English 104: Counterarguments


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English 104: Counterarguments

  1. 1. Counterarguments
  2. 2.  Counterargument: an opposition to your thesis statement or your sub-claims  Expresses the view of someone who disagrees with your position  To strengthen your essay, anticipate counterarguments to your claims and address them in your paper
  3. 3.  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 their sub-claims?  What evidence do they use?  What’s their logic?  What are the weaknesses in their argument?
  4. 4.  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 incorrect.
  5. 5.  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 experience  Anticipated counterargument  Rebuttal to counterargument
  6. 6.  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.
  7. 7.  In order to write effective counterarguments, you must research and study the opposition’s claims  Who disagrees with you and why?  What are their claims?  Why are they wrong?
  8. 8. 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 Presentation.