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Courtney Cook COMM-4140 Essay 1: Toulmin’s Model on Argument 28 Wednesday 2011


Cook2 As human beings living in a controversial society we are faced with arguments on many different levels every single day; multiple times. Argumentation was explored and explained through several different mediums through the time period of 1917 to 1932. Stephen Toulmin whom was an English logician published a book in 1958 coining his model on argument. Stephen Toulmin’s basic definition is, “an argument is movement from accepted data through a warrant to a claim” (Brockriede & Enhinger). In addition to the data, warrant and claim components in an argument, Toulmin also added a second triad that consisted of; the backing, rebuttal and qualifier. Even though every argument contains the components of the first triad which are; data, warrant and claim, the components of the second triad aren’t always applicable. As mentioned earlier we as individuals are faced with arguments in many aspects in our everyday lives, through many different forms of medium. In an opinion editorial written by Robert Leuch, the article focuses on past events that took place where officers have now been accused of killing innocent citizens. This particular opinion editorial presents the readers with many different arguments. The overall argument that the editor is making throughout the editorial document is; is that the officers are not the one who made the mistakes in this tragic situation where lives were lost. The first argument that is presented by Robert Leuch in his OP-ED is in regards to the overall tragedy in the situation. The claim he is making states, “tragic, horrible—but an aberration? Hardly. Such things are rooted in the human realities of police work” (Leuch. 2007). Leuch then continues with his argument with the data stating a case that occurred a few years later in the year of 1999 where police officers were patrolling the Bronx and when an African American seemed to fit the description as well as presented a threat to the officers by reaching into his pocket. Officers then opened fire on the man; reaching their target. Leuch is presenting


Cook3 the argument that cases like these have occurred in other instances when it comes to the line of police work. Leuch also states, “it was an unmitigated tragic mistake – the police in a matter of seconds fired 41 shots, 19 of which found their mark” (Leuch. 2007). These two statements serve as the data to back up the claim that Leuch has made in regards to cases like these being tragic and horrible, but they are things that are inevitable in this line of work. In the movement of this argument, it needs the data to be carried to the claim by the warrant which is; “Assassins they were not. Mindless executioners – of course not. When they realized what had happened, in the dark of that hallway, two or three sat on the curb, crying” (Leuch. 2007). Leuch is presenting the point that these police officers do not wish for cases like these to occur, nor do they plan acts as these; but “such things are rooted in the human realities of police work.” A qualifier and backing were not applicable in this argument, but a rebuttal presented itself posing the question of; why can’t acts such as this be avoided in the reality of police work, instead of being cases that are just rooted into our reality? Leuch poses a strong argument through his claim, data, and warrant, and although many may accept the argument he is posing, I believe it is an argument that will easily be rejected by some. The second argument that is presented by Leuch is the fact of who is to blame in this situation; the police officers or the citizens. The claim that is being made is, “certainly there were mistakes made, terrible life-threatening mistakes. But it was the occupants of that car who made them” (Leuch. 2007). The argument then moves in to the data that strengthens the claim by saying, “one of these officers now indicted had never fired his gun before, despite having made more than 600 arrests” (Leuch. 2007). This specific statement is stating that even though this police officer has many several arrests in his career and to assume some of those may have been dangerous situations; he still never once fired his gun. “Empirical data will show you that the


Cook4 Police Department is more cautious with the use of force now than at any time in its history” (Leuch. 2007). This statement serves as the warrant in the argument because it carries the data that was stated to the claim to make it seem true or acceptable. Although not every argument presents the components of the second triad that is presented in Toulmin’s model, this particular one presents two of the three. The backing in this argument would be, “It’s also worth noting that we are hearing the usual cries of police racism, even though two of the indicted officers are black” (Leuch. 2007). This statement serves as backing to the warrant, making the overall claim stronger in favor of what Robert Leuch is trying to argue. The other component of the second triad that is present is the rebuttal. Leuch claims that the occupants of the car are the individuals who made the mistake in this situation, as some may say that the police officers were the ones who made the mistakes. As one can imagine this opinion editorial raised many different emotions which resulted in responses fleeing in presenting many new arguments. Another claim that was made as a result from the arguments presented by Robert Leuch’s was, “rather it is to note that black men are inordinately subject to violence at the hands of the state” (Lavin. 2007). To keep the argument in movement the next part of the first triad that is presented is the data. “Perhaps the racism comes in not because individual offers set out to beat or shoot black mean, but became officers and jurors are prepared to see black bodies—such as, we remember, the severely beaten body of Rodney King—as sites of potential violence” (Lavin. 2007). Once again in this argument the data is carried to the claim by the warrant stating, “as with most injustices in our world, the source is not individual evil, but structural conditions that bestow great suffering on specific populations” (Lavin. 2007). I did not identify all the components of the second triad in this


Cook5 argument but the rebuttal for this argument is; white men are inordinately subject to violence at the hands of the states. The main argument in this opinion editorial that underlined the article as a whole to be the point of what Robert Leuch was trying to argue for was; who was ultimately to blame for these lost lives. As stated previously the claim of this argument is, “certainly there were mistakes made, terrible life-threatening mistakes. But it was the occupants of that car who made them.” This is a very powerful claim by Robert Leuch and to make such a powerful, bold claim that presents an argument one must provide a substantial amount of strength to allow individuals to accept or reject it. I believe Lecuh presented a small amount of evidence to back up the claim he is stating, but I do not believe the data provided is substantial enough to make this a strong argument. I presume it to be true that many assumptions will be made after Leuch’s claim is made because there is not enough data and backing, which results in individuals rejecting this particular claim. I believe in this argument the warrant is strong enough to carry the data to the claim and supports it significantly. I see it to be true that because of lacking a reasonable amount of data and backing, that this argument isn’t as strong as it could be because it presents the issue of having a rebuttal and assumptions. Leuch doesn’t provide enough evidence to support his claim as to why the occupants in the car are the ones to blame for this terrible life-threatening situation that occurred. A substantial amount of data, backing, and a qualifier would have made Leuch’s overall argument much stronger, given individuals like myself more of a reason to accept rather than reject.


Cook6 As individuals we are faced with arguments on a daily basis, as I have probably posed several arguments throughout this paper. Although Toulmin’s model is not the only analysis of an argument it; “provides an appropriate structural model by means of which rhetorical arguments may be laid out for analysis and criticism; and second, they suggest a system for classifying artistic proofs which employs argument as a central unifying construct” (Brockriede & Ehniger). It contain two triads made up of the; claim, data and warrant, as well as the; qualifier, rebuttal and backing. These are the components that were used in Robert Leuch’s opinion editorial to identify the arguments, as well as identify the strength of them to accept or reject them.


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Appendix

Diagram 1: Leuch’s Argument 1 Data: Two years later, in early February 1999, a team of plainclothes police officers were patrolling in the Bronx looking for an armed serial racist--.

Qualifier: N/A

Claim: Tragic, horrible – but an aberration? Hardly. Such things are rooted in the human realities of police work.


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Warrant: Assassins they were not. Mindless executioners—of course not. When they realized what had happened, in the dark of that hallway, two or three sat on the curb, crying.

Rebuttal: Who is to say we can’t avoid acts like these in the line of police work instead of having them just be something we accept in our reality?

Backing: N/A

Diagram 2: Leuch’s Argument 2 Data: One of these officers now indicted had never fired his gun before despite having made more than 600 arrests. Warrant: Empirical data will show you that the Police Department is more cautious with the use of force now than at any time in its history. Backing: It’s also worth noting that we are hearing the usual cries of police racism even though two of the indicted officers are black.

Qualifier: N/A

Rebuttal: Someone may argue that the police officers were the ones who made the terrible life-threatening mistakes.

Claim: Certainly there were mistakes made, terrible lifethreatening mistakes. But it was the occupants of the car who made them.

Essay on Toulmin's Model  

Essay on Toulmin's Model for Argumentation Class at UCD.

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