From Argument to Assertion
31 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2008
Keynes said of the British Conservative politician Edward Bonar Law that he was unbeatable in debate, on the assumption that the pieces visible on the board constituted the whole premise of the argument. In my paper I will focus on the way that facts enter or get excluded from discussion. I will claim that acceptance or rejection of factual assertions is a far more important process than logical validation of arguments. Not only are assertions more persuasive than arguments; this is desirable, since we want our beliefs and actions to be reasonable and not just rational.
When do we resort to argument? Real speeches heavy on arguments aim to present the speaker as calm, serious, and knowledgeable. In public life, one argues not in order to demonstrate the claim for which one is arguing, but to show that one shares the common prejudices or values that appear in the presuppositions and conclusions of one's argument, and second, to demonstrate mastery of the subject matter by displaying relevant knowledge in coherently organized detail. Arguing is thus a way of presenting facts and principles so as to show one's character as worthy of trust.
Keywords: Rhetoric, argument, Perelman, ethos
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