In this assignment, you will be utilizing all of the various tools, knowledge and techniques you have been acquiring in this course. You will be preparing a critical essay (ca. 800-1000 words) examining an argumentative essay, which will be due before the end of day on Tuesday, November 15.
On pp. 209-210, Bassham discusses the nature and content of a critical essay. Please look at this bit of text very carefully. Then, on pp. 219-224, Bassham provides an example of a (much less than stellar) argumentative essay “In Defense of Cheating” and a sample critical essay evaluating it.
In this sample critical essay, Bassham is not seeking (and certainly not achieving!) elegance. Rather, he is deliberately displaying the structure of such an essay, showing its “skeleton” so to speak. I would like you to do the same in your essay. You are to show me you understand what such an essay IS and how it’s constructed, and demonstrate your skill in analyzing an argumentative essay utilizing the various tools we have been sharpening in the preceding units.
To be sure: instead of utilizing Bassham’s argument-standardization technique, I would like you to lay out (your reading of) the line of argument in “Enhanced Standard Form” as explained in the Guides to Units 5 and 6 and the tutorials for Unit 5.
The piece you will be examining is “Serving the Nation: A Universal Call” (attached here.)
Consideration of some of the following questions may help in in preparing your critique:
1. What is the overarching conclusion of (the argument of) the piece?
2. What are the different main arguments (and SORTS of arguments) the author makes for his conclusion? Can you find (or generate) a (few) general claims/headings under which you can organize most of the arguments/premises/evidence? Do these arguments support the conclusion dependently or independently?
3. Do you understand the information in the first paragraph to be a component of the line of argument, or merely background information? If the former, what sort of argument is it? Do you find anything fallacious here? If, however, it is a legitimate (part of the) argument: why so?
4. What, EXACTLY, do the arguments really count for: military TRAINING, military SERVICE, or both (or neither), or something else again (e.g. mandatory Civil Defense training/duty?) (Do you find any important differences between these things?)
5. The main (part of the) line of argument (4th paragraph) is intended as PROBLEM-SOLVING. What problems – exactly – are being addressed? Are they clearly defined in enough specificity? Are the problems real, serious and correctly identified? Would the proposed solution actually (help to) solve the problems? Why or why not? Might there be better (i.e. cheaper, more efficient, more focused, less intrusive) means to achieve the same ends?
6. For those parts of the arguments not directly addressing the problem-solving aspect: do they contribute to supporting/legitimizing the proposed conclusion? If so, in what ways?
7. Are there any rebuttal premises/arguments in the piece? If so, what are the (possible) objection(s) being rebutted? Do you think the piece succeeds in achieving this? What OTHER possible objections might be made? (A hint: WHY do you think the author includes the “patriotic obligation” point? Might it be intended to rebut some [unidentified] objection?)
Your ESF-outline will help you in answering these questions, but – in turn – answering some of these questions should also help you fine-tune your outline. So feel free to edit/revise/refine your outline as you go.
I suggest that you number the paragraphs in the “Serving’ piece for easy reference in your essay.
Link to textbook if necessary
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