Argumentative Essay: History, Tips and Tricks

Argumentative Essay: History, Tips and Tricks

Philosophers Debating

The main purpose of essay writing is to develop our skill of putting our thoughts in words. An argumentative essay is the most reasonable and logical type of essay so you should be familiar with it if you want to make your thoughts and expressions clearer and to know how to argue with others.

History of Argumentation

Historically, the first type of essay was a descriptive essay. People were writing what they saw or felt, not worrying too much about the structure and lucidity of the text. These were the times when people were connected with a world without thinking about it. These were the times when they wrote down myths which were before just spoken within their land.

Book with Myths

Myths have an awesome feature which still draws a lot of scientists to this kind of worldview or literature. They do not fall under the laws of logic. They never explain anything in a rational way by using arguments. A myth only describes something, maybe explains, but never proves. A myth is something you should believe in without a doubt. Otherwise, you will not be able to live in the mythological world.

After a while there were certain changes in people’s worldview. They began to argue with each other, they began to rethink myths. This was a period in European history when the first philosophers appeared. This was a time when first argumentative essays were written.

First Argumentative Essay

Let us take a closer look at those philosophers. The first rational argumentative philosopher was Socrates. His aim was to make people doubt in their beliefs. This was the way to new knowledge for which Socrates, as basically every other philosopher, was striving the most. In fact, he never wrote any essays, but thanks to Plato and a bunch of other Greek philosophers we know now what argumentation really is.

Plato is the first argumentative essay writer. He wrote a lot of so-called “dialogues” in which he investigates a lot of fundamental questions which are still actual. His dialogues are the best example of an argumentative essay. The only problem is that the amount of words there is bigger than needed for an ordinary essay.

Each text has its main subject and main characters who talk about this subject. Each character has its own point of view, but there is always one of them (mostly Socrates), who knows better than others and who fights every objection to his opinion.

Rhetorics and Logic

Moreover, Plato was the first to establish certain views about nowadays sciences such as rhetoric and logic.

There were people in Ancient Greece at the time Plato and Socrates lived in, who were called “sophists”. Sophists were something like home-teaching philosophers. They were teaching rich people philosophy, but this philosophy was not quite correct. The thing is that sophists were telling only those things which their owners wanted to hear. Mostly, these were lies. They only wanted to earn good money and did not bother themselves with hard questions.

Ancient Philisopher

Plato was trying to show his folks the difference between two types of philosophers and teach them what thinking, reasoning and the truth is. That is why he was writing texts about rhetorics which he understood as an art of persuading others. He claimed that it is not enough to persuade someone, it is better to find the truth in a quarrel.

If you read some of his works you will definitely get the idea of good argumentation. Moreover, you may also learn how to make the lie sound reasonable, although Plato would most likely not appreciate this.

Structure of Argumentation

Plato’s successor and disciple Aristotle went further than his teacher. He literally wrote the conception of logic and rhetorics as sciences and, what more, defined what good argumentation means. In fact, we are still using a lot of what Aristotle wrote so that we can say that argumentative essay is one of his scientific children. If we are allowed to say so, then Plato is the first publisher of practical tips for argumentation and Aristotle is the first publisher of theoretical ones.

These theoretical tips include the structure of argumentation. For you to write an astonishing essay you should move forward using such steps:

  1. Define your main point.
  2. Search for possible objections.
  3. Search for the best ways to resolve those objections (facts, proves, reasonable arguments).
  4. Think through what you have already collected and put priorities to every other argument.
  5. Collect the whole argumentation in a form of successive expression of every other objection and argument.
  6. Summarize everything you wrote and make a strong persuasive conclusion.

Practical Tips

In case you do not know how to make a good point by defending your position, you should read certain argumentative essays or watch debates on YouTube. The process is rather understandable. One person comes with an idea or a main point. The other one is trying to object.

The thing is that objections never look like flat negation of someone’s point. You cannot just say that someone’s point is incorrect. You should prove it. As Aristotle defined in his book on rhetorics, there are two kinds of proofs. One is factual proof. It is when you refer to the objective reality and the experience of sciences and so on.

How Does It Work?

For example, your opponent said that there are no such thing as electric cars. You take them to the Tesla factory and they recognize that they were wrong.

What About the Other Way?

The other way to argue your point of view is the logical one. Here you do not refer to any empirical fact. You use logic and argumentation, referring to so-called common sense.

For example, your opponent claims that something can be true and false at the same time. You may use one of the laws of logic to prove them wrong.

Usually, we combine these two kinds of arguments. Moreover, nowadays logic has moved forward from the time of Aristotle so that there can sometimes appear problems when trying to convince others by using only old laws of classical logic. That is why for you not to be misunderstood it is better to use two types of proofs and refer to something that you are sure of.


Have any Question or Comment?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *