A common problem with essays on necessity is that they devolve into a “good vs bad” or a “benefits vs detrimental effects” sort of argument.
Consider this question:
Advertising is unnecessary. Comment.
[Key term: Unnecessary]
A common mistake is to talk about the problems of advertisements/advertising. For example, “Advertising is unnecessary because it often exaggerates information” or “Advertising is unnecessary because it encourages people to buy products they do not need”. Here, it is important to note that “unnecessary” is not the same as “bad”. [see note (1) for further explanation]
However, the fact that something is bad could further develop an argument on necessity:
“Advertising is unnecessary because it is a waste of money, given that the information being advertised can be obtained quite easily from other sources”
The important thing to note is that “unnecessary” must be proven (see text in italics above), and the fact that it is also bad highlights how it is “especially unnecessary”.
All the above arguments rely on one assumption though – that the purpose (here, providing information) is, in itself, important. If one could prove that the very purpose is not important, that would also show that something is unnecessary: “Advertising is unnecessary because no one actually needs to know about the products being advertised”. This argument probably won’t work in this case (for it is difficult to prove that having information is not important). But in other cases, it could be relevant. [see note (2) for further explanation]
Tip for addressing “unnecessary”:
Ask yourself, is a purpose being achieved? If there’s no purpose, or if the intended purpose isn’t being achieved, one might argue that something is unnecessary. Alternatively, if the purpose itself is not important, one might argue that something is unnecessary.
But does this then mean that achieving a purpose makes something necessary? [Key term: Necessary]
“Advertising is necessary because it provides people with information” or “Advertising is necessary because it encourages consumption which drives the economy”.
Although this does consider that a purpose is being achieved, the concept of necessity is stronger than that. To show a better appreciation of what the term means, you might say,
“Advertising is necessary because it provides people with information in a way that other sources of information cannot match” or “Advertising is necessary because it encourages consumption which is a significant and important component of economic growth”.
Tip for addressing “necessary”:
To prove the necessity of something, you could show that not only does it serve a purpose, but it serves either a unique or important purpose, or that it serves its purpose best. In other words, there are no viable alternatives.
To prove that something is unnecessary:
- The intended purpose/s is/are not being achieved
- There are alternatives that can achieve the exact same purpose
- The purpose itself is not important / useless
- It serves a unique purpose (there are no viable alternatives)
- It serves its purpose best / better than alternatives (there are no viable alternatives)
(1) Understanding ideas through analogies: If you struggle with these ideas, you could try using simple analogies to help you understand them better. For example, I might argue that chocolate is bad for my health because it gives me a sore throat. But if I derive extreme satisfaction from eating chocolate, I might still say it is necessary. Because of this, saying that “chocolate is unnecessary because it gives me a sore throat” doesn’t make sense. Again, “unnecessary” isn’t the same as “bad”.
(2) Although eating chocolate gives me great satisfaction (serves a unique purpose), it is not important that I have great satisfaction in my life (purpose itself is not important) . Thus, eating chocolate is unnecessary.