reading notes "The Craft of Argument"

Quotations and my understanding:

 (Note: the quotations are from )

(1) "we define an argument by two criteria:

  • Two (or more) people want to solve a problem but don't agree on a solution.
  • They exchange reasons and evidence that they think support their respective solutions and respond to one another's questions, objections, and alternatives."

"You make an argument not just to settle a disagreement. Good arguments help you explore questions and explain your beliefs, so that even when you and your readers can't agree, you can at least understand why."

---- The above paragraphs tell me what is an argument and what it's for.

(2)  "Do you want your readers just to understand something, with no expectation that they will act? If so, why is that understanding important?

Do you want your readers to act? If so, what do you expect them to accomplish? What problem will that action solve?"

---- This tells me the purpose of writing, which is motivating the readers to act and achieve something. 

(3) "Once you understand your problem, try out a few solutions, pick one that seems promising, then list reasons that would encourage readers to agree. You can use that list as a scratch outline or, if you wish, expand it into a formal one.

Draft in whatever way feels comfortable: quick and messy or slow and careful. If you are quick, start early and leave time to revise. If you are slow, plan carefully and get it right the first time, because you may not have time to fix it."

---- The above are some tips for making argument and writing. I have to say that most of the time I am slow, but I want to train myself to be quicker and more responsive. 

(4) "We build arguments out of answers to just five kinds of questions we ask one another every day:

  • What are you claiming?
  • What reasons do you have for believing that claim?
  • What evidence do you base those reasons on?
  • What principle makes your reasons relevant to you claims?
  • But what about . . . ?

In conversation, someone asks us those questions, but when we write, we have to imagine those questions on our readers' behalf."

---- This tells me how to build an argument.

(5) ". . . and About Writing It

You have four initial tasks:

  • Understand the problem that occasions your argument.
  • Formulate hypotheses that are plausible candidates for a solution.
  • Pick the best candidate.
  • List the reasons that encourage your reader to agree with your solution.

Here is a plan for drafting your argument:

  • Sketch the problem and its solution.
  • List reasons that you think your readers would accept as sound.
  • Articulate the evidence on which you think those reasons rest.
  • Order those reasons in a way that will make sense to your reader.
  • Imagine objections and respond to them.

Next, draft a working introduction:

  • Start with a sentence or two of shared context for your problem.
  • Add a sentence or two that articulates the problem.
  • State what the problem does or will cost readers.
  • Finish with a sentence that sketches the gist of your solution to the problem."

---- This tell me how to plan and develop a writing (of an argument) and how to write the introduction. It also emphasized the writing should be "reader-centered".

(6) "Avoid these stock plans:

  • The five paragraph essay
  • A narrative of your research and thinking
  • A summary of your sources
  • Organizing parts around things rather than ideas and concepts."

---- This is the part that I do not understand. Why should we aviod these?

(7) "We make arguments to solve two kinds of problems, pragmatic, and conceptual. Both kinds of problems have the same structure:

Problem = Destabilizing Condition + Cost/Consequence"

---- I do not quiet understand this formular.

(8) "Claims are at the heart of every argument. They are your main point, the solution to your problem."

Useful claims have these qualities:

  • Your claim should be clearly conceptual or pragmatic. It should assert what readers should know or what they should do.
  • Your claim should be something that readers will not accept without seeing your good reasons. It should be contestable.
  • Your claim should in principle be capable of being proved wrong, because you can imagine evidence that would make you give it up. It should be disconfirmable.
  • Your claim should be feasible, ethical, and prudent. It should be reasonable.

---- This tells me what are claims and the qualities of claims.

(9) "What do you want your readers to do?

  • Respect your reasons for making your claim?
  • Approve of your claim and the argument supporting it?
  • Publicly endorse your claim as worth serious consideration?
  • Believe in your claim and in the argument supporting it?
  • Act as you propose, or support someone else's action?"

---- This tells me what I should have in mind when I writing claims and try to be "reader-centered"

(10) Make a plan to gather evidence. Think about these questions:

  • What kind of evidence do readers expect you to report?
  • Will the cost of searching for specific evidence be greater than the benefit of finding it?
  • Where are you most likely to find the evidence you need? Libraries? The Internet? Personal interview? Observation?

Follow these steps:

  • Start by sampling the evidence from a source to see whether it is relevant and sufficient.
  • Periodically take stock of the evidence as it mounts.
  • Don't wait to get every shred of evidence before you start writing.

Work toward a claim that has these qualities:

  • Its language is explicit and specific. It previews the central concepts that you will develop in the rest of the argument.
  • It is elaborated with clauses beginning with although, because, and unless. If you think that makes the claim too long and complex, then break it into shorter sentences.
  • It is hedged with appropriate qualifiers such as many, most, often, usually, probably, and unlikely instead of all, always, and certainly.

---- These are tips of efficiently creating/writing claims.  

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maybe this is not quite what you need, but here's what i got out of it:

we should avoid these 'stock' plans because:

the 5-paragraph essay is incomplete and lacks sophistication. It does not treat possible objections. Furthermore, it fails to explain the general principle of what happens whenever you floss (or when you do NOT floss).

the narrative is boring, seems to be bereft of tangible evidence, and is probably somewhat disorganized. It's unprofessional and a turn-off to potential readers.

And regurgitation is usually not an effective method of convincing people of something. It takes more than a parrot to motivate others to either think or act differently (or both).

and the last one is very clear in the book: your argument will read as two separate unconnected pieces.

Finally, the formula is trying to say that a problem is simply when two parties disagree or something happens which upsets an expected routine, which threatens peace or 'stability' or status quo. In other words, if any change in the dynamic occurrs that could have a negative impact - it's a problem!

hope it helps.


I understand now. thank you :)

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