Don’t Get Mad if I Forget How To Make an Effective Argument

Thesis: Memory mistakes and should not be evidence of unintelligence and incompetence and fixing these mistakes is ethical and should be welcomed with a sympathetic attitude. [This is a summary. State how the authors used the rhetorical triangle to convince readers of your statement.]

Why Our Memory Fails Us argues that memory failures are no sign of incompetence and corrections should be welcomed. The authors achieve this by initially utilizing ethos with the anecdote of Dr. Tyson. This both captures the readers attention and conveys that no one, not even the most educated, are safe from memory failure. [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] The bulk of the argument then follows a logos approach as to why memory fails. Data is provided to understand the unreliability of memory and increase the credibility of their argument. The authors then hit the readers with ethos to conclude their argument. It is now understood that ethically “good scientists remain open to the possibility that they are wrong…” especially when memory is concerned. The authors use this ethical reasoning to advise a more sympathetic reaction [use of pathos] to those who make memory mistakes and bravely own up to them. Utilizing all three rhetorical tools the authors intelligently led their readers to reach a conclusion through a very structured and natural argument. 

Neil Degrasse Tyson, the most popular reader pick, argues a different aspect of the article. His goal is to focus on the criticism brought out to his memory error, yet provide a personal perspective that might inspire a more sympathetic reaction to his past and future public talks. Before he even begins, ethos is greatly on Dr. Tyson’s side, as he is well known public figure not to mention the article is partly about him. Credibility is instantly established. He provides two Facebook Notes that describe the way he expects his talks should be received. Both are primary sources and establish a sense of personal logos to evidence his true intentions when giving public talks. He is clear, respectful and non confrontational. The fact that he took the time to respond, resonates greatly with readers. It gives a sense personal connection to Dr. Tyson and facilitates sympathy from his side of the story. [good analysis]

The second comment focuses on the the idea that President Bush should not be revered as intelligent. Their main rhetorical use is logos as the author only provides a link to an article and a list of quotes that cast a negative light on Mr. Bush’s intelligence and capability as a public speaker. Other than the factual quotes, the author plays with the readers emotions, trying to insight frustration and dissent. There is not true ethos as the author is relatively unknown, which in fact make the argument weak, considering a lack of competition from the other rhetorical elements.

The last comment takes a more emotional approach [use of pathos] to the argument: ”Providing people are willing to acknowledge and make whole their mistakes, we should learn to let the smaller ones slide.” He cites himself as making this mistake making a good connection with the reader, but also assumes that they too have done something similar. This highlights the problem as something universal that all can relate to. His tone is clear, respectful, and guiding.

The readers picks have more of a bias to either one side or another while the NYT’s top picks live in the neutral part of the spectrum. All comments provide good insight but the reader’s pick’s are a little more polarized and argumentative. The idea of ranking the comments, in my opinion, is a good one. It provides a formulaic way for useless and unhelpful, dishonest, and cynical comments from being filtered out of the mix. Separating the reader’s top picks from the NYT time’s top picks also allows for the NYT to have much better control of their image and what they deem important, while also giving a democratic voice to their readers.


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