Aluminum sculpture of Albert Einstein and Niels Borhr by B.C. Lemport; from a park in Moscow; photograph by Shuli Barzuli

English 409A, Fall 2003

Randy Harris, conductor—particulars, and contact information
Syllabus and class schedule—

We will study the discursive, social, and rhetorical principles of argumentation, including topics such as evidence, reasoning, and the organization and presentation of arguments. Scholars studied will include Aristotle, Cicero, Richard Whatley, Jurgen Habermas, Stephen Toulmin, Chaim Perelman, Lucie Olbrecht-Tyteca, Kenneth Burke, and Pierre Bourdieu.
Course philosophy

There is a tension in arguing, an inevitable one, which frequently leads to imbalance—of discourses, of people, of relationships, of entire cultures. Our main job this term will be to find points of balance. The tension is between arguing to pursue knowledge, find agreement, and think through issues collectively, on the one hand; and arguing to win, dominate, and score points, on the other

Course slogans

We cannot change the world simply by evidence and reasoning. … [but] we can surely not change it without them, either.
—Kwame Anthony Appiah

You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.

"L'argument," by Wassily Kandinsky


Midterm, 20% (24-27, October)
The take-home midterm will be an analysis and a counter-argument, to a text I will provide; you will be expected to use the terminology of the course knowledgeably and both to analyze and to reproduce the principles of argumentation we take up.

Final, 20% (5 December)
The final will also involve analysis, but also will include lots of fact-based questions (short answer, true-false).

Essay, 20% (1 December)
The essay should analyze an argumentative exchange, delivering a verdict on which side is the strongest. It should be a research essay, of roughly 3,000 words, with documented sources.

Lexicon, 20% (weekly, 12 September-21 November)
These are ten weekly one-page papers, due—electronically, to my email account—each Friday are worth 20% in total, but they will not be graded. If you complete them all, you get 20% of your final grade. if you miss one, you will get 15%. if you miss two or more, you will get 0% (yep, zero).

Each paper will contain three lexical entries (words, definitions, examples) at roughly 100 words per entry. Choose the words from the text, from the lectures, from outside readings. Write the definitions yourself, though you can quote and paraphrase as necessary (giving sources).

Again, these assignments will not be graded, simply collected and tallied, though I will always read them with interest, and may occasionally write responses to them.

Being argumentative, 20% (all the livelong day)
Refer below, "Come to class ..."

Come to class prepared, contribute to discussions, participate in the building and the development of the course. In particular, think reflectively about all the readings, and think publicly.

Ways to get a good grade: ask relevant questions, make salient observations, look for and point out connections in the material, complain about the unbelievable pressure of having to be argumentative on demand, ...

Ways to get a mediocre grade: come to class, sit in your seat, say nothing, avoid eye contact with the professor.

Ways to get a poor grade: stay away from class, or make long irrelevant commentaries, or treat your fellow students with extravagant disrespect, ...

By the way, I am almost impervious to arguments that third- and fourth-year university students, in a rhetoric programme, destined for careers involving the professional use of language, should not 'be required to talk in class'.


Charles's 409A page

Silva Rhetoricae (especially good for figuration)

Georgia Tech rhetoric page

Rhetorica ad digitum

Aristotle's Rhetoric

Michael Gilbert's Argumentation Theory page

Fallacy list (thanks, Cara)