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Classical Argument Model

Classical Argument Model

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson teaches the basics of argumentation in the Classical style.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What do are we going to learn today? We're going to talk about one of the many models of argumentation, the classical model. We'll look at what it is, and when it can be the best choice for a writer contemplating the format of an upcoming essay. And then we'll look at an example.

Composition has recognized several different models or methods for constructing arguments. Today we'll be focusing on the classical model. But before I begin, I should say there's no such thing as the right or best model of argumentation. There are just models that seem to work better in certain situations than others. And models that some writers prefer over others for more personal reasons.

Writers new to this or any other model of argumentation should consider its qualities and priorities, but always within the context of their own writing needs. The point of learning these models is to give beginning writers options that they can consider during many stages of the writing process, including brainstorming, pre-writing, especially while outlining, and during the drafting or revision processes. And writers who are familiar with multiple argumentation models will be able to pick and choose from them in order to build the best argument for their subject and purpose.

The classical model is one of the oldest systems of argumentation. It's a method for structuring arguments designed by the ancient Greek rhetorician and philosopher Aristotle. It's meant primarily for the purposes of persuading the audience to take an action, or to share in the author's perspective.

The classical model was created at a time when arguments were delivered through speeches. And it emphasizes using the three rhetorical appeals, which we know by their Greek names. Logos for appeals to logic or reasoning. Ethos for appeal to credibility. And pathos for appeals to emotion.

An argument built on the classical model will have five components. An introduction, which should be engaging and interesting. Followed by background, which is all the necessary background information regarding the thesis. Then come claims, which are arguments declared with force and clarity. Generally, this section makes up the bulk of the essay.

After the claims come counter arguments, which address and refute opposing or disagreeing viewpoints. Whether they already exist, or the writer sees them coming. The final component is a conclusion, which should end the argument in a way that is satisfying, and which makes the stakes of the argument clear in the broader context. Traditionally, the conclusion included a call to action on the part of the audience. Though, this is no longer required of the Classical Model.

There are many reasons why modern writers will choose to structure their essays according to the Classical Model. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that the classical model is approachable, and it's familiar to those have been taught this structure in school. The Classical Model can also be a good choice for timed writing, as an essay test sort of like. Because of its simplicity and its compatibility with the five paragraph essay model.

Writers often choose the classical model when their primary goal is persuasion, and especially in the light of counter arguments, which can be effectively addressed by this model. One reason not to choose the classical model is the same simplicity of its structure. Though this does confer advantages in some situations, any writer trying to thoroughly develop a complex or detailed argument may have trouble with this model. Still, it's a good form of argumentation to be familiar with.

And then we're going to look at an outline of an essay built according to the classical model. We'll start with the topic, college and national service. The working thesis that we have is that we should expand opportunities for national service that lead to funds for college education. And as you can see, the sections have been broken up in terms of the classical model.

Beginning with an introduction that states, "A college graduate is likely to earn $570,000 more over the course of his or her lifetime than those without a college degree. College has become a mandatory hurdle for most decently paying jobs. Yet the costs of attending college have skyrocketed and the expense combined with cultural differences between the classes have made college seem unattainable to many. Military service is one option for pre-earning college funds, but many do not have the temperament or desire for the armed services. Thus we should expand opportunities for national service beyond the military that lead to funds for college education."

So as you can see, the introduction is focused on hooking the reader as well as introducing the subject matter. The next section is background, which according to the model provides all the necessary information that the audience will need to understand the argument. It goes over the institution of the GI bill and its goals. And then covers national service models in other nations, and the rising costs of college and ballooning debt of college students before discussing the rising problem of students going into debt but not finishing college, which is more devastating than not attending college at all.

After the background comes the section on claims. In this section the essay will argue about the many various national service opportunities that should be available, both military and non-military. And that people between the ages of 18 and 21 should be encouraged to embrace them. They'll argue that national service opportunities will improve college access for working class people and lower the college debt burden for many middle class people. And that national service will also benefit the country, not only through the service itself, but also in increased sense of civic duty and social commitment in participants. Finally, it will argue that national service opportunities will improve employability by giving people real world experience and time to mature prior to attending college.

The next section according to the model is counterarguments. Here the outline will take into account a counter argument, such as that which claims that a program like this would be too expensive. The counter to this argument would be that costs would be defrayed by higher government income from increased tax revenue and more spending among employed citizens. The next counter argument taken into account is that the real answer is to make college free. The essay will refute this by stating that this is unlikely to actually happen due to political realities, while a national service model might actually entice both liberals and conservatives to back it.

The final counter argument to be discussed states that the real answer is to let the market sort itself out and let people sink or swim on their own merits. And to refute this the essay will argue that we know that the US is not a true meritocracy because of social inequality. National service leading to college education would actually help those who are smart and driven enough to succeed.

And the last section according to the model is a conclusion. This section will state that an expanded national service model that pays off in funds for college would be an incredible boom to the country and could be a leading model for other nations to adopt. And like many classically modeled arguments, it ends with a call to action. Everyone should consider the merits of this proposal and begin to think of ways that we can institute it on a national level.

What did we learn today? We learned about one of the models of argumentation, the classical model. We discussed what the model entails and when or where it can be most useful. And then we looked at the outline of an argument structured according to this model. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

  • Classical Model of Argumentation

    A methodology for structuring arguments, designed by Aristotle, and primarily designed to persuade the audience to take an action or to share the author's perspective.