Classical Argument
(1000-1250 words or 4-5 pages)
Instructions: Please refer to Option #1 on p. 145 of your book. You may use the topic for the “Plan of an Argument’s Details” assignment, or you may choose another if you wish. It may also be helpful to review the organizational structure of the Classical argument (beginning of Chapter 3) and how the argument incorporates the opposing view (Chapter 7).
Choose a topic that is interesting and compelling to you. Make it something you think your audience needs to hear and or could be interested in reading more about. Remember, you are not writing for the audience who already agrees with you; you are writing for the audience who has yet to form an opinion or who is skeptical of your position on an issue or of your ideas. Ways to win your audience include the effective balance of ethos, pathos, logos, and the appropriate consideration of Kairos. One way to boost your ethos is the skillful inclusion of evidence (Chapter 5). For this essay, you may use internet sources, but please choose sources carefully as they represent you in the text, which means you should only choose the best to represent you.
On order to properly document your sources, you will need two things: a page of Works Cited (see page 330 for a visual) and a citation in the body of the essay (see p. 328 – first paragraph – for a reference to internet source Kates; see p. 329 – first paragraph – for a reference to internet source Leed). Notice both citations use attributive tags instead of parenthetical citations. You may use both. For example, Leed could have been cited as (Leed) instead. The period (.) goes outside and to the right of the ( ) to show that (Leed) belongs to the material. If you look at the sample essay closely, you will see other examples.
Your essay should carefully consider the warrants for all of your reasons. Why? If your audience “accepts or grants” the warrants, there is no reason to supply evidence (backing) for those points. If, however, you believe a reasonable audience would be skeptical or disagree, you will need to supply evidence for each warrant (backing) and each reason (grounds). Additionally, remember to consider the opposing view for each warrant and reason. Again, if the audience will grant the warrant, there is no need to develop that point further; however, if development is needed, you will need to supply evidence in support of your point, and you will need to explore the opposing view and evidence commonly used to support those points.
Grading Criteria:
1. Essay includes a well-defined and interesting introduction.
2. Essay includes a properly formatted thesis, which may or may not include all reasons as an essay map.
3. Body paragraphs include specific details and concrete examples for evidence.
4. Body paragraphs acknowledge and support warrants where appropriate.
5. Essay demonstrates a clear understanding of the opposition and refutes the opposing views.
6. Essay includes an effective conclusion that wraps up the discussion without repeating the essay’s main points word for word.
7. Essay employs language effectively and strives to communicate persuasively
8. Essay draws on elements of the rhetorical triangle for a persuasive argument and demonstrates a clear understanding of audience.
9. Essay draws on Internet resources, includes proper parenthetical citations, and includes a properly formatted page of Works Cited.
The Writing Center 242 Bancroft 803-323-2136
T h e C l a s s i c a l A r g u m e n t
Since rhetors began teaching Greek farmers strategies for appealing their cases to Greek courts in the
fifth century B.C., the classical argument has stood as a model for writers who believe their case can
be argued plausibly and logically to an open-minded audience. This format is still in use in much
academic writing today. In its simplest form, the classical argument has five main parts:
1. The introduction, which warms up the audience, establishes goodwill and rapport with the
readers, and announces the general theme or thesis of the argument.
· 2. The narration, which summarizes relevant background material, provides any information
the audience needs to know about the environment and circumstances that produce the
argument, and set up the stakes-what’s at risk in this question. In academic writing, this
often takes the form of a literature review.
3. The confirmation, which lays out in a logical order (usually strongest to weakest or most
obvious to most subtle) the claims that support the thesis, providing evidence for each claim.
4. The refutation and concession, which looks at opposing viewpoints to the writer’s claims,
anticipating objections from the audience, and allowing as much of the opposing viewpoints
as possible without weakening the thesis.
5. The summation, which provides a strong conclusion, amplifying the force of the argument,
and showing the readers that this solution is the best at meeting the circumstances.
Each of these paragraphs represents a “chunk” or section of the paper, which might be one or more
paragraphs; for instance, the introduction and narration sections might be combined into one chunk,
while the confirmation and concession sections will probably be several paragraphs each.
Here are some suggestions and strategies for developing each section of your classical argument.
The Introduction
The introduction has three jobs: to capture your audience’s interest, establish their perception of you as
a writer, and set out your point of view for the argument. These multiple roles require careful planning
on your part. You might capture interest by using a focusing anecdote or quotation, a shocking statistic,
or by restating a problem or controversy in a new way. You could also begin with an analogy or parallel
case, a personal statement, or (if you genuinely believe your audience will agree with you) a bold
statement of your thesis. The language choices you use will convey a great deal about your image to
your audience; for instance, if you’re writing about abortion, audiences will react differently to
language about “pro-lifers” than they will to language about “people who oppose abortion” or “profamily supporters.” This introduction usually funnels down into a solid, clear thesis statement; if you
can’t find a sentence in this section that explicitly says what point you are supporting, you need to
keep refining the introduction.
The Narration
In the narration, you want to establish a context for your argument. This means that you need to
explain the situation to which your argument is responding, as well as any relevant background
information, history, statistics, and so on that affect it. (For instance, the abortion argument might
well mention Roe vs. Wade, more recent cases, legal precedents, and even public opinion polls.)
Once again, the language with which you describe this background will give the audience a picture
of you, so choose it carefully. By the end of this section, the readers should understand what’s at
stake in this argument—the issues and alternatives the community faces—so that they can evaluate
your claims fairly.
The Confirmation
This section allows you to explain why you believe in your thesis. It takes up several supporting
claims individually, so that you can develop each one by bringing in facts, examples, testimony,
definitions, and so on. It’s important that you explain why the evidence for each claim supports it
and the larger thesis; this builds a chain of reasoning in support of your argument.
The Refutation and Concession
This is sometimes a hard section for writers to develop; who wants to think of the reasons why an
argument won’t work? But this can often be the strongest part of an argument, for when you show your
audience that you have anticipated their potential objections, and have an answer for them, you defuse the
audience’s ability to oppose you and persuade them to accept your point of view. If there are places where
you agree with the opposition, conceding their points creates goodwill and respect without weakening
your thesis. For instance, if you are supporting parental notification for abortions, you might concede that
there are times when girls shouldn’t be expected to get their parents’ permission, such as in abuse or
incest cases. But then you might suggest that a court-appointed counselor give permission instead
so that the young girl gets an adult’s support in making this decision.
The Conclusion
It is tempting in the conclusion just to restate the claims and thesis, but this does not give a sense of
.momentum or closure to your argument. Instead, try to hearken back to the narration and the
issues. Remind your readers what’s at stake and try to show why your thesis provides the best
solution to the issue being faced. This gives an impression of the rightness and importance of your
argument, and suggests its larger significance or long-range impact. More importantly, it gives the
readers a psychological sense of closure; the argument winds up instead of breaking off.
More readings on classical argument:
Edward P. J. Corbett, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (Oxford, 1971)
Walter H. Beale, Real Writing (Scott Foresman, 1986)