There’s No Need to Be Terse! (Chapter 11)

For today’s objective, we want to look at some terse arguments. The book defines a terse argument as one “which leaves one or more important factors assumed but unstated (312).” Some of the most frequent users of this type of arguments are people who are hoping to deceive or mislead the audience. By making the connections seem obvious (when in actuality they may not always be), these speakers bring the audience fluidly down whatever train of thought he or she wishes.

Another common offender, which we will see in today’s example, are stupid people. They probably just don’t realize that something’s missing. Although for today’s assignment, they specified that it should be a print media, I think this video will be way more fun to analyze.

She starts off strong! She says that “U.S. Americans” are unable to locate America on a map because some of them don’t have maps. Good job, Miss North Carolina. This is an idiotic answer, but at least it follows some sort of pattern (1)<They cannot find America on a map> [because] (2) <they don’t have maps.> (2) => (1). Now we’re cooking. What does she say next?

Next she mumbles about how our education system in the United States should help South Africa and Iraq so that we “will be able to build up our future for our children.” WHAT?!

Ok, obviously the conclusion is that <we will be able to build up our future for our children>. And somehow <our education system should help South Africa and “the Iraq”> is a premise… but how she gets from point a to point b needs a little assisting. Let’s try and see if we can figure it out.

(1)<America has a good education system.> [So] (2) <we should help South Africa and Iraq (by educating them),> [which will] (3) <build a better future for our children.>

Diagrammed, this looks something like this

(1) => (2) => (3)

This argument may now at least flow in a logical way but it is still very weak. The question asked seems to be implying that the American education system is not good, so that knocks out premise (1). (This was the premise I had to include in order for this argument to make sense). (2) goes as soon as we ask the question of relevance… no one was talking about South Africa or Iraq, why did she randomly bring them up? (3) makes sense, if you follow her sub-par logic, because a better future for our children will surely be built upon a better education. However, a strong conclusion does not a strong argument make. Beauty queen’s argument get’s a big WEAK rating.

As I mentioned, deceitful leaders are often the proprietors of terse arguments. Who is a better example of that than Adolf Hitler? In this translated version of one of his speeches, it is easy to find examples as such. Like this first one, for example:

“Changes of Government have occurred frequently in history, and in the history of our people. It is certain, however, that never was a change of Government attended with such far-reaching results as that eight years ago. At that time the situation of the Reich was desperate.”

The big question one would then ask is… so what? He goes on and on about how hard times have been but nowhere for quite a long time does he give any idea as to where he is going with it– there is no conclusion. He spends a long time bemoaning what bad shape they were in.Let’s analyze.

(1)<Changes of Government have occurred frequently in history, and in the history of our people.> It is certain, however, that (2)<never was a change of Government attended with such far-reaching results as that eight years ago.> (3)<At that time the situation of the Reich was desperate.>

Were he to have added a statement something like (4) <This is why we need the Nazi power in control.> then this paragraph would not be terse. But by just adding and adding to the doom and destruction, he (I guess) hopes that it will be implied. Had that sentence been added in, it would have  looked something like this.

(1)

|

(2) + (3)

|

(4)

This would have been a strong argument. The premise (1) is strong because it is common knowledge, and it is relevant to the rest of the facts. (2) and (3) together help to build the picture of how dim the situation is, and that something needs to be done. Finally, (4) answers the problem raised by the premises, and is properly strong for the evidence supplied. So we can see (this should come as no surprise) that Hitler made strong arguments… I guess that makes sense.

 

So today we’ve covered Hitler and a beauty queen. Hopefully we understand terse arguments a little better now!

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