So what? Dissecting the argument surrounding same-sex marriage caused our group to form conclusions about constructing an argument. It may be advantageous to shift highly divisive motivational claims into logos or ethos claims. This is something Gallagher did quite well.
She openly said, “This is not about how we feel about gay people.” She constructs her arguments based on logic and definitions. Conversely, the affirmative arguer draws his claims from motivational sources. Since the opinion regarding same-sex marriage is evenly divided in our audience analysis, motivational claims will only appeal to half the audience. Moving away from motivational claims will help an arguer appeal to a larger portion of the audience. It is difficult to change a person’s motivational ideas, so it is better to appeal to logic.
In addition, we clearly saw the importance of drawing on the strongest evidence to support the claims made in an argument. In the affirmative case, Wolfson made excellent claims but failed to support most of them with evidence. Although a large amount of evidence exists to support his claims, he failed to use it. In some cases, he relied upon poor examples to support his claims. For example, he uses people like Clinton to support his claim of shifting support for same-sex marriage. However, an example like Clinton will not appeal to most members of the audience. It is important to support an argument with strong evidence and examples that appeal to the most audience members.
Finally, following a natural order is imperative to a successful argument. Gallagher constructed an argument that flowed seamlessly from one point to another. However, Wolfson moved from one argument to another with almost no logic or planning. He also abruptly jumped back to previous points while making a completely different claim. It is better to organize an argument in a natural and logical order. This allows the audience members to clearly follow the argument. Mixing evidence for one claim with a completely different claim will only confuse audience members. This can cause an arguer to lose the argument.
The debate we were assigned showed two different ways to compose an argument. In our case, the negative side used the basic rules outlined above to form an excellent argument. We only discovered these rules after thorough discussion and analysis. These rules will help our group members think critically not only about divisive debates such as same-sex marriage but also in everyday decision making.
Summary The institution of marriage holds a very significant meaning for many people, regardless of sexual orientation. It is by nature a highly motivational issue, so in order to succeed in an argument one must tap into the audience’s values and beliefs. In this case, Wolfson, on the affirmative side, failed to properly analyze the audience. His argument relied on emotionally loaded language and strictly motivational claims. The need for reform was never established and ultimately the burden of proof was not met.
Gallagher, on the negative side of the argument, was successful by taking a logical approach to a motivational issue. By directing the focus of her argument to a question of definition rather than one of value, Gallagher was able to appeal to a larger audience.
Ultimately, Wolfson held the burden of convincing Deaf to Sirens that there is a need to legalize same-sex marriage, that his remedy is the appropriate one, and finally that there are no significant disadvantages to his proposal. He did not achieve all three objectives, and therefore lost this debate. We hope that with our expert coaching Wolfson will become more receiver-centric and modify his strategies in the future.