Aluminum sculpture of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr by B.C. Lemport

The tune that's playing is "The argument", by Fugazi; from their (2001) CD, The argument
English 409A, Fall 2008
10:00-11:20TTh, HH 280

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, Jurgen Habermas, Stephen Toulmin, Chaim Perelman, Lucie Olbrecht-Tyteca, Mikhail Bakhtin, Kenneth Burke, and Jeanne Fahnestock.
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

I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.
—Dave Barry

"L'argument," by Wassily Kandinsky


Midterm, 20% (30 October - 4 November)
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 both to analyze and to reproduce the principles of argumentation we take up.

Final, 20% (9 December, 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM, RCH 205)
The final will also involve analysis, but also will include lots of fact-based questions (short answer, true-false).

Essay, 25% (27 November)
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.

Analyses, 15% (sort of weekly, 22 September-1 December)
These are eight submissions, of 300-500 words, due each Friday by 11:59 PM (with a few exceptions; see the schedule). They are worth 15% in total, but they will not be graded. If you complete them all, you get 15% of your final grade. if you miss one, you will get 10%. if you miss two or more, you will get 0% (yep, zero).
Each analysis will be a response to an argument—an appraisal of that argument and a counter-argument to it (when there are multiple arguments, just pick one). Note that you must offer a counter argument whether you agree or disagree with the argument.

We will be using UW-ACE for the analyses.

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, provide helpful analyses of arguments that come up; be an upstanding 409A citizen.

Ways to get a mediocre grade: come to class, sit in your seat, say nothing, avoid eye contact with the professor; be a disengaged 409A citizen.

Ways to get a poor grade: stay away from class, or come and make long irrelevant commentaries, or treat your fellow students with extravagant disrespect; be a lousy 409A citizen.

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'.

Links (report linkrot or suggestions for other sites here)

Silva Rhetoricae (especially good for figuration)

Aristotle's Rhetoric

Michael Gilbert's Argumentation Theory page

DataNation Fallacy list


Bruce Thompson's Fallacy Page (includes exercises)