Listen to yourself: Would your opponents agree?

14 09 2011

If they would, don’t bother including that point in your essay.

Pause and ask yourself: How strong does this argument sound? If you were to rank it on a scale ranging from trivial to significant, where would it lie? If you think it lies closer to the trivial, non-contentious arguments, dump it. If it’s an issue-laden, highly debatable, contentious argument (or at least, one that opponents would contend with), it’s a keeper.

For instance,

To what extent is the individual responsible for his own health?

I’ve seen an unexpectedly (and depressingly) large number of arguments about how infants, babies, toddlers and young children cannot be held responsible – rather,  it’s their parents’ responsibilities.

Well, yes. It’s logical, it makes sense. But it’s a rather silly argument – after all, people whose overall stand is a “small extent” stand wouldn’t contend with this. It’s trivial, it’s non-contentious. In other words, it’s incredibly dull, and shows poor awareness of the issues involved.

But we can keep the concept of considering age groups, and still come up with a sensible argument:

Some argue that the government should step in, and provide financial support for healthcare. Some might even argue that healthcare should be free. However, even when it comes to financial support, the individual should bear the bulk of the responsibility. Of course, this should apply to the population in general, and should not apply to everyone. In the case of elderly patients, before the government steps in, their children should be the ones to help support their healthcare costs.

This keeps the idea of some age groups having less responsibility for their own health, but considering the elderly is more sensible than considering infants as this is a more contentious issue – some people would argue that the elderly should have been responsible enough to buy insurance when they were younger, so that they wouldn’t have to worry about financing their healthcare in their old age. In other words, your opponents might disagree with your point, making it a point worth keeping – and, of course, a point that then needs to be defended with solid argumentation and exemplification.

This is what GP is about. Don’t hide behind trivial non-contentious arguments. Take on a debatable, contentious issue, and convince me that you’re right.

Recap: This post on “cherry-picking” also talks about avoiding non-contentious arguments.


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