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Rhetorical Analysis for Applying Critical Thinking

Letter to a historical figure

Dear George W. Bush,

I am … the student of … college. I am also the concerned citizen of the US who is interested in politics. My interest is backed by my affinity with social sciences and my deepest care for the world’s peace and stability. In future, I want to work in government and probably to become a politician. It will be my duty to look after my fellow citizens, which requires me to be cognizant of the foreign policy history. Therefore, it is critical for me to analyze and assess my predecessors such as yourself.

I write to you because I am concerned about the morality and effectiveness of several of your decisions. It was understandable political action to declare war on terrorism after the tragic events of 9/11. With your strength and courage as a leader, you took an active stance against a new type of criminals. However, the decision to invade into another Afghanistan’s domestic matters and wage war on their soil dividing the nation was not the response your citizens would have wanted. You probably planned to destroy al-Qaeda, scatter their forces, and capture their key ideologists. In Iraq, the plan was to launch a pre-emptive strike on terrorists stripping them from nuclear weapons. Yet, these decisions were less permanent as you had probably planned them to be.

Arguably, mass military invasions into the countries were not justified by the terrible tragedy the country had experienced. The primary flaw of the rhetoric of war, in this case, seems to have been the decision to eliminate the leaders and scatter forces of terrorists. The reason why it was wrong to invade countries and establish new political regimen was the fact that at the basis of 21st-century terrorism lies religion and fanaticism (Fortna 523). The leaders of religious fanatics cannot simply be eliminated because their flock will automatically render them as war heroes, messiahs and martyrs. The mission of those who remained will be to revenge them. Thus, the cycle of hostilities will never end. In addition, the establishment of the new political order in accordance with the western model in the countries with their own political tradition was also a mistake. Sunni and Shia are the two forces who are not accustomed to arguing in parliament. Kurds and Arabs are two separate ethnicities that should not have been united under a single political entity as one of them was the minority.

I believe that the compromise might have been found in multilateral cooperation. It might have been more effective to allocate time for devising a long-term action plan instead of exercising a reactionary policy. The United Nations should have been more consistent in promoting an alternative solution to open warfare. What should have been laid to the basis of the anti-terrorist policy of the U.S. is careful analysis and understanding of the enemy’s strategy, tactics, forces, etc. (Dragu and Polborn 513). More time should have been allocated to the calculation of long-term effects of the country’s foreign actions. The compromise might have also been found in prevention and identification of terrorists that cross the U.S. border. Counter-propaganda, infiltration, and sabotage might also be more effective in dealing with militant and religious sects such as al-Qaeda (Argomaniz and Vidal-Diez 161).

Social experiment

The social experiment of interest was drawn from a popular question on the internet, such as is it possible to convince all people in the country to give one person a dollar? A dollar seems like a sum small enough that almost everyone is willing to give away. If a thousand people, for instance, gave someone a dollar he or she will end up having a considerable sum of money. This idea is the initial motivation for the following project proposal. The project will assess the willingness or unwillingness of college students to participate in the intention-free giveaway of a small sum of money such as 25 cents. The hypothesis is that most of the people will refuse to participate, as intention and cause are the main motivators of giving money to someone. The predicted outcome is that out of 100 people 20 will willingly support the idea.

The experiment will be organized in the following way. The author will facilitate a public event with the name “what if everyone gave me 25 cents?” and invite approximately a hundred people. Each participant will be assigned a number in accordance with their order of arrival. For instance, the first person to come will be assigned number 1, the 100th person will be given number 100. Then, I would give a speech about the idea of voluntarily donating small amounts of money to a random person and explain the idea behind the project. Then all participants will be asked to put a 25-cent coin in a box. Randomness will be determined by an online generator of random numbers. After the event, the people will be asked to participate in the short survey assessing their emotional response to the fact of giving away their money.

The sample will be comprised of randomly selected participants of no particular race, gender or age. The advertisement of the event will be conducted through printing and posting advertisements with short information on the project throughout the campus and college buildings. The sample necessary for the experiment will include as many people as possible to be able to produce adequately significant results (Martínez-Mesa et al. 611). Ideally, to generalize the survey results at least within college the number of participants will cover at least 60-70 percent of the students, which will be rather impossible. Therefore, the results of the survey will be rather limited in this aspect.

The survey itself will be administered and collected manually. It will include Likert-scale questions and open questions aimed at assessing the viability of the idea of voluntary donation of money to a random person. Additionally, it will measure the logic behind donation or no donation. The gathered data will be measured quantitatively. Statistical analysis will be applied through the use of SPSS statistics tool to gather the values of mean and mode, for each survey question. Such data analysis design will provide an opportunity to identify trends in participants behavior related to the experiment (Lampard and Pole 35). It will be possible to identify the main reason why people donate or not donate money to random people.

Among possible limitations is the likeness of the idea to the idea of a lottery. In lottery people, donate money with the intention to win them back with a significant surplus. Thus, there is a high possibility of people not recognizing the true reason behind the experiment. For tackling this issue, there is a need for clear explanation in the initial address that randomness is the key to eliminate the question of ‘why him or her and not me?’ Another limitation, as mentioned before is the generalizability of the research results. It is partly addressed by random sampling. However, random sampling also increases the chance of encountering sample bias as a certain social group may become overrepresented and the others – underrepresented. Another possible flaw is the confirmation bias, in accordance with which people strongly affiliated with no donation or donation will produce survey answers in support of their theory instead of objectively evaluating the idea of the project.

Socratic dialogue

The two friends, John (atheist) and Gary (Cristian) have met in the park. The weather was beautiful, and nothing suggested a fierce clash of ideas. However, an atheist and his wife have long been trying to have a baby with no result. Recently, the doctor told the family that there is a high possibility that the child will be born with the horrible illness. The two unhappy parents decided to have an abortion.

John. Hello, Gary. Nice to meet you here.
Gary. Hello, John! What a pleasant surprise. We have not seen each other in a long time. What brings you here?
John. Indeed, we have. I always come to this park when I need to think or clear my head. The summer breeze and whispering of the trees produce a calming effect on my nerves.
Gary. I see. What happened this time?
John. Recently, my wife and I had to have an abortion.
Gary. Jesus Christ, John. What a terrible tragedy. Why did you decide so?
John. The doctor said that the chance of a child to have serious health issues was rather high, so we decided to set it and ourselves free from misery.
Gary. I do not believe that is the right thing to do. Every child deserves the chance to live. It is not upon a person to decide who lives and who dies.
John. I understand your frustration, Gary. It is not what we all desired. However, I am positive that we have decided right. If we let the child live, it would have suffered to the point that I would not be able to call it life. My wife and I would have suffered with our child, as we would be the ones that inflicted those sufferings on it. If I am in power to end someone’s suffering am willing to do it.
Gary. What if the child was born free of illness? With God’s help, it could have been possible.
John. The doctor argued that the possibility of such outcome was rather low. I am a pragmatic man, and my wife’s decision was the same.
Gary. It is still not right. You have taken the life. You are a killer.
John. The fetus is not a living creature yet. It does not have free will. It does not feel or think. It is as though you have cut out a tumor from your body. We call a fetus a child because we imagine it to grow into one. Due to the nature of our imagination, we create concepts out of nowhere. We are used to the way children are born, and we call coitus the beginning of life, yet moths have to pass before it actually becomes living. When the brain starts functioning, when a heart starts pounding, when it becomes an autonomous organism. Only then we have the right to call this life, a human being. You would not consider a sapling or a seed a living tree, would you? I cannot consider my wife or me or killers as we did not kill a living being. At that point, of time it was only a pile of cells that multiply in the process to create life.
Gary. These are certainly harsh examples. Each life is given and taken away by the will of God, you had no right to interfere.
John. I know that nothing compares to abortion in the right way. It may have deserved to become a person, a being. Maybe it was a God’s plan. It was through our hands he does his deeds. Using your logic, if we did that, he authorized it. God works in mysterious ways.
Gary. God said that all life is precious and we need to preserve it, not take it.
John. Do all inanimate objects have a life? If one breaks a stone, could another one say that it is a murder of a stone? It was not life in itself. It was a multitude of multiplying cells without conscience. It was not essentially a child. When we imagine a child it has arms, legs, a head, it screams, it blinks, it reacts to your words or actions. What was in the womb of my wife was far from becoming all that. Technically, we did not commit any crime. Not against God, not against the rules of law.
Gary. It could have become all that. But you chose not to believe. What if your child could be cured and could lead a normal life?
John. What is a normal life? I consider normal life as a state in which a child is fully functional and has all the opportunity to use all resources, spiritual, physical, or other to develop into an autonomous individual that will later create a healthy family. Normality is a concept defined by the majority. It is normal to take a 70% chance as it is reasonable and constitutes a majority in its essence. Even a 60 or 51% chance would have been a majority. What we were left with was 5%. We did what we did for the greater good.
Gary. The greater good?
John. Naturally. If the child had been born notwithstanding its health problems, it would have caused all humanity great trouble. Firstly, its illness could have made it disabled or cause it great pain which would have been physically and socially difficult for the child itself. Secondly, it would be hard for us, as we would have seen its suffering and pain each day with nothing we could do or say to ease it. Thirdly, it would incur great costs on society. Hospitals and its staff would have spent lots of resources on keeping our child alive and relatively well taking their time from those who could be saved. Schools and teachers would have to arrange special conditions for our child to get him or her decent education. This cycle of problems would never end, so we decided to end it by not starting it. Therefore, an abortion was the right decision.

Analysis of the Socratic dialogue

Rhetorical analysis is essential for developing one’s ability to produce reasonable arguments and apply critical thinking. Crafting a speech, finding arguments, adding appropriate analogies, and using rhetorical techniques is vital for any person and can be used in a variety of life situations. This essay will scrutinize the dialogue between John and Gary about the morality of abortion and critically assess arguments, techniques, and other details to conclude on their quality.

The dialogue was organized as a talk between two friends who met in a park. The setting is quite typical and, in fact, nonessential to the subject of the conversation. Two persons speak one by one, with John defending his position and Gary opposing him. John is trying to convince his friend in the moral soundness of his wife and his decision to have an abortion. It is also typical for a Socratic dialogue that the phrases of the defendant are longer than ones of the opposing party. As such, a typical phase of John consists of several sentences and may include several arguments. This fact demonstrates that John has a well-established position and has a rather rich pool of arguments.

The dialogue has a proper introduction. The two friends greet each other, Gary inquires about the nature of John’s visit to the park, and the argument begins with a simple exchange of opinions when Gary accuses John of being a killer marking the crisis point. The conclusion is set with the closing argument used by John. However, it is left unclear whether Gary was convinced as he said nothing in the end. It could be assumed the silence of the opponent became the evidence of John’s victory.

A variety of rhetorical techniques were used in the dialogue. Anthypophora was one of the most often used ones. For dramatic effect, John asked a question and then answered it himself. For instance, he asked, “What is a normal life?” and then gave his definition of it. For the clarity of the final argument, John demonstrates the use of eutrepismus. He sequences the parts of the argument by numbering them. Anaphora was used when John argued that fetus inside his wife cannot be considered to be alive repeating “It was.” three times. It strengthened the effect of an argument by laying out three consecutive reasons. The analogy was the most often utilized form of building an argument which was a powerful tool for developing an argument (Aragones et al. 5). The analogy was useful as the arguments that John used were primarily pragmatic, and his opponent was a believer. Yet, some analogies were rather harsh and difficult to understand to a person of a sensitive person such as Gary who commented on that. The contrast was also used when John tried to separate the concept of majority and the scarcity of chances that the child had to be born normal. It emphasized the difference between a bad and good choice.

The figurative language also contributed to the strength of the arguments. The simile was often used to explain the concept of life from a variety of angles. For instance, removing fetus were likened to breaking a stone. Hyperbola was also used to compare the process of abortion with throwing away a lifeless thing. All these language techniques were used to provide Gary with an understanding of a general concept of life and its absence in a fetus, which justifies abortion from a moral standpoint.

Evidence was primarily biological, logical, and analogical. Biological explained the nature of fetus and seemed to have given the opponent a sense of what is being discussed. John used logic to describe how human imagination works to emphasize the dissimilarity between a fetus and a child, which also contributed to the strength of his argument and to defense from being accused of killing a living being. The analogy also worked to the benefit of John and simplified his arguments for the opponent, making his arguments harder to dispute.

From the strategic standpoint, John established common ground with Gary using his own arguments against him saying that it was God’s work that his wife and he performed an abortion. However, this might have provoked a harsh response as Gary might have sensed mockery or even blasphemy in John’s words which would be counterproductive to further discussion. John was also appealing to higher authority in the face of his Doctor on whom he partially placed the weight of his decision. John anticipated how Gary would feel about abortions, so he referenced a doctor to make himself a victim of circumstances, which seem to have been an effective practice.

The dialogue is very close to reality. Such a dialogue could happen in any family as abortion is still a morally-debatable concept, especially among religious people who commonly believe that it is a sin. The setting was also pretty common as friends can occasionally meet and start a conversation. However, usually, the opponents are more active at defending their position. It is also rare that one adult can persuade another to change such fundamental and deeply rooted views on a controversial topic.

In conclusion, the dialogue seems to be rather convincing. The arguments were drawn from science and authority. Abundant use of rhetorical devices contributed to their strength. However, it is hard to believe that any kind of argument was convincing enough for Gary as no response from him was registered. In addition, some analogies used by John were a bit harsh and might have triggered irritation instead of conviction.

Works Cited

Aragones, Enriqueta, et al. “Rhetoric and Analogies.” Research in Economics, vol. 68, no. 1, 2014, pp. 1–10.

Argomaniz, Javier, and Alberto Vidal-Diez. “Examining Deterrence and Backlash Effects in Counter-Terrorism: The Case of ETA.” Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 27, no. 1, 2015, pp. 160–81.

Dragu, Tiberiu, and Mattias Polborn. “The Rule of Law in the Fight against Terrorism.” American Journal of Political Science, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 511–25.

Lampard, Richard, and Christopher Pole. Practical Social Investigation: Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Social Research. Routledge, 2015.

Martínez-Mesa, Jeovany, et al. “Sample Size: How Many Participants Do I Need in My Research?” Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, vol. 89, no. 4, 2014, pp. 609–15.

Fortna, Virginia Page. “Do Terrorists Win? Rebels’ Use of Terrorism and Civil War Outcomes.” International Organization, vol. 69, no. 3, 2015, pp. 519–56.

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