ENG 120 Cuyamaca College Coun

Learning Objective:

Examine and address a counterarguments through refutation and concession.

Directions:

Step 1: Review

Before starting this assignment, please make sure you have carefully read through Counter Arguments lecture.

Step 2: Think

Think about your thesis in Essay 2 and the working thesis you wrote for it last week.

Then, think about the opposing viewpoint. Why might someone disagree with you?

To help you think it through, answer the following questions:

  1. What is your argument (working thesis) in Essay 2?
  2. What reasonable claims have others made that contradict your argument? List at least 2. You could use these claims as your counter arguments. Remember that the counter argument is more than just stating the opposite viewpoint. A counter argument provides a logical reason. Then, it is your job to refute that reason. You might get ideas about possible counter arguments from some of the articles we read as the authors from the first three opposed the authors for the second set.
  3. How could you refute the counter argument using either the turn back or the turn against method?

Step 3: Write a Counter Argument

For our purposes, we will keep the counter argument to one sentence. We will add the counter argument to one of our body paragraphs. The counter argument should come in as the first sentence, before the Point. Then, the Point refutes the counter argument and proves you are right.

Things to remember:

  • The counter argument for our purposes will be only one sentence. We will not provide Information or Explanation about the counter argument. We will only mention it, right before the Point.
  • The counter argument should provide a reason, not just state the opposite thesis.
  • Your Point will work to prove the counter argument wrong. Your reason in that body paragraph should directly respond to the reason in the counter argument.
  1. Write down one possible Point (subclaim/topic sentence). Think back to your thesis, and think of one reason to support it.
    • For example, if my thesis said that colleges should ban free speech on their campuses, one reason/point might be: Hate speech should be banned be banned because it can cause students to feel unsafe in a place meant to help them learn.”
  1. Think of a counter argument to your Point. What would someone say in return. For my Point, it might be the argument about free speech. So before my Point, I might add the counter. It will look like this:
    • Some people might argue that free speech on college campuses is protected under the First Amendment; however, it can cause students to feel unsafe on their campuses, and should therefore be llimited.
      • The part in blue is the counter argument. The part in yellow is my Point. The rest of the paragraph will work to prove my Point (by giving Informations and Explanations)

Please, as you submit, highlight the counter argument in blue and the Point in yellow as well.

Below is another sample, which is on a different paper topic. Note that you are not writing on social media. This is just a sample to see the paragraph in action.

Some experts argue that social media helps justice campaigns because it allows people to connects and communicate better. However, social media campaigns are hurt real social justice because they create weak connections, failing to inspire true action. In the article “Small Change”by Malcolm Gladwell, a renown journalist for The New Yorker, the author makes the claim that social media does not foster strong commitments. He says, “The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. “How [do] the [social media] campaigns get so many people to sign up? By not asking too much of them” (3). Gladwell is pointing out that the reason people so easily commit to social justice campaigns online is that they are not really committing to much, meaning that the connection they make by liking or retweeting a hashtag is weak and will therefore not lead to any meaningful action. When social media users are asked to do something by a stranger, they do not develop the necessary commitment to follow through. This idea of weak relationships crosses over to lead to weak campaigns and weak pledges, and these weaknesses ultimately hurt real social justice campaigns by never fostering the commitment needed to secure real change.

**Note that the writer here thinks argues that social media is bad for justice campaigns. In the counter argument, he or she gives a reason why some people may think social media is helpful, but then in the Point, he or she quickly gives a reason to respond to the counter and prove it wrong.

**Note that the rest of the body paragraph is just a regular paragraph that proves the writer’s Point. It does NOT give information or prove on the counter.

Counter Arguments

To-Do Date: Oct 10 at 11:59pm

Overview:

When you write an academic essay, you make an argument: you propose a thesis and offer some reasoning, using evidence, that suggests why the thesis is true.

When you counter-argue, you consider a possible argument against your thesis or some aspect of your reasoning. Providing a counter argument can be a persuasive and (in both senses of the word) disarming tactic. It allows you as the writer to anticipate doubts and pre-empt objections that a skeptical reader might have; it presents you as the kind of person who weighs alternatives before arguing for one, who confronts difficulties instead of sweeping them under the rug, who is more interested in discovering the truth than winning a point (Harvard College Writing Center).

The Turn Against

Counterargument in an essay has two stages: you turn against your argument to challenge it and then you turn back to re-affirm it. You first imagine a skeptical reader, or cite an actual source, who might resist your argument by pointing out

  • a problem with your demonstration, e.g., that a different conclusion could be drawn from the same facts, a key assumption is unwarranted, a key term is used unfairly, certain evidence is ignored or played down;
  • one or more disadvantages or practical drawbacks to what you propose;
  • an alternative explanation or proposal that makes more sense.

You introduce this turn against with a phrase like One might object here that… or It might seem that… or It’s true that… or Admittedly,… or Of course,… or with an anticipated challenging question: But how…? or But why…? or But isn’t this just…? or But if this is so, what about…? Then you state the case against yourself as briefly but as clearly and forcefully as you can, pointing to evidence where possible. (An obviously feeble or perfunctory counterargument does more harm than good.)

There are two ways you can provide a counter argument for your essay:

The Turn Back

Your return to your own argument—which you announce with a but, yet, however, nevertheless or still—must likewise involve careful reasoning, not a flippant (or nervous) dismissal. In reasoning about the proposed counterargument, you may

  • refute it, showing why it is mistaken—an apparent but not real problem;
  • acknowledge its validity or plausibility, but suggest why on balance it’s relatively less important or less likely than what you propose, and thus doesn’t overturn it;
  • concede its force and complicate your idea accordingly—restate your thesis in a more exact, qualified, or nuanced way that takes account of the objection, or start a new section in which you consider your topic in light of it. This will work if the counterargument concerns only an aspect of your argument; if it undermines your whole case, you need a new thesis.

Where to Put a Counterargument

Counterargument can appear anywhere in the essay, but it most commonly appears

  • as part of your introduction—before you propose your thesis—where the existence of a different view is the motive for your essay, the reason it needs writing;
  • as a section or paragraph just after your introduction, in which you lay out the expected reaction or standard position before turning away to develop your own;
  • as a section or paragraph just before the conclusion of your essay, in which you imagine what someone might object to what you have argued.

But watch that you don’t overdo it. A turn into counterargument here and there will sharpen and energize your essay, but too many such turns will have the reverse effect by obscuring your main idea or suggesting that you’re ambivalent.

In our Essay 2, we will practice a counter argument. I know for some of you, this may be a totally new idea, and that’s okay! Don’t panic! That’s why we are learning it. Just do your best!

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