1. What did you think of when you encountered the word argument as you began reading this chapter? What do you think now? (150-200 words)
The first thing that normally comes to mind when I think of argument is "To make a case for." This is my own personal definition, and it really comes from that fact that as a writer, a father, and someone who likes to go online and engage in unmoderated messageboard debate (meaning that sources are rarely cited, unless I'm trying to move in for the kill on a particular topic), I am frequently called on to justify my point of view on a given topic. For example, when I tell my oldest child that she cannot go over to her friend's house to play for the day, in order to seem like a fair parent, I need to make the arguments that we might be leaving the house soon, her friend's parents said that they would be busy for the day, and that she's still grounded for cutting the cat's hair with the scissors. Of course this is a very easy argument to win because I am the final authority in this case.
According to Nancy V. Wood, in Essentials of Argument, "Argument classes are taught in college because they improve the students' ability to read and think critically and write or speak about signifficant problems and issues that have social consequences. (5)" In my experience in the real world, a number of people end up in careers that have nothing to do with the field in which they earned their degree in college. The fact that they have a college degree is often enough to earn them the opportunity to fill various positions based solely upon the fact that they are able to think problems through critically and then act upon them competently.
When properly used, argument informs us of critical things, such as the best candidate to vote for in an election based upon their stance on the issues rather than whether or not we simply like them as individuals. Critical thinking helps us watch a movie and then evaluate it based on the artistry of the film making as well as the message it is trying to convey. For instance, is a war movie trying to expose the horrors of war by showing the plight of a soldier, as in Saving Private Ryan? Is it a propaganda film that is meant to influence the audience to support U.S. interests abroad, as I would argue that the third Rambo movie does? Critical thinking allows us to determine which products are the best to buy based on its features, benefits, and consumer reviews as opposed to relying on the hype of salespeople.
When faced with a complex problem, how do we deal with it? We must be able to come to decisions and then present arguments to explain why we took the actions that we took. We must also be able to analyze the arguments made by others to decide whether we agree or disagree with what they are saying, and sometimes offer up counter-arguments in an attempt to change a proposed course of action.
Honestly, my opinion about argument isn't any different now than it was before the reading. Argument is everywhere in our society, and it makes us better and more useful individuals if we recognize it when we see it and analyze it to determine the best way to process it.
2. Why did you choose your magazine? (75-100 words)
I chose Discover because of all of the magazines that were listed, it was the one that appealed to me the most. It is the one magazine from the list we were given that is most likely to have articles that I'd be interested in reading. I enjoy science articles, yet not coming from a background in hard science, I fit perfectly with this magazine's target audience. Discover is a science magazine for lay-people. In other words I like to read about all of the neat new developments in science and technology, but I'm not particularly interested in trying to make sense of the complexity of the actual science since I lack the background.
1. Wood, Nancy. Essentials of Argument. 2nd. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc, 2009.