Understanding  Arguments:
Persuasive Discourse Survival Guide

Writing Survival Guide

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.
The  University of  Oklahoma

susan smith nash, © 2002

Frameworks of Debate and Persuasion: 
Moving beyond simply taking sides

Examining the unstated and underlying assumptions

What are the unstated assumptions in each argument?

  • ideas about the nature of people and free will
  • ideas about the best relationship between the state and the individual
  • ideas about the responsibilities of individuals
  • ideas about the responsibilities of the state

What are the underlying assumptions about the nature of reality?
  • causality is valid
  • things are random and unpredictable
  • experience matters; the future can be extrapolated from the past

What are underlying assumptions about the nature of individual experience?
  • the experience of one person can apply to another
  • universals are knowable via specific examples; one can arrive at general conclusions
  • the same set of rules and social mores that apply to one person apply to others

What are underlying assumptions about human nature?
  • people are good and need to have freedom in order to flourish
  • people are inherently bad and must be controlled

Assumptions about power in society?
  • democratic decision-making, grassroots-up
  • monarchy-based ideas, top-down
  • totalitarian / autocratic
  • anarchy

What are the ways in which the arguments are being "spun" in order to influence the audience?
  • nature of language (language creates reality)
  • images / image-reality
  • testimonials
  • authenticity