Proving a Theory/Idea

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Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 09:26 pm
In formal writing that I do at school, I hate this whole strict basis of having a blatant thesis that is so specified on something that is simple, but hard to devise. And all that I can do is take the thesis and prove it with quotes from applicable sources, which is kind of boring. Sources act as the main ingredient to proving the thesis, but this is not the way I want to write essays. They lack reflectiveness.

I want to write about my own thoughts as being the main supporter of the thesis and the quotes from sources act as the icing. But this just isn't "formal". Is there any way to make it so?
Victor Eremita
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 09:33 pm
Your own thoughts is important; they support the thesis statement, but sources support your thoughts. Remember, SASE: Summarize, Analyze, Synthesize, Evaluate; key ingredients to any school essay. Summarize your argument. Analyze and Evaluate with your ideas. Synthesize your ideas with the source material.

The trick is to write the essay, then devise the thesis statement; at least that works for me.
Reply Thu 2 Oct, 2008 11:38 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Formal writing is a tricky business, there is no doubt about that. You can put your own original thoughts in with a paper that is full of citations of other authors. In fact, this is the best way to put forth your own argument in the first place. Keep in mind that writing a paper purely off of your own thoughts is not bad. However, if you do comprise a paper like that, you write a paper full of axioms and suppositions that the reader will not buy into. I have written a fair share of papers in my day, and I can say that the object of any paper you will write is how do I sell this paper to my reader
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2008 08:54 am
Depending on the subject, citing authorities is only a part of the argument in support of a thesis; one can use "logical" argumentation from premises to conclusions, illustrations and examples, restatement, and conditional (causal) statements.
In formal papers and writing, however, one should avoid whenever possible stating one's own opinions without providing sufficient warrants;" I think that" or "I believe that" alone and without supporting reasons is without merit and seldom as persuasive as one likes to think.

One may use inductive reasoning, proceeding from many instances to a generalisation; one may use deductive reasoning from accepted (or proved) premises dialectically to a conclusion, or hypothetically from properties of a genus to those of a species.
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2008 02:59 pm
My most effective logical weapon is to look for internal logical consistancy within a statement.

For example : Truth is never absolute.
This is a contradiction, as if it is so, then we have just discovered at least one absolute truth; IE truth not being absolute.

So we can conclude that truth MUST be absolute. Logically, and analytically so.

Another example:
Only God may judge.

If someone says this to you, then they are judging you, not so?
Reply Fri 3 Oct, 2008 03:43 pm
All of the below are great responses and they're right: You can write your own opinions (and most profs love it, actually) but you have got to back up that opinion. The nice thing is that for most papers, this isn't hard to do.

My "formula" for writing a paper is to come up with a thesis and three arguments that support it (or two if one or both are fairly extensive). This is where your own opinion come in great! I can't count the number of papers I've written with theses that proposed something outlandish like "We should abolish the death penalty because it encourages martydom" (just an example...though I did use that in Debate in high school...). I'm not prone to finding anyone who supports that exact thesis, but then we delve into "why?" and come up with the supporting args of "The death penalty doesn't work as a deterrent" (then cite facts...anything you need is out there somewhere...and if you can't find it, then change your argument or thesis) "The death penalty encourages martyrdom" (because of x example, x statistic, whatever) and finally "if the death penalty does not deter people from committing crime, and we don't want to encourage people to commit crimes, then we should not provide a marty-system for them" (logic, albeit it fallacious with this particular set up, comes into play here), conclude.

By the way, I promise my args were not those ones...not by a long high school. Just pulled those to use as examples of structure!

So really, even in formal papers, you have a ton of leeway to work within as long as you understand the power of structure and of wording things in the way you mean them to - and then finding data that supports you.

Theses are actually really really great, once you get used to how best to use them. A well-structured thesis writes your paper almost entirely for just have to fill in the blanks! Since I discovered that, I don't hink I've started a paper except the introduction (just to get something down on paper) until I've had the thesis. From there it's cakewalk. Seriously...I promise!

Oh, the other nice thing about your thesis road-mapping your paper is that so long as you form coherent sentences and be sure to answer all obvious questions as you go, then you shouldn't *need* another draft if you don't have time! Your structure (which is what a lot of profs are looking for) will be apparent, if simplistic (doesn't have to be if you have time), and they won't have to hunt through your paper for anything they're looking for.

-This advice dispensed by a procrastinator of the highest order...the sort who writes 8 page philosophy papers the hour before they're due. I'm not kidding. I wish I were...
Reply Sat 4 Oct, 2008 12:51 pm
The problem I think I have with theses is that they require reasoning to start with specifics. I can't help but take a moderately broad realization and then expand on it specifically and broadly at the same time. So when I have a thesis it tends to be broader than it is supposed to be and as I uses specifics and proofs, I make generalizations equally. And within formal writing, all those points don't belong in the same essay because they are like whole other theses, but all I want to do is just oscillate from specifics to generalizations, not starting from a particular thesis that exploits the whole piece of writing. (unless I can grasp one after writing it all).
Reply Sat 4 Oct, 2008 03:22 pm

I am going to say the below because I have seen the way you 'write' on this forum. In one post there usually are any number from 5-500 ideas worthy of any kind of paper. Your problem is that you don's hold still at any of those home-runs, but go straight for the whole ball-park.

The problem is that for anything to be understood properly by any reader two things are needed and those two things are best said in one example. Your job is to find that example and show those two things. The things I mean are the process and the specific occurance. I usually base myself on the law of sufficient cause as some name it.

The law of sufficient cause comes down to the thought that there are some necessary conditions for something to take place , which are in that sense also sufficient for that something to take place. Thereby it is a sufficient cause.
By describing the process of something takeing place and noting the necessary conditions that something taking place already becomes the example, thus being the specific occurance and the necessary conditions can be show to be necessary conditions by describing the process.

In that sense any written thing that you need to turn in to a teacher is an over examining of simple things. Quite boring to you I think. Wink

I hope the above helps.

Reply Sat 4 Oct, 2008 08:22 pm
No its not boring. I envy the books that we get to analyze in highschool, most of the time. 1984, Shakespeare, and yeah that's it. English is the second most important subject, preceding physics. (my opinion, guess I should back that up eh?)

No of course I shouldn't, because there are mainly two different types of opinions that people have (again, speculation). There are the emotionally attached and logically attached opinions. (And perhaps I could generalize that even still and say it doesn't matter, that opinions are only subjectively, stimulated false truths to follow one's choice upon understanding it).

The only way to alter somebody's opinion is to replace it, but only with one of the same type. Emotion replacing emotion, not logic replacing emotion. Therefore it is irrelevant to try to convince people to change their opinion on a matter of important subjects, because they are ultimately decided on emotion. And emotion is the stimulation of experience, therefore the only way to convince somebody that physics is the best subject, is to have them freely experience it; because logic doesn't govern choice ultimately, or rather, rationality doesn't. Experience changes the mind, thereby altering the false truth that we base opinions on. Rationality only does so for most people, when there is lack of emotion, or a healthy emotional state when there is no extreme emotion. Because when there is no extreme emotion, all emotions can still exist and play a contributing role in opinion, but they cancel out, equalling the force that logic applies on opinions. (I guess)
Reply Sun 5 Oct, 2008 08:11 pm
*edited for clarity.
Reply Mon 6 Oct, 2008 07:05 am
Rhetoric no longer being taught in schools, a writer must learn the argumentative and expository techniques on his own. As you read different philosophical texts, spending some time thinking about how a philosopher constructs his paragraphs, how he marshals his evidence, and how he uses words to help his readers follow a discussion, will provide numerous "templates" for your own writing (in a way, Aristotle's Topics were just that). This amounts to undertaking meta-philosophy or to deconstruct a text; spending time reading a few paragraphs and then re-writing them in a "logical" outline that exhibits the structure underneath, will make your own writing both clearer and more varied in approach.

Some of John Stuart Mills' essays (e.g."On Liberty") provide examples of clear and stylish writing that can be read also from the perspective of presenting a position. Again, many of the Classical philosophers, from Plato to Sextus Empiricus, were extremely conscious about using strong techniques to present positions; Bacon also repays reading from this perspective.

The triadic thesis statement/supporting warrant/conclusion is one such template or paradigm; it is taught because it is the most common, easiest, and most applicable outline. Mastering that, and learning different ways to accomplish your purpose within it, especially in the middle section, is a basic first step in disciplined writing.
Reply Mon 6 Oct, 2008 11:44 am
Rhetoric no longer being taught in schools, a writer must learn the argumentative and expository techniques on his own

I agree more or less with everything else you said, but on this I have to disagree.

Many public middle schools and/or high schools offer classes covering composition and speech and speech is a requirement for graduation in many of them. After all, many universities like to see a roundedness to an incoming student's education and a speech class helps with that.

Completely anecdotal: If the public schools *I* grew up with in a state that consistently ranks in the lowest tiers on education has them, then I'm prone to saying that chances are high most other US states are at least on par with mine in this respect. I could be wrong, but based on the tinge of research I did to check this assumption, I'm not far off base if I am.

For some reason this statement of yours, jgweed, really put me on edge...but I think I know why: One of my argumentative pet peeves is the "The Good Old Days Were So Much Better" argument which everyone just seems to glaze over as true when in reality it is worth questioning in every context in which it comes up.

Now, this isn't exactly the statement you've made, but the way it's worded strongly suggests that it is what you meant.

Regardless, while it's true that many people only take from a composition class the bare necessities of constructing a sentence (even if it is only on a subconscious level they walk away with this), it's just not true that rhetoric is no longer being taught in schools...Even if there is no speech class, there are English and English literature classes (in the US, anyway, I don't mean to generalize to more than that), both of which are partially, if not primarily designed to expose the student to good writing and to encourage mimicry of it until the student can develop on his or her own. There's a reason there is so much analyzation in literature classes, and it's not simply so that the student can define an allegory.

Once a student is exposed, he or she has a choice: pursue this writing thing further and really get to know it, or just leave it at a base knowledge. Most people in all subjects opt for option 2, and choosing to further understand rhetoric and argumentation is not a terribly popular do so involves more than simply analyzing the writing itself, one has to look at the psychology behind the writing, and so the sociology, at the very least. So in reality, rhetoric and argumentation are understand one is to understand parts of the other.

Sorry to derail the thread there for nothing but my own personal pet peeves...

While we're giving writing advice: The best thing I've ever done for my writing is re-writing the same paper at least five times. It's annoying, but especially if one has someone willing to look over each draft, one's writing *will* improve. Things about writing become clearer when you're dealing with the same material.
Alan McDougall
Reply Tue 3 Feb, 2009 01:48 am

Learn from the great minds of the present and the past, but always try to become an original thinker.

Original thinking or out of the box thinking is what got mankind to the level of understanding that we now live in

Your writing skills will improve as you get older, not because you will become smarter , but because you will have a great pool of knowledge in the form of memories to help you

I am assuming of course, that you are still young as you state you are still at school

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