#1: Confirmation & Refutation

 Assignment Prompt: This will be a two-paragraphs-only essay (dispense with the introduction and conclusion): (I) Confirmation: In the first paragraph (less than a page), present an argument for one of the following theses: (1) Unjust laws should be obeyed. (2) Unjust laws should not be obeyed (3) Violence is justified in order to achieve justice. (4) Violence is not justified in order to achieve justice. (II) Refutation: Then, in a second paragraph, present a counter-argument that is opposed to your thesis, and identify precisely what error this counter-argument is making, i.e., refute it (see Note 2 below). Important points to note: (1) Notice that both paragraphs should present an argument—not just make assertions. How do I tell if an actual argument is being presented? If there is an appeal to evidence! Evidence can be taken (1) from authorities, (2) from experience, and most of all, (3) from reason, i.e., from presenting prior premises that are more certain and/or more commonly held, and from which the conclusion necessarily follows. Think of your argument as a formal syllogism; this will help you write a better argument! (2) Notice that there are many ways in which an argument can fail: (a) one of its premises may be false, (b) its premises might be true, but the argument might be invalid; (c) the argument might be perfectly sound, and yet not actually defeat your position, perhaps because it is not appropriately qualified, it is making judgments about different terms (using them equivocally or analogously), etc. (3) Notice that the counter-argument that you refute should be as strong an argument as possible. Beware of the “straw man fallacy,” i.e., of refuting a counter-argument that nobody would actually give. Instead, as Berquist reminded us, try to really see the evidence that both sides give and come up with a solution that takes into account all of the evidence. (4) Notice that a lot hinges on how you define your terms in your arguments. Make sure the disagreement you highlight is not merely a superficial disagreement about terminology.