Evidence is the foundation of an argument, it is the “facts” that establishes the accuracy of an argument.
Evidence is one element of proof (the second is reasoning).
Structure Of An Argument
The Roof of the structure is the Claim.
The Beams are Contentions.
The Pillars are Reasoning.
The Foundation of the argument is Evidence .
Determining The Amount Of Evidence Needed
An advocate must deal with one of the following audience types:
Audience already supports an advocate’s position on a claim.
Audience has made no commitment to granting adherence to the advocated point of view.
Audience is opposed to the advocate’s point of view.
Types Of Evidence
Precedent evidence – act or event which establishes expectations for future conduct.
Two forms : legal and personal.
Legal precedent – most powerful and most difficult types of evidence to challenge.
Personal precedent – result of watching the personal actions of others in order to understand the expectations for future behaviors.
Statistical evidence – primarily of polls, surveys, and experimental results from the laboratory.
Numerical reporting of specific instances.
Provides a means for communicating a large number of specific instances without citing each one.
Testimonial evidence – the purpose of assigning motives, assessing responsibilities, and verifying actions for past, present and future events.
Three forms: eyewitness, expert-witness, and historiography.
Eyewitness testimony – personal declaration as to the accuracy of an event.
Types Of Evidence Continued
Expert-witness – someone qualified to make a personal declaration about the nature of the fact in question.
Historiography – “concerned with the discovery, use, and verification of evidence. The historian traces influences, assigns motives, evaluates roles, allocates responsibilities, and juxtaposes event in an attempt to reconstruct the past. Reconstruction is no wiser, no more accurate or dependable than the dependability of the evidence the historian uses for his reconstruction.”
Hearsay evidence – a.k.a rumor or gossip. An assertion or set of assertions widely repeated from person to person, though its accuracy is unconfirmed by firsthand observation.
Common knowledge evidence – A way to support one’s arguments. Most useful in providing support for arguments which lack any real controversy.
Credibility Of Evidence
All information is biased because all information goes through an interpretation process. The credibility of the evidence you use can be enhanced by:
Specific Reference to Source: Does the advocate indicate the particular individual or group making the statements used for evidence? Does the advocate tell you enough about the source that you could easily find it yourself?
Qualifications of the Source: Does the advocate give you reason to believe that the source is competent and well informed in the area in question?
Credibility Of Evidence Continued
Bias of the Source: Even if expert, is the source likely to be biased on the topic? Could we easily predict the source’s position merely from a knowledge of his job, her political party, or organization she works for?
Factual Support: Does the source offer factual support for the position taken or simply state personal opinions as fact?
In his book, Argumentation and Debate, Austin J. Freeley discusses the uses of evidence. He says that the various types of evidence can be use in two ways:
To establish Conclusive Proof for your position. Conclusive proof is using evidence in such a way that the law will not permit it to be contradicted, or that it is strong and convincing enough to override any objections to it.
To establish Circumstantial Proof for your position. This is where the various types of evidence are used to form a link strong enough to prove your point. Using the different types of evidence as support gives the argument a the strength needed to establish the accuracy of your argument.