Your task is to construct a value brief in support of the proposition you have selected from the list of 50. You should first complete the proposition by filling in the blank with your chosen “Value Object.” Then you must compose a brief–essentially a comprehensive outline–of the argument you would like to make in support of your proposition. The purpose of the assignment is to instruct you in the proper way to articulate the grounds for holding an opinion, and for making clear the various separate issues that are involved in critical thinking about a value judgment. The brief should begin with a clear statement of the proposition at the top of the page to serve as a title. The brief will then have four sections of roughly 1/2 to one page each. Each of the four sections will address one of the four stock issues for value arguments. So, the outline for everyone’s brief will be the same.
I. DEFINITION. In this section you must define your value object. Essentially, you must define all the key terms in your argument, and especially orient us to the value object you have chosen. For example, if I argue that “Yeats was the world’s greatest poet.” I would identify and explain who W. B. Yeats was, and also (at least) define “poetry.”
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II. FIELD or PERSPECTIVE. In this section you must argue in favor of seeing your value object from the perspective of a certain field (discipline, profession, culture, age, etc.) that will bring with it specific implications for forms and evidence used in argument. Essentially, you are selecting the domain from which your criteria for judgment are taken. Here you must argue that the field you have chosen is the most appropriate or the best context in which to evaluate the value object you focus on. You should consider what priorities or value hierarchies are imposed by the field you choose, and how that field is consistent with the likely view of your audience and the values you wish them to apply. In judging great poets, for example, I might select “aesthetics” and “publishing” as appropriate fields. Each would bring different criteria, and I would need to explain why these, and not, say, “historical significance” would be used to judge the greatest poet.
III. CRITERIA. In this section you must introduce the specific criteria you have taken from the field(s) or perspective(s) above and will apply to the value object to arrive at your judgment. Here you must argue that the criteria selected for evaluating the object are the most appropriate and consistent with the audience’s own view or value context. In other words, try to show how it makes sense for the audience to accept the criteria you have used. You are not arguing here for the proposition (and be careful to avoid a circular argument–one that lists criteria only a single object could meet). Rather, you are arguing for the criteria to be applied that leads you (and your audience) to the proposition. For example, I might say that whoever is judged the world’s greatest poet would have to have “published multiple volumes of poetry over a span of at least 10 years.” And I might say that the world’s greatest poet “would be recognized as a genius in the language arts by critics in various ages and cultures.” These are specific criteria taken from the fields identified in part II. Be sure that the criteria you identify are applicable to ANY object in the same category with your chosen value object.
IV. APPLICATION. Here is where you finally make the specific connection to your value object. You must show how the object meets the standards of the field and the criteria selected for critical evaluation. Essentially, you are applying the criteria to the object to show that the object meets all the criteria in a satisfactory, even exemplary way. If you believe that your proposition challenges the view that most members of your audience hold regarding your value object (in other words, conventional wisdom holds that some other object is the most or greatest) then you should show that the object you have selected meets the criteria better. Clearly, this is the key to your argument, for if you do everything else well, and don’t apply the criteria in a convincing way, or have sufficient evidence from your research to support your claims, then your argument will not be persuasive. Be sure not to introduce new fields or criteria here. All the standards for judgment should have already been set out earlier. In the case of the poet, I would show that “Yeats published volumes of poetry from the 1890s through the 1930s, each selling comparatively more than other contemporary poets.” I would also cite critical reaction to Yeats from his own, and later times, both in Ireland (where he wrote) and elsewhere.
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