Writing Arguments

Types of Argument

There are basically two types of argument: Aristotelian, or adversarial, and Rogerian, or consensus-building. Aristotelian argument (based on the teachings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle) is made to confirm a position or hypothesis or to refute an existing argument. Using the techniques at hand, the writer attempts to persuade the reader to a particular point of view. The writer uses logic, appeals to the rational in the audience, and provides empirical and commonsense evidence to persuade the audience members to change their beliefs, attitudes, and actions.

Rogerian argument (based on American psychologist Carl Rogers’s studies in psychotherapy) is a bit different—its goal is to develop consensus among readers rather than establish an adversarial relationship. The idea is that a successful argument is a winning situation for everyone. Avoiding all emotionally sensitive language, the writer phrases statements in as neutral a way as possible to avoid alienating readers by minimizing threat and establishing trust. The analysis of the opposition’s point of view is carefully and objectively worded, demonstrating that the writer understands the position and reasons for believing it. In preparation for the conclusion, the writer points out the common characteristics, goals, and values of the arguments and persons involved. Finally, the writer proposes a resolution that recognizes the interests of all interested parties.

  • Aristotelian argument, or adversarial argument, is made to confirm a position or hypothesis or to refute an existing argument.

  • Rogerian argument, or consensus-building argument, aims to develop commonality among readers rather than establish an adversarial relationship.

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