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Assignment Two: Values

Composing Schedule:

Invention Questions: See Syllabus for due dates
First Draft: Monday March 6
Second Draft: Wednesday March 8
Complete Draft Due: Monday March 20

The Assignment: In your conjectures paper, the first assignment in this class, you described the ways in which people depict a state of affairs about which there is disagreement. This assignment asks you now to consider something that is a bit more difficult to determine: the structure of values that create agreements and disagreement. How do people evaluate issues? What can we learn about their (and our own) place in the culture by the kinds of evaluation they make? You will return to the issue you developed for the first assignment in this class.

Goal: The focus of this assignment will be on evaluation, on deciding about the quality of an idea, situation, event, or thing by exploring the values implied by the parties involved in the issue, and arguing which party has the superior position based on their values. The point of this assignment is to help you understand the social situation of an argument and how values influence the presentation and reception of an argument.

Composition
You will take a position on the issue you discussed in the first assignment. Therefore, you will look at the conjectures you developed and see which ones better match your position on the issue. Then you will identify the commonplaces held by this party and the ideologies to which they subscribe. From this, you will be able to pinpoint the values upheld by the party. Then you will look at opposing parties and do the same thing with their conjectures. Now you will be able to write a persuasive evaluation of the different positions people hold on the issue, clearly showing which position is best based on values.

Audience or Readers
Direct your response to this assignment to some audience whose thinking you want to influence. Your credibility will be very important in persuading this audience to adopt your evaluation of the issue or position, so you should take care to present yourself as someone who is reasonably well informed about the issue or civic action you are discussing.

You may choose an audience that is open-minded about your evaluation. Or if you want to attempt something a bit more challenging (but this can be easier), choose an audience that is skeptical or even hostile to you or your evaluation. If you are evaluating the merits of gun control, for example, you can imagine yourself writing an essay for members of the National Rifle Association. If you are evaluating the location of an abortion clinic in Tempe, imagine your audience as members of the Christian Coalition or of NOW.

In some cases, your selection of an audience may require you to invent a fictional character for yourself, as someone who is a party to the argument. (If you choose a specific imagined audience and invent a character for yourself for this assignment, please include a description of both of these in a cover page).

At minimum:

1. The completed paper ought to state your position on the issue, action, or policy or the position of someone who is party to the arguments (if this is appropriate to the situation you have imagined).

2. The paper should clearly state as well any competing positions that are relevant to the situation. It should also state the values that are at stake in this argument, defend or attack these, and show how they are at work in the various positions taken in the argument.

3. The paper should also consider alternative views and counter-arguments where relevant, and you should provide all evidence that is persuasive for the arguments you advance in support of your case.

4. To do an effective job of evaluating the position of your own party and opposing parties, you will want to evaluate the quality of the evidence presented. Does the party use evidence based on fact and reason, appeal to emotions, and appeal to character, and if so, are these appeals sufficient? This might require that you do additional research to find developed supporting evidence for all parties.

Invention Work for Values

1. As you can see, you should become as informed about the issue as you can. You have done quite a bit of research already, but there is always more to find. Use the Internet and the library; talk to friends and relatives and those people who are closely involved with the issue or policy. For example, if you choose to write about a decision made by the Arizona legislature, try to contact the legislators who were involved in making the decision by either phone or e-mail. Better yet, get an interview.

2. Once you are confident that you know as much as possible about the issue or policy, try to write out your position on it.

a) State your position as clearly and briefly as you can.
b) Now write out statements of the positions held by other parties to the issue or policy. Note: your position may change as you work through this heuristic.
c) Then reread your conjecture paper to find those conjectures that match your own position on the issue. Write a paragraph or two in which you identify the commonplaces held by this party and the ideologies to which they subscribe.
d) Then look at opposing parties and do the same thing with their conjectures.

3. Now comes the hard work of figuring out what values underlie the positions you have defined on the issue or policy. Here are some suggestions for doing this:

(a) The virtues most valued by ancient teachers of rhetoric were honor, justice, goodness, and expediency. Explain what each of these values means today?
Are these values still upheld by the party whose position you most agree with? In other words, does this party value honor?
Try to write out a definition of "honor" and give an example of where you see respect for that value operating in this party.
Write a definition for the values of justice, goodness, and expediency and give an example of where you see respect for each value operating in this party by writing out the appeal to that value the party would make.
Now do the same thing for at least one of the opposing parties.

(b) Most likely, members of parties who have conjectured this issue value a number of virtues that have been historically important in America: honesty, sincerity, democracy, freedom, and equality.
Have any current values been left out of this list? If so, name them.
Write out a definition of one or two of these values (or others that you think are important) and give an example of where you see respect for that value operating in the party you agree with by writing out the appeal to that value the party would make.
Now do the same for opposing parties.

(c) Ancient teachers of rhetoric detested injustice, actions that dishonored individuals, families, or communities, and evil acts; and they were impatient with people who wasted resources.
Are these vices still abhorrent? What are some current examples of any of these vices?
Are there other vices that members of the party you agree with abhor? (Consider such vices as greed, unfairness, intolerance and so on. Define these vices and give examples of where they might be practiced. Remember, it is likely that appeals to vices are more or less hidden by persons who make vicious arguments.

(d) Answer the following questions about the values being appealed to by those parties involved in all sides of the issue that you have chosen to study for this assignment:

Questions of Values

Simple Questions of Quality or Value:
Is it a good or a bad thing? Should it be sought or avoided? Is it right or wrong? Is it honorable or dishonorable?

Comparative Questions of Quality or Value:
Is it better or worse than something else? Is it more desirable than any alternatives? Is it less desirable than any alternatives? Is it more or less right than something else? Is it more or less wrong than something else? Is it more honorable than something else? Is it less honorable than something else? Is it more base than something else? Is it less base than something else?

Relative Questions of Quality or Value:
Is it greater than the mean or norm? Is it less than the mean or norm? Is it relatively greater than something else? Is it relatively less than something else? Is it good, just, beautiful, honorable, enjoyable, etc? Is it better, more just, etc? Is it less good, less just, etc? Is it good, etc. for all persons? Is it good, etc. for a few persons or groups? Has it been better, etc. in the past? Will it be better, etc. in the future?