Arguments based on Facts and Reason-Logos

A good argument will take all three elements into account - pathos, ethos, and logos (emotional appeal, ethical appeal, and logical appeal.)
A good logical appeal alone is often not enough to convince certain audiences (depending on the type and purpose of argument).
Aristotle gives us a place to begin:
Proofs based on facts and reasons can be divided into two kinds:

  1. Those derived from hard evidence
    1. "Inartistic appeals," or facts, clues, statistics, testimonies, witnesses, etc.
  2. Those derived from reason and common sense
    1. "artistic" appeals

Hard evidence is not always available, yet we still have to make choices based on common sense.
Is there hard evidence for the best car to buy? The best college to attend? Whether to attend college at all?

Providing Hard Evidence

Arguments based on facts and testimonies are preferred to arguments based on reason.
Would you rather be convicted of a crime based upon facts and testimony, rather than one based on reason?

Duke Lacrosse team incident

We have more faith in claims that can be measured, counted, photographed, or analyzed, rather than those that are merely defended with words.

All arguments require two things:

Statement + proof (or in other words, Claim + supporting evidence.)

In a scholarly article, you can see this connection between the claim, made in the writing itself, and the supporting evidence found in the citations (which are, themselves, Claims with supporting evidence, and so on…)


Facts are the core of an argument. Gathering and transmitting facts faithfully are what scholars (and journalists) are supposed to do.

Note from the text, however, how Lindgren's review of Bellesisles's Arming America refutes what Bellesisles claims are facts. Lindgren shows that the "facts" are not factual, and thus the conclusions based upon them is false.
Facts should be above political thinking or ideology…but often they are not.

Bush lied, people died?
Women are delicate and shouldn't be corrupted by politics, so women shouldn't be allowed to vote?
There is no longer any (rational, scientific) debate about global warming, since 1000s of scientists agree it is real?
Big business and corporations favor Republican candidates?

Arguing with facts sometimes involves challenging the biases of reputable sources if they lead to unfair or selective reporting.
There are many people (online critics and bloggers) who consistently and continually point out the biases or factual mistakes of mainstream media outlets.
In an ideal world, good information (facts) would drive out the bad (pseudo-facts). But sometimes bad information gets repeated over and over, until it is considered the truth

Were weapons of mass destruction found/not found in Iraq?
Note Colin Powell's discussion in the text(85) of how he and others based a decision on what turns out to be incorrect information. But was it incorrect?
Was the reason the USA declared war on Iraq because Bush mistakenly thought Hussein was involved in 9/11?
The war in Iraq is illegal?

You need to learn to look beyond headlines (which are mere CLAIMS), bylines and reputations (some expert or person you like/hate said it), scrutinizing any facts you collect before passing them on yourself.

Test their reliability, and admit problems at the start.


Numbers never speak for themselves--they are always interpreted.
Writers often have agendas which shape their interpretations.

The report titled "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings" reveals that over an adult's working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million; those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and people with a master's degree, $2.5 million.

Persons with doctoral degrees earn an average of $3.4 million during their working life, while those with professional degrees do best at $4.4 million.

Wow, that sounds great! So you go to college, and you get rich! Unfortunately, what is wrong with interpeting the numbers this way?

can expect, on average, to earn...will you be above or below that average? What will your working life be?

Currently, almost 9-in-10 young adults graduate from high school and about 6-in-10 high school seniors go on to college the following year.

On to UW Seattle we go... What can we make the numbers tell us?

So, when you cite statistics in support of your arguments, what do you have to make sure of?

Are these facts?

Surveys and Polls

What do surveys and polls tell you?

(What a certain group of people polled prefer...if they are telling the truth, and if the survey/poll is worded fairly.)

Bias easily slips if you are not aware of the problem.

Are surveys emotional appeals, factual appeals, or ethical appeals?

Be very careful of citing poll numbers that agree with your preconceptions.Why?

Are surveys and polls facts?

Testimonies, Narratives and Interviews

Human experiences can also be factual information.

Is it subjective or objective information?

The testimony of a reliable witness helps support a claim.

Look at the case of Jeff Luers, convicted of setting fire to 3 SUVs at a auto dealership (pp 91-92)

Luers defends his actions in an interview, claiming that how we define terrorism is the key issue regarding his guilt or innocence. Are his actions justified? Are they legal? What happens when your bias gets in the way of the story?Is the interviewer critical, neutral or sympathetic?

How many people have given testimony that waterboarding torture? Does mere testimony make it so?

Reason and Common Sense

When there are no hard facts available, then claims can be supported with other types of compelling reasons or logic.

Logic is basically a system that describes (and even prescribes) how we think, or how we reach conclusions.

We all do this every day:

Note that these seem persuasive, especially if you ALREADY agree with the assumptions upon which they are based. This is dangerous for you as a critical reader, because you will tend to skip over the "holes" unless you train yourself to fully expand and break down (analyze) important arguments.

Each of these arguments is using unspoken or assumed specific information, like this one

I'll buy an iPod because they're much more fashionable than a Zune.

What is unspoken in the following arguments?

So you can see that most of us are familiar with these compressed arguments that the text (and Aristotle) termed enthymemes (a nice word, but not necessary to memorize for this class.)

If your arguments contain these compressions, they can be faulty:

In cases like these, you'll have to work much harder to defend the claim and the assumptions, since you assume they are obvious or self evident, yet your reader may not. You will have to be able to support the claim by supplying credible evidence for each part of the argument.

Cultural Assumptions and Values

Some assumptions in an argument will be based on values shared by the writer and the intended audience.

You must be aware of the actual--not ASSUMED--cultural values of your audience, if you want to appeal successfully to them, or if you want to challenge them successfully. If you get this wrong, then your argument will be flawed.

Providing Logical Structure for Argument

In the next section of the textbook, we'll discuss patterns and strategies that you can apply to a successful argument.

Don't write to fill the pattern (like a 5 paragraph essay)--use these strategies as different tools to build an effective argument for your purpose and your audience. There is a LOT of overlap and grey area between them, which is why this is an ARTS class rather than a SCIENCE class.

The book lists a few types of logical structures to build on

Degree--more a good thing is good; less of a bad thing is also good.

Since we know that putting toys in Happy Meals causes kids to eat unhealthy food, we will force McDonalds to not offer the toy, thereby reducing childhood obesity.

We could invade Iran now to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, or we could invade Iran later after they have nuclear weapons, which would justify our invasion.

If learning a foreign language is a good idea, we should require all college graduates to have at least 3 years of passing grades in a foreign language.

Analogies--explaining one idea or concept by comparing it to something else that is familiar to the audience. (X is like Y)

Environmentalism is like a religion--In The Wall Street Journal, Paul Rubin writes that Greens have a holy day, food taboos and sacrificial rituals. They proselytize too.

A floobarb is no more dangerous than a wixnorm.

However, arguments by analogy are often abused, or fallacious:

Students are a lot like nails--you have to hit them on the head for them to do any work.

We can't allow the fencing club to do demonstrations in our Middle School--we are a no-weapons school and fencing swords are weapons.

Precedent-- comparing one thing to another; they did it there, setting the precedent, so why don't we do it here?

If gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, why can't we allow gay marriage in Washington?

Heterosexual marriages can be dissolved by law in Texas. However, homosexual marriages are not recognized, so gay couples who get married in Massachusetts, move to Texas, and then later ask for a divorce, cannot be granted that divorce since their marriage is not recognized by Texas law.

What was done in the past should be continued--President Roosevelt in the 1930s signed a law stating that people who are arrested can be asked to provide documentation for legal residency, and if they do not have it, they can be deported.

What was done in the past should not be continued--Those millions of people crossing the border into the USA just want a chance to better their lives, just like all the rest of us immigrants (except perhaps black slaves, who were forcibly immigrated). Thus, we can't just deport them.


Are the following statements examples of hard evidence or rational appeals?

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Drunk driver are involved in over 50% of traffic deaths.

DNA tests taken of fluids in the woman's vagina showed that they came from various males, but none of them were the Duke Lacrosse players.

We need to test ALL the DNA of the Duke Lacrosse players, even those who were not actually at the party.

A University researcher claimed that according to her research, violent video games do not cause violent behavior among the most often cited group of teenage and young adult males.

A CEO for GameStar software claims that violent video games do not cause those who play them to become violent.

Air bags in vehicles should be removed since they can kill young children and small-framed adults.

I need to buy a hybrid automobile to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

2009 Honda 2.2 liter European Accord diesel to hit 52 mpg. But you can't buy one in America.

The ECOnetic Fiesta that Ford sells in Europe is a sporty little five-passenger hatchback that gets 65 mpg and emits less CO2 than a Toyota Prius. It is the greenest family car sold in Britain and just the thing to boost Ford’s sales - and image - at home. But Ford has no plans to bring it to America for one simple, stupid, reason.

It’s a diesel.The Fiesta sports a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with direct injection. It produces just 88 horsepower, so acceleration is, shall we say, relaxed, but European customers don’t seem to mind. They’ve snapped up more than 42,000 of them since the car’s debut last fall.