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Counterargument: an opposition to your thesis
statement or your sub-claims
Expresses the view of someone who disagrees with
To strengthen your essay, anticipate
counterarguments to your claims and address
them in your paper
Study, research, and learn the opposing
positions well enough to discuss them
accurately and to precisely explain why the
opposition is incorrect
What is their main claim/thesis statement? What are
What evidence do they use?
What’s their logic?
What are the weaknesses in their argument?
Where you discuss counterarguments depends
on how you structure your paper
After certain sub-claims
If you make a claim that you think readers would
immediately object to, then it’s a good idea to refute the
counterargument before moving on with your paper.
At the end of your essay, before the conclusion
You can devote at least a paragraph to refuting
counterarguments to your main thesis statement.
Quote or paraphrase your opponents’ viewpoints and
the evidence they’ve given, and discuss why they’re
Sam Harris’ “Science Can Answer Moral Questions”
Counterargument addressed within the body of the argument,
after a sub-claim
[V]alue’s reduced to facts – to facts about the conscious
experience of conscious beings. And we can therefore visualize
a space of possible changes in the experience of these beings.
[…] Now, many of you might worry that the notion of well-
being is truly undefined, and seemingly perpetually open to be
re-construed. And so, how therefore can there be an objective
notion of well-being? Well, consider by analogy, the concept of
physical health. The concept of physical health is undefined.
[…] Notice that the fact that the concept of health is open,
genuinely open for revision, does not make it vacuous. (Harris)
Sub-claim stating that values are related to facts about conscious
Rebuttal to counterargument
Counterargument discussed at the end of the paper,
before the conclusion
Thesis statement: “As Sam Harris says, science is indeed
capable of providing a universal moral truth that is based
on the goal of decreasing human suffering.”
Moral relativists may argue that objective morality does not
exist, that “moral right and wrong are to be relativized to a
community’s ‘moral code’” (Boghossian) and that “[w]e
should reject moral absolutes, even as we keep our moral
convictions, allowing that there can be right and wrong
relative to this or that moral code, but no right and wrong
per se” (Boghossian). However, such claims do not take into
account scientific findings that suggest there is a universal
human moral code applicable across cultures.
Paper then goes on to discuss moral relativism and its flaws.
In order to write effective counterarguments,
you must research and study the opposition’s
Who disagrees with you and why?
What are their claims?
Why are they wrong?
Boghossian, Paul. “The Maze of Moral
Relativism.” New York Times. New York Times, 24 Jul.
2011. Web. 19 Dec. 2014.
Harris, Sam. “Science Can Answer Moral
Questions.” TED. Long Beach Performing Arts Center,
Long Beach, CA, USA. 11 Feb. 2010. Conference