The double absolute

13 01 2012

I always advise students to disagree with an absolute term, because that typically makes for a more convincing essay (explained here and here). However, I used to get stumped by this absolute question:

Can poverty ever be eliminated?

While following the abovementioned advice and arguing against the absolute (arguing that it can be eliminated) is definitely possible, I felt that it was equally (if not more) convincing to agree with the absolute and argue that poverty can never be eliminated.

When discussing this question in class, I would explain that there are always exceptions in GP, and this is one of those exceptions to the “always disagree with the absolute” advice. However, when a similar question came out in the 2011 paper (“Can prejudice ever be eliminated?”), it became obvious that it wasn’t an exception – it’s just a slightly different type of absolute question.

Both questions are actually “double absolute” questions.

The double absolute question has two absolute terms, both having different directions. Agreeing with the question means that you will agree with one of the absolute terms but disagree with the other. Likewise for disagreeing with the question – you’re agreeing with one term, but disagreeing with the other. Since either stand means you’re disagreeing with the absolute, the advice holds – angle your argument such that you’re disagreeing with the absolute term. The only difference is that you have a choice as to which absolute term to disagree with, and in the process, you can’t help but agree with the other.

To illustrate:

Can poverty ever be eliminated?

STAND 1: Yes, poverty can (one day) be eliminated
(Disagree with the absolute “never” (agree with “ever”); agree with the absolute “eliminated”)

STAND 2: No, poverty can never be eliminated
(Agree with the absolute “never”; disagree with the absolute “eliminated”)

Can prejudice ever be eliminated? (GCE ‘A’ Level 2011)

STAND 1: Yes, prejudice can (one day) be eliminated
(Disagree with the absolute “never” (agree with “ever”); agree with the absolute “eliminated”)

STAND 2: No, prejudice can never be eliminated
(Agree with the absolute “never”; disagree with the absolute “eliminated”)

 –

This post on the ‘absolute’ question has been updated to include the ‘double absolute’

Task

Choose one of the above questions and write one argument for each stand. For both arguments, angle your argument so that the focus is on disagreeing with the absolute. For example, for STAND 2, your argument should emphasise that you are disagreeing with “eliminated”. Avoid emphasising that you are (by virtue of the double absolute) agreeing with “never”.


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2 responses

13 01 2012
(1) The ABSOLUTE question [Analysis of 2000-2010 GCE 'A' Level questions] « read, think, write.

[…] [See this post for tips on how to approach atypical absolute questions] […]

16 01 2012
term paper

nice good informations

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