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Argument vs. Opinion

by Krista

Writing a Successful Argumentative Essay

You're having a fight with your brother over the television remote. You fuss and whine over how he alllways gets to watch the hockey game when you've been waiting all week for the continuation of the love triangle drama on your favourite soap opera. He argues that he never watches television and that chances are the game won't be shown on rerun like your show probably will be. You shoot back that he can get the highlights on the sportscast later on, but there's no sportscast for prime time shows.

You slump back annoyed and frustrated and then you think to yourself, "can I label this an argument? Or is it merely an opinion?"

The difference between argument and opinion is what you used to back it up. An argument uses evidence, facts, statistics, testimonials etc. to persuade an audience to a point. An opinion on the other hand is a personal response using logic and personal experience and background.

According to rhetoric, persuasion and argumentation are art forms of the written world. It is through persuasive writing that we can use our written word to use evidence and prove a point. In an argumentative essay, it is these facts and background information that persuade an audience to follow in your argument and what you side with.

Socrates was one of the primary writers and speakers who used rhetoric and persuasion in his actions. He once said…

"I do not think it right to supplicate the jury and to be acquitted because of this (begging), but to teach and persuade them."



Through writing an argumentative essay, in the same way, you will be teaching your audience the facts and through this you will give them the ability to see your perspective on an issue and choose for themselves. Therefore an argumentative essay is not so much a nagging of personal opinion, but a profile of facts and evidence in which bolsters your point to persuade them to see the issue as you do.

"But how?", you might ask, "can I write such a thing? I'm no Socrates!" Well you may not be him but you can surely take a page out of his book. You must first teach.

Argumentative essays require a large amount of research on your part. You must collect evidence that relates to the topic. This includes material that supports your point as well as material that refutes it. In researching, you may find that you change your position based on the evidence you come across.

After you have found your information in all sorts of forms and stating bias and opinions of their own, you must establish your thesis. Your thesis is where you will state your position on an issue and what you will show with reasoning and the evidence you've found to try to argue. This thesis should occur in the first paragraph of your essay. It needs to be clear, concise and defined. This means that it relates to the question posed as well as states how you will go about proving through your research.

In your introduction, it is important to show why the issue you'll be talking about is significant. You should make it clear to the audience why it is important that they care about the topic. The persuasiveness in your essay should really be shown through the evidence you'll be mentioning. This can be brought into the introduction paragraph briefly to entice the reader into reading your body paragraphs. The introduction is used to bring your audience into the context of your topic, get them interested and state your thesis or argument/perspective on the issue and how you'll use evidence to back it up.

The body paragraphs are where you show the evidence and research you've done. The important thing is to reference correctly in the style you're asked to use or one that you're comfortable using. Most professors are fine with you using any style of referencing as long as you use the same one throughout. Make sure that the evidence you use is always tied back to your thesis. You can even have a body paragraph that shows "on the other hand" evidence that goes against your thesis and argument. This provides a great opportunity for you to create a rebuttal paragraph in which to persuade your audience of your thesis further.

Your conclusion is not merely a summary and restatement of your thesis, but it shows a new light on the topic with the inclusion of the evidence just stated. This is very important because it sums up everything that was mentioned and brings your argument to its fullest form. It is not wise to introduce new information in your conclusion however you can state what further research would help your argument even more.

After writing your argumentative essay, you'll discover that research is central, rather than personal opinion. It really is a skill to be able to pull your research together to support an argument rather than purely arguing as you would with your brother over the remote control.

References

The OWL at Purdue. Essay Writing: The Argumentative Essay. <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/685/05/>

8 Comments
    anonymous5
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    A. NonymousWed, 03 Feb 2010 22:37:07 -0000

    "I incline to Cain's heresy,"
    he used to say quaintly: "I let my brother go to the devil in his own
    way." In this character, it was frequently his fortune to be the last
    reputable acquaintance and the last good influence in the lives of
    downgoing men. And to such as these, so long as they came about his
    chambers, he never marked a shade of change in his demeanour.
    -THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, by Robert Louis Stevenson, STORY OF THE DOOR

    "And no one who knows the small-minded cynicism of our plutocracy, its
    secrecy, its gambling spirit, its contempt of conscience, can doubt that
    the artist-advertiser will often be assisting enterprises over which he
    will have no moral control, and of which he could feel no moral approval.
    He will be working to spread quack medicines, queer investments; and will
    work for Marconi instead of Medici. And to this base ingenuity he will
    have to bend the proudest and purest of the virtues of the intellect, the
    power to attract his brethren, and the noble duty of praise."
    -Chesterton, G.K., Utopia of Usurers and other Essays

    "But complexity is no guarantee of accuracy-in clockwork or in anything else.
    A clock can be as wrong as the human head; and a clock can stop, as suddenly as the human heart."
    -Chesterton, G.K., Utopia of Usurers and other Essays
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/science/nature/8478770.stm

    05:004:024 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

    "But Douglass's work in direct behalf of his race was not yet entirely
    done. In fact, he realized very distinctly the vast amount of work
    that would be necessary to lift his people up to the level of their
    enlarged opportunities; and, as may be gathered from some of his
    published utterances, he foresaw that the process would be a long one,
    and that their friends might weary sometimes of waiting, and that
    there would be reactions toward slavery which would rob emancipation
    of much of its value. It was the very imminence of such backward
    steps, in the shape of various restrictive and oppressive laws
    promptly enacted by the old slave States under President Johnson's
    administration, that led Douglass to urge the enfranchisement of the
    freedmen. He maintained that in a free country there could be no safe
    or logical middle ground between the status of freeman and that of
    serf. There has been much criticism because the negro, it is said,
    acquired the ballot prematurely. There seemed imperative reasons,
    besides that of political expediency, for putting the ballot in his
    hands. Recent events have demonstrated that this necessity is as great
    now as then. The assumption that negroes-under which generalization
    are included all men of color, regardless of that sympathy to which
    kinship at least should entitle many of them-are unfit to have a
    voice in government is met by the words of Lincoln, which have all the
    weight of a political axiom: "No man can be safely trusted to govern
    other men without their consent." The contention that a class
    who constitute half the population of a State shall be entirely
    unrepresented in its councils, because, forsooth, their will there
    expressed may affect the government of another class of the same
    general population, is as repugnant to justice and human rights as was
    the institution of slavery itself. Such a condition of affairs has not
    the melodramatic and soul-stirring incidents of chattel slavery, but
    its effects can be as far-reaching and as debasing. There has been
    some manifestation of its possible consequences in the recent
    outbreaks of lynching and other race oppression in the South. The
    practical disfranchisement of the colored people in several States,
    and the apparent acquiescence by the Supreme Court in the attempted
    annulment, by restrictive and oppressive laws, of the war amendments
    to the Constitution, have brought a foretaste of what might be
    expected should the spirit of the Dred Scott decision become again the
    paramount law of the land."

    …we seem to forget that now and here, no less than in

    ancient Rome, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

    Slavery for him was conceived in greed,
    born in sin, cradled in shame, and worthy of utter and relentless
    condemnation.

    In 1871 Douglass was elected president of the Freedmans Bank.
    This ill-starred venture was then apparently in the full tide of
    prosperity, and promised to be a great lever in the uplifting of
    the submerged race. Douglass, soon after his election as president,
    discovered the insolvency of the institution, and insisted that it be
    closed up. The negro was in the hands of his friends, and was destined
    to suffer for their mistakes as well as his own.

    Other honors that fell to Douglass were less empty than the presidency
    of a bankrupt bank. In 1870 he was appointed by President Grant a
    member of the Santo Domingo Commission, the object of which was to
    arrange terms for the annexation of the mulatto republic to the Union.
    Some of the best friends of the colored race, among them Senator
    Sumner, opposed this step; but Douglass maintained that to receive
    Santo Domingo as a State would add to its strength and importance. The
    scheme ultimately fell through, whether for the good or ill of Santo
    Domingo can best be judged when the results of more recent annexation
    schemes [1898: Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and de
    facto
    Cuba] become apparent. Douglass went to Santo Domingo on an
    American man-of-war, in the company of three other commissioners. In
    his Life and Times he draws a pleasing contrast between some of his
    earlier experiences in travelling, and the terms of cordial intimacy
    upon which, as the representative of a nation which a few years before
    had denied him a passport, he was now received in the company of able
    and distinguished gentlemen.
    -Chesnutt, Charles Waddell, Frederick Douglass, A Biography

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    anonymous5
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    A. NonymousWed, 03 Feb 2010 23:01:16 -0000

    Duplicate entry was unintended. Webmaster may delete the latter dated entry.

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    Derick
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    DerickFri, 05 Dec 2008 17:46:50 -0000

    Keep in mind I didn't even read all that, but I think Aristotle ruled everything and Plato ruled destroying civilization.

    That being said, we might want to continue this in a thread in my community (if we do continue it) instead of hijacking this one!

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    xmonkee
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    Mayank MandavaMon, 24 Nov 2008 16:08:36 -0000

    All of science has brought us closer to Plato's ideals using Aristotles methods. In a way, Plato showed us our destination and Aristotle showed us the way.
    What is scientific endevour if not cutting away all the chaff and reveal the gleaming nugget of ideal truth. Think Maxwell's equations, think Unified Field Theory, think the Genome project. We now know that Truth is usually simple and beautiful and all manifestations of it on our "shadow" plane are complicated and encumbered with other shadows, but once we separate the information from the physicality, we can cast our own shadows in whatever shapes we like, on a whim. Plato's genius was in recognizing that there is a cleaner, purer beauty to be found if we can look beyond what our limited senses tell us prima facie. Aristotles's was in reminding us that our sensory apparatus is all that we have. Was it Metaphysical in any way, what Plato said, or were his thoughts just a victim of the very same flaw of which he accused all creation? He was grasping at the nature of knowledge, meta-knowledge, but his own theory of Forms and Ideas was a sullied shadow of the true Theory of Knowledge, which we are still contending with.

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    avicster
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    Avichal ChaturvediMon, 24 Nov 2008 09:52:39 -0000

    I agree with the fact that modern definitions of Science and Philosophy are a by-product of the Aristotle vs. Plato debate. There is a fundamental difference between Plato and the "philosophers" of today, in that Plato was among the first to propose ideas that led to scientific thought, and Aristotle carried these further in a way that is much more identifiable with modern science. Plato was not attempting to study "metaphysics". Rather, we tend to separate the objects of his study from those of his successors and label these as metaphysics. When I call the interpretation of the gestures in the painting as conjecture, I simply argue that the fundamental disparity in the beliefs of Aristotle and Plato is overstated more often than not. In many ways Aristotle's ideas were a natural progression of what Plato postulated, even if his inherent inclination towards empirical observation took him closer to the scientific truth as we understand it today. Also, his "science" was not the same as ours, as it included the "arts" of today as well. He learned a large portion of what to study from his master, but applied his own method on how to study it. Some of his treatises, such as Politics, mirror the path trodden by Plato in his works on the same subject. Come to think of it, he studied similar things as his teacher (maybe the word "master" was misconstrued, but inasmuch as Aristotle was a student of Plato, and there's no denying that, the latter was most certainly the teacher), but his approach varied, and that too only marginally in many cases. Debates on the existence or non-existence of separate forms or the relevance of the cave allegory border on the abstract, as does the entire universals vs. particulars issue. Even Aristotle's critique of Plato's theory about universals can't be empirically verified, and all latter improvements on Plato's theory, including Aristotle's, concede the existence of universals outside the usual spatiotemporal bounds. If that is not a reference to the heavens, I don't know what is.

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    xmonkee
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    Mayank MandavaMon, 24 Nov 2008 05:37:40 -0000

    Avicster my dear dear friend, you are slightly off the mark. It's not really natural phenomena vs. the heavens. It's much bigger. It's more like empirical epistemology vs well, Platonic epistemology. You know.. all that crap about the Forms and the Cave and denying the mundane reality. It's a debate about the way science and philosophy are "known" to us. Aristotle's ideas were what got us to where we are, at least till science and philosophy were the same thing. Now, I think, Aristotle rules Science and Plato rules Philosophy. Maybe it's because of this debate between these old buggers that we define Science and Philosophy the way we do.

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    Derick
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    DerickFri, 21 Nov 2008 17:15:37 -0000

    You're right.

    When you say this is just conjecture do you mean you're guessing that that's the reason or that the popular belief that that is why he painted it that way is just conjecture? I'm really, really confident that is the idea. Even if there isn't stated explanations by Rapheal, which I was under the impression there is, just knowing both philosophers thoroghly and seeing that makes it way too consistent to be a coincidence.

    I didn't recognize the quote, but yeah, it is unfortunate she put the Socrates quote beside Plato now that I'm aware of it.. I would find it less of a problem if the quote were from a 20th or 21st century scholar and not someone closely related to the person in the picture; it would feel less misleading.

    Haha Krista you got the philosophy nerds coming on and being anal about the details of your arguement essay!

    P.S. Krista you mispelt always. This is Learnhub's peer review in action.

    P.P.S. Plato wasn't exactly Aristotle's "master" and my strong preference for the second makes me slightly unhappy with that way of describing it =P

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    avicster
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    Avichal ChaturvediFri, 21 Nov 2008 08:06:31 -0000

    It is either an extremely twisted joke/game, or ignorance of the worst kind to accompany the most enduring image of Plato ever with a quote by Socrates.

    Anyway, here's for the points:
    The image is from Raphael's "Scuola di Atene" or "School of Athens". The figure beside Plato is that of Aristotle, who is pointing towards the earth, as opposed to his master who's pointing towards the heavens. The popular theory is that this is to differentiate their fundamental beliefs - one studied natural phenomena, and in a sense was "down to earth", the other propounded theories on the heavens and afterlife. However, this is just conjecture.

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    Derick
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    DerickThu, 20 Nov 2008 20:02:12 -0000

    Nice Renaissance painting of Plato by Raphael.

    Ten points to anyone who can tell me who is beside Plato in the full version of the painting, and fifty to anyone who can tell me why Plato is pointing up while the person beside him is pointing down.

    I was already planning to write about that painting and answer those questions in the first lesson for the philosophy community.

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