an advanced human fetus. The key point here is the term of "interests", which a bunch of cells cannot be said to have. In all the cases Mrs. Manninen mentions there is indeed a benefit to the potential person, but not because of its potential.
Taking away a healthy person's health insurance, for example, does not constitute a harm because the person is a potentially sick person and thus has a potential need for health insurance. A healthy person has a very current interest in health insurance, because it provides a sense of security and thus quality of life. Having health insurance is a current interest, because it is the basis of current considerations and actions. It is the mental capacity of the human of perceiving himself as a person in time, of being able to think about the future and to acknowledge the fact of dying that makes the adult human exceptional in this regard.
The harm is not in taking away a health insurance that is not currently needed. The harm is in taking away the comfort and security such an insurance provides. Being able to perceive the future makes us able to feel discomfort, insecurity and fear at the prospect of having to face every day dangers without an insurance to lessen the impact of possible accidents.

Embryos, on the other hand, distinctly lack that property. An embryo cannot be said to have an interest in its future life, while grown humans can very well be said to have an interest in health and other aspects of their future.

Finally, the center of the argument from potential remains the equation of a tiny bit of biomass to a fully conscious intelligent being. This argument must fail because the extent of "harm" one can inflict on something is depending on that something's interest in avoiding that harm. Indeed, harm can be defined as the disregard of an interest.
Slapping a person's face , for example, is generally considered to be harmful, but only because most people have an interest in not being slapped. In a consensual situation between a sadist and a masochist, however, slapping might even be considered beneficial to both parties because interests are being served rather than disregarded. Much like a stone, an embryo cannot be harmed because it has no interests - not even in its own continued existence.

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