C228 Argumentation and Public Advocacy
Professor: Brian Amsden
"Violence is the last resort of the incompetent."
Salvo Hardin in Isaac Asimov's
The Foundation Trilogy
"... for every argument there is an equal and weighty counterargument."
Protagoras of Abdera
C228 Argumentation and Public Advocacy is an intensive introductory level course on the theory, practice, and criticism of public advocacy - the use of propositions, evidence, reasons, and the general rhetorical strategies of symbolic action to promote and advance one's public or civic interests. The course operates with the assumption that liberal-democratic polity relies on the ability of its citizens to be active and critical producers and consumers of public arguments as part of a reasoned process of collective decision-making. This is not to suggest that public or political decision making in a liberal-democratic society is always rational or reasonable - or even that reason and rationality are the only or most productive ways to effect social and political change - but it is to suggest that we would all be better off if we were to master the fundamental skills of rhetoric and argumentation as a primary means to represent and protect our own best interests as members of the polity. The course also operates with the assumption that one can best learn the skills of public advocacy through a rigorous combination of theory and practice. Accordingly, the course will be divided between lectures designed to identify and elaborate the theoretical precepts of public advocacy - the norms and assumptions that tend to guide successful public argumentation - and exercises (both formal and informal) designed to allow students to practice the fundamental skills of public argumentation.