One of the more informal assignments in this course was the course journal entries. These journal entries consisted of key concepts, takeaways, and reflections from the chapters of Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs. By completing these entries, I was able to receive a greater understanding of rhetoric and how different persuasive tools can be employed effectively in order to strengthen one’s argument. As seen in the second course learning objective, I learned the importance of being able to determine a rhetorical purpose and context as well how to identify and gain credibility with an audience. Additionally, the journals allowed me to apply the rhetorical concepts to personal and real-life experiences in a way that enhanced my comprehension of the course material. Many, if not all, of my entries included a personal experience, video, and/or graphic that related to the material introduced in the chapters. For example, in one journal entry, I compared the rhetorical device of framing (redefining or resetting the boundaries of an argument in a more favorable position) to a WWE match. In addition to tying in personal experiences, I was able to analyze several viewpoints and examples of how other individuals have used different rhetorical devices while talking about important public issues (course objective 5). Heinrichs included several pop culture and political examples of how well-known individuals have used rhetoric in different situations. I would often include these examples in my journals and we would often discuss them in class. For instance, one chapter in the text focused on “how to deal with a bully” and explained how Amy Shumer implemented the rhetorical device of ironic love in order to “deal” with a heckler at one of her shows. In my journal entry for this chapter, I further explained this example and included a video of the actual event. Being able to see specific examples of how these concepts are actually used, allowed me to achieve a deeper understanding of how to use the concepts properly. Some of my favorite journal entries that I have completed throughout the semester can be seen below.
Journal Entry #1
Chapter 9 provides a breakdown of one of Aristotle’s “Big Three,” pathos. As we learned in previous chapters, pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions or how an argument changes an audience’s mood to invoke action or change. Throughout the chapter, the author provides pathetic strategies that allow an rhetor to effectively win over an audience. A major takeaway from the chapter is knowing how and when to use pathos in an argument (85). As an arguer it is your responsibility to control or manipulate the emotions of the audience, not just expressing your own emotions (84). In the beginning of the chapter, the author cites an example of his daughter throwing a temper-tantrum at the bank because she wanted ice-cream (84). The author accused his daughter of not being pathetic enough (84). This reminds me of my own childhood, specifically when I was trying to get my mother to get me a “treat” at the grocery store. When my mom refused, I would often pout and use what she referred to as “puppy-dog eyes.” She would always tell me, “those puppy-dog eyes don’t work on me.” In that instance, I was not being “pathetic” enough. I was just expressing my own feelings in an attempt to change my mother’s mood and eventually, mind. The author argues that the best way to do that is to invoke sympathy or the understanding of emotion from the audience (85). He also argued that emotions come from experiences and that storytelling (vividly describing a past event that explains the emotional sensations behind the event) plays a crucial role in changing them (86).
Chapter 11 dives into the realm of logic or logos. The author argues that in order to effectively utilize the appeal of logos, you must determine the audience’s point-of-view or their beliefs/values (112) This chapter is centered around an audience’s commonplace. The author defines a commonplace as, “a viewpoint your audience holds in common” (112). In other words, the commonplace is the audience’s public-opinion and their closely held values. Once you determine the audience’s commonplace(s), you can use it(them) to fuel your argument (112). Think of an commonplace in the context of a courtroom. The courtroom represents the “court of public opinion.” The audience is the judge and in a way, the jury, that determines whether you (the lawyer) have the right opinions or values. It is your job as the lawyer to use the commonplace as a basis of your opening argument and then give them an offer that would work in their favor in your closing argument (119). The advantageous is a rhetorical technique that “gives the audience what they value” (119). It is giving them a “solution” that works to their advantage and in their best interest. The key to persuasion in this context is to determine their beliefs and then build an argument that tailors to it (119).
Chapter 12 also provides logical techniques that can be used to strengthen an argument. In this chapter the author introduces us to the technique of framming. Framing is redefining or resets the boundaries of an argument in a more favorable position (121). There are three essential steps to framing, the first being to determine the audience’s “commonplace words” or words that either “appeal” or “repel” your audience that can be used against them (122). The second step is to “define the issue,” reframe and expand the definition of the commonplace word so that it can attract a greater number of people (124). The third and final step is to then narrow the boundaries and focus on a specific problem or stance (131). This can be done through either fact, definition, quality, or relevance (131). I think of framing as a WWE match. Typically there is some kind of drama or delima introduced before the fight actually begins that adds to theatrics of the fight. In beginning of the match, two wrestlers start off in the ring. As the fight continues, occasionally they will leave the ring and fight in the perimeter using chairs and other props. This widens the “ring” or boundary that they fight in. Then in a “Hell in a Cell” fight, a cage is put over the ring; narrowing the fighting space and putting the opponent or opponents exactly where you want them.
Journal Entry #2
Chapter 13 is dedicated to Aristotle’s logos. There is a common misconception that logos refers to facts, statistics, numbers, and so on in an argument. In reality, logos can be successfully implemented by not using facts at all, but rather the audience’s commonplaces or beliefs (136). The majority of the chapter is centered around deductive reasoning or deductive logic. This is when a persuader states uses a commonplace or “premise” as the basis of his or her “conclusion” (the choice they are trying to get the audience to make)(141). Take this argument for example, “We cannot trust Zac, he lied about breaking the vase last week.” Here we start with a general conclusion or choice, “we cannot trust Zac,” and then use a premise or the proof to back it up. The commonplace implied here is “lying is bad and makes a person trustworthy.” In other words, deductive logic is making a claim and then backing it up with evidence (a commonplace).
Chapter 14 is all about spotting logical fallacies in an argument. A logical fallacy occurs when there is a flaw in the persuader’s deductive logic or reasoning (151). The author contributes logical fallacies to three weaknesses in deductive reasoning: “bad proof, bad conclusion, and disconnect between proof and conclusion” (168). Throughout the chapter, the author breaks these down further into “seven deadly logical sins” (151). I found the the first deadly logical sin, false comparison, to be the most interesting “sin” particularly, the all natural fallacy. A false comparison occurs when the persuader compares two completely opposite things to prove a point or make a claim (ie comparing broccoli to a candy bar) (152). This is brings flaws to a persuader’s proof. The author uses the all natural fallacy as an example (153). The author talks about how putting healthy “all natural” ingredients into a known unhealthy snack, such as a doughnut, does not make the snack healthy thus, creating a false comparison. This reminds me of a tweet I saw today. Many people assume that if a type of food or snack is lower in calories, then food is “healthier.” The tweet compared the caloric value of Nutella and an avocado. While the avocado has more calories than Nutella, it has more nutritional value than the hazelnut spread thus, deflating the notion that lower caloric values equates to healthier snacks. This false comparison can be seen below.
Chapter 16 teaches the reader to use ethos as a “lie detector” test (198). The author equips the readers with strategies that allow them to detect “manipulation” or lack of sincerity/trustworthiness in a persuader’s argument (189). The author states by looking for disconnects in interests (disinterest) and virtue, a person can determine a persuader’s trustworthiness and credibility (190). Disinterest refers to the needs and interests of both the audience and the persuader and whether they match up (191). Virtue refers to the persuader’s state of character during an argument and how he defines his “choices” (195). According to the author a virtuous persuader is one that meets in the middle of the audience’s values/opinions (195). In short, does the persuader’s needs and values match the audiences?
Journal Entry #3
Chapter 17 is dedicated finding the audience’s sweet spot. The previous chapter discusses the persuader’s ethos, particularly his virtue (character) and disinterest (caring) (203). This chapter discusses practical wisdom or craft, meaning, does he or she have the ability to make the right choice or how the persuader is going to act. Here, the sweet spot refers to the persuaders ability to make the right judgement that lies within the “mean” (202). One way to assess a persuader’s practical wisdom is by listening for a “that depends” statement (199). A persuader who effectively uses practical wisdom will look at an argument or issue at all angles and consider the circumstances of the situation before making a final judgement call. The author uses “When should I potty train my child?” as an example (199). The “wise answer” will take the specific needs and characteristics of the child into consideration before producing an answer (200).
Chapter 18 is all about how to deal with bullies. The author explains that bullies are usually the ones who are yelling and aggressively inserting their opinion within a confrontation (207). He also reviews the concepts of audience targeting and goal setting (208). A bully is probably the last person you want to try to persuade, instead try targeting your bystanders (208). The bystanders are more than likely going to sympathize with you; allowing you to build upon your credibility or ethos (208). One way to do this is by using “ironic love” as a technique (209). The goal of a bully is to ultimately embarrass you and make you feel inferior (209). Ironic love allows you to turn the table on the bully by pretending to “love,” show interest or even pity the bully (209). This allows you to put the power back into your hands. As stated in the chapter, Amy Schumer used ironic love during one of her shows when a man asked her to show her breasts (209). Amy stopped in the middle of the set and focused her attention on the “heckler.” She feigned interest in him by asking him personal questions; redirecting the power back to her (209). The clip below is a video of the heckler’s public roasting. Viewer discretion is advised.
Chapter 19 focuses on the cleverness and witty side of an argument by introducing the audience to figures of speech. I am famous for thinking of clever comebacks hours after the argument has occurred. This is a concept introduced by the author called “l’espirt de l’escalier and stehrwitt” or “the spirit of the staircase” (216). He explains that having an understanding of figures of speech and how to use them will resolve this common issue (216). One figure that is used frequently in my life is the either/or figure or dialysis. Dialysis is where a person presents two arguments next to each other in order to evoke the audience to make a choice (227). The author uses an example of a parent telling their child that they could “do their homework now and come to the movies or do it later with a babysitter” (227, lines 1-2). My mother used dialysis with me when I was younger especially, when she was trying to get me to clean my room . For example she would say, “Abbie you can either clean your room or I can come in with a trash bag and clean it myself.”
Journal Entry #4
Chapter 20 provides a more thorough explanation of tropes and how they can be used effectively within an argument. As a reminder, tropes refer to figures that “swap one image or concept for another” (222, line 12). Tropes include figures such as metaphors, synecdoche, metonymy, irony, hyperbole, and profanity (237). The author describes metonymies to be the most difficult trope to identify, yet the most common and powerful type (242). Metonymy is defined as, “a trope that takes a characteristic, container, action, sign, or material-among other things-and makes it stand for a bigger reality” (238, para 2). For example, if someone asks, “Do you need a hand?,” they are essentially asking you if you need help. This is considered a metonymy because the hand in this scenario represents something bigger, help or assistance.
Chapter 22 is dedicated to teaching readers how to identity with their audience. Specifically, how a persuader can use code grooming to persuade your audience to accept and identify your choice. Code grooming refers to using language or words that appeal to the group or audience’s identity and can elicit an emotional response (262-263). In the text, the author explains words such as “love” and “support” have been known to be common “code words” for women, but to use them wisely (262). To put simply, code grooming is all about speaking the audience’s language in a way that connects you with your audience (263).
Journal Entry #5
Chapter 25 discusses the importance of using the right medium to present your argument. As I read the chapter, I was reminded of an important lesson that my mother instilled in me at a very young age. My mom taught me that there is always “a time and place” for everything and stressed the importance of knowing when it was appropriate to do or say a certain thing. This is the main premise that Heinrichs presents in this chapter. A medium refers to a channel or how the argument is presented/delivered (face-to-face, email, presentation, text, jumbotron, etc.) (291). Selecting the appropriate medium is crucial to the effectiveness of a rhetor’s overall argument (299). Heinrichs claims that in order to choose the “right medium,” one must consider three things: timing, the type of Aristotelian appeal they want to employ (ethos, pathos, or logos, and the types of gestures or how they establish decorum with the audience (292).
I know that I personally have painful memories of writing personal essays throughout my high school and early college career. In chapter 28, Heinrichs teaches readers how to effectively write persuasive essay through multiple strategies. In one section of the chapter titled, Quirk It, the author presents the strategy of tactical flaw (334-335). Tactical flaw is a persuasive device that used by confessing a “flaw” or imperfection about yourself and using it to gain sympathy or promote reliability from your from/to your audience (335). This strategy can be used to build ethos with in a persuasive essay. The author argues that the primary goal of ethos in an essay is to provide a “lesson in humanity” (335). In other words, a rhetor wants to use his or her flaws in a way that can be relatable to anyone and that can be used to represent a larger idea/moral.