Selected items from June 2009

• In “Winning Debates,” a book out that month, Steven L. Johnson clarifies that he used the term “argument” to mean a collection of statements that increase acceptance of a proposition. Johnson defined the three main parts of an argument: the claim is a statement for which the speaker is seeking acceptance from the listeners; the support is a statement that the listeners are likely to accept as true; and the inference is a statement that connects the other two parts.

Local items from June 2009

• On June 2, KMOS-TV recognized students in the Reading Rainbow program. First-place winners were Madelyn Becker, kindergarten; Ryan Hyunjoon Choe, first grade; Audrey Jo Quint, second grade; and Lauren Hoffman, third grade.

• Reported on the 5th was the retirement of Janet West from Kingsville. West had taught all elementary grades covering her 31 years at the school.

• Warrensburg Optimists announced their Teenager of the Month on the 11th. The award went to Meagan Schroar.

• The Warrensburg City Council considered banning smoking in public restaurants at a meeting on the 22nd. Cheryl Drake, co-owner of the Country Kitchen, argued that people’s right to do as they pleased ended when their actions harmed others. Second-hand smoked harmed her employees who had to work in the smoke-filled serving areas.

Personal perspective for June 2009

What Johnson failed to clarify in his text was the relationship among the three main parts of an argument. To work, inference must connect the support with the claim so as to make the claim more believable.

Johnson’s omission was typical of the modern treatment of argumentation. My analysis is that no one wanted to use the word “abstract;” to many it had a negative connotation.

For an argument to work or, in my terms for a reason to be effective, the link must bridge the support and the claim. That means the inference (i.e. the bridge or assumption) must be more abstract that the other two so as to link them.

In Drake’s argument, the bridge is “actions that harm others should be banned.” It is broad enough to link “smoking when it harms others” and “legal actions to ban that smoking.”

Copyright 2019 W. Clifton Adams. Additional writing from Adams can be found at wca-refracted.com.

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