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Academic Arguments and the Meaning of Words

In his “Academic Arguments,” Fish argues that academic arguments are valued based on “originality” and appropriateness of the argument he or she is defending through “interpretive communities.” More specifically, he uses “Holocaust Deniers” to demonstrate an argument that is “perfectly legal,” yet it is absurd. For example he writes, “Although theoretically any topic is ripe for academic consideration and debate, some arguments do not make it into the arena.” In other words, while the academy is open to all topics for argumentation it is not mandated that every argument should be considered. In sum then, Fish suggests that academic arguments are scholarly arguments that require research and are able to be properly defended with an original thought. 

Curzan, What Makes a Word Real

While Curzan argues that the meaning of a word changes over time through people’s usage, Fish argues that the meaning of a word is based on what is and is not surrounding it.

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Legal Arguments & the Context of Words

In his chapter three of Winning Arguments, Fish argues that the purpose of legal arguments is not to evaluate whether someone is a good or bad person, rather whether or not he or she was capable of committing the crime through “interpretive constructs.” More specifically, legal arguments evaluate whether a person committed the specific crime through rules already in place prior to the case. For example, he writes, “All persons are equal before the law.” In other words, the person must be evaluated without assumptions and labels such as having a criminal record, race, or other associations. In sum then, Fish suggests that there is no universal law to help decide every crime, rather “interruptive constructs” already in place help assess if a person is guilty or innocent of the crime at hand.

In an article by Gloria Maylor titled Hers, Maylor argues that it is not words themselves that do harm or good, rather it is the words meaning and its context. More specifically, she discusses the usage of the n-word in different contexts. For example, she writes, “… but it was set within contexts and inflections that caused it to register in my mind as something else.” In other words, the n-word’s interpretation is dependent upon who says it and how they say it. In sum then, Maylor suggests the n-word is just a word until it is given a certain meaning in a certain context. 

While Fish argues that we understand argument through “interpretive constructs,” Maylor argues that we understand words through their contexts.

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Why Political Arguments Will Never End

In his chapter two of “Winning Arguments,” Fish argues that political arguments are a never ending circle of back and forth through the use of “talking points”, however there is a rare chance of conversion. More specifically, he uses modern day occurrences to demonstrate the regularity of political arguments, and the difficulty to reach a verdict. For example, he writes, “Being convinced  of  either  of  these  views  of  the  responsibilities  and  limits  of government renders you incapable of hearing arguments from the other side as anything but the progeny of error.” In other words, once a person has formulated their opinion on a political issue through educating themselves on the topic, they view their opinion as the right opinion. In sum then, Fish suggests that the difference between fact and opinion becomes hazy during political arguments and causes the inability to be convinced. 

While Curzan argues that we should be more open minded to decrease societies ignorance of languages, Thomas argues that we should celebrate our ignorance instead of trying to “explain everything about everything.”

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“The Art of Persuasion”

In his Winning Arguments Fish argues that there are multiple types of arguments, such as the argument of authority, and that “the art of persuasion” can be utilized through “good” or “bad” end goals. More specifically, one does not necessarily win an argument through leaving the opponent speechless to gain satisfaction, but rather arguing to persuade the opponent from point A to point B. For example, he writes, “Good  persuasion  aids  in  the  rational  sorting  through  of  alternatives  that characterizes  a  democratic  society…” In other words, the goal of an argument is to arrive at a solution that both sides have come to agree on, and can accomplish the goal of whatever the argument was about. In sum then, Fish suggests that we must argue with “good persuasion” due to the fact that argument is ever present. 

In her, Says Who? Teaching and Questioning the Rules of Grammar, Curzan argues that we must question grammar rules just as we question other educational topics such as science. More specifically, she focuses on the words “they” and “hopefully.” For example, she writes, “Grammar is not, and should not ever be framed as a ‘Because I said so’ subject.” In other words, we should question who says these writing conventions are correct and why. In sum then, Curzan suggests that students should be allowed to make their own grammatical and rhetorical choices because as students they are asked to question everything.

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RWD 2: Introduction to Argument

Introduction, or What This Book Promises to do

In his “Winning Arguments”, Fish argues that argument is inevitable throughout his introduction. More specifically, he argues that argument will be ever present because we do not live in a utopia with zero conflict. For example, he writes “truth and knowledge are always in the process of being renegotiated.” In other words, society is always developing and changing, therefore it is always negotiable on how to improve, and is therefore argumentative on how to best do so. In sum then, Fish suggests that argument is a revolving circle, that once we are out of one, it is certain that there is another argument meant to be held in the future. 

Getting Rid of the Appearance Reality Distinction

In his “Getting Rid of the Appearance-Reality Distinction,” Rorty argues that human adaptation and evolution are inevitable because we aspire to better our future. More specifically, humans are constantly evolving just as the world is, so it is expected we look to the future rather than dwell on the past. For example he writes, “…human beings continually strive to overcome the human past in order to create a better human future.” In other words, human advancements are made through learning about our shortcomings, and making the adjustment for the future. In sum, then, Rorty suggests the world we live in today is a direct result of us learning from our past mistakes.

Casey Boyle “…something like a reading ethics…”

While students often learn “one style of reading” with side effects of moral and ethical guilts, Casey Boyle argues that there are different strategies of reading, and offers an alternative method.

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RWD 1: Teaching to Transgress

In his book Teaching to Transgress, Hook argues that English is the “oppressor’s language” and has taken over multiple vernaculars throughout history. More specifically,  how “the oppressors” used the English language has caused a loss of native dialect. For example, she describes English as the language of “conquest and domination” through listing examples of native tongues that most people have never heard of. In other words, English has essentially caused several languages to die off, and never be spoken again just as Latin. In sum, then, Hook suggests that we should support people to speak in their own vernaculars, and ask for a translation when needed, rather than force English onto people.