How to Write a Rogerian Argument
Rogerian Argument is a special way of leading a debate after which both opposing sides stand nearer each other, instead of being in collision or refusing to continue their discussion. In our world of global technologies it becomes more and more difficult to expose logical arguments while debating with others. Carl Rogers, the creator of this approach, has elaborated it in order to make people listen to each other and reach an agreement without retreating too far from their points of view. The method can be used in oral discussions as well as in written form.
How to write a Rogerian Argurment – 6 key things to consider
A Rogerian Argument is a special method of discussion through which the opponents express their points of view confidently and fully, without saving any part of it. Their goal, though, is not to convince the opponent, but rather to have the discussion in such a way as to stand nearer the truth, or nearer a common position.
Warning: a Rogerian Argument is to be employed as regards of issues which are not of entirely objective nature. Such a discussion, for instance, cannot be held regarding the fact that the Solar system is heliocentric because this is a fact beyond any dispute - it can only be repudiated by experiments, and not by expressing opinions. Therefore, the Rogerian Argument is to be used in spheres which are subjective, such as moral, political, social, economic, religious, etc.
2. The essence of the Argument
The essence of the Rogerian Argument is found in its perception of personal experience as fundamental for having a proper and fruitful discussion. Personal experience often leads people to different standpoints; for that reason it is important to understand the experience of the other. Instead of putting stress only on the logical side of the discussion, Rogers prefers giving opportunity to both opponents to share their worldview and values, after which they would be able to understand each other better.
This is not a real discussion or debate because usually, during either of them, both sides can interrupt each other, or can offer additional arguments (or repudiate the other's arguments).
A Rogerian Argument consists of three main parts: the first of which is the stage when you present the view of your opponent - that is, if you start first, you should present the other's point of view, and not your own. The second part is expressing your own opinion, and the final part is comparing both positions and finding similarities between them.
3. Exposition of the opponent's view
You have to know that the view of your opponent should be presented as objectively as possible. You need to observe the following rules:
- be honest to your opponent and present their view as if it were your own view;
- present the basic points which this view is founded upon. That is, do not go too much into detail; you should rather list and describe them;
- refer to a written source where the opinion of your opponent is clearly expressed (book, article, web page). This is necessary in order to compare whether your account of your opponent's standpoint is true.
It is good to read about the view of your opponent prior to having the discussion (or writing the argument). It is also recommended to speak to your opponent in order to clarify their ideas. If you cannot do it, then it is better to rely on what your opponent, or the institution/side they represent, have written.
4. Exposition of your own view
If you want to write a good exposition you should have the answers to the following questions:
- What is exactly the topic you want to touch upon?
- What is your point of view - in short (2 sentences)?
- What are the two main arguments proving your point of view?
- What are the arguments repudiating your point of view?
As you see, it is quite important to formulate the topic precisely. Then it will be easy to formulate your own standpoint. Remember: when the topic is vaguely formulated (it is too long or too abstract), a true discussion is impossible.
5. What you should avoid
There are several things you have to avoid at any cost while developing your Rogerian argument.
These are as follows:
- avoid personal attacks (such as i.e.: “Only stupid people can believe in what X says/writes”);
- avoid any distortion of your opponent's thesis (to present it only partially in order to repudiate it easily);
- do not try to convince the reader or the opponent. Your task is to search for a solution of the problem;
- do not reach an agreement only because you are tired of discussing. The agreement has to be natural, self-evident.
6. Neutral language
As it was already mentioned, you should avoid personal attacks. This also indicates subjective feelings, expressing your emotions, employing moral categories (i.e.: “Mr. X is bad. His behavior is to be condemned”). Your task is not to preach but to expose good arguments in support of your thesis, at the same time having respect for your opponent.
Sample Rogerian Argument
Title: “Refugees from Syria - to take them or to refuse them?”
Context of the problem: During the Civil War in Syria since 2011 millions of people have fled from the country and have looked for an asylum in Europe, Canada and the United States. Currently, a debate is held regarding the problem: should the United States take refugees from Syria?
Part 1: Opponent's view
The thesis exposed by Mr. X can be summarized as follows: the United States should not provide Syrians with asylum because most of them are dangerous. Some of them belong to terrorist organizations; others express sympathy for radical Islam and extremism. Their presence in this country will strengthen the terrorist network and will threaten the security of America. Only a limited number of refugees from Syria could be accepted, mostly women and children, as well as highly trained professionals (teachers, doctors, etc.).
Part 2: Your view
Refugees fleeing from the war in Syria should be taken in the United States because they need help and support. They could be accommodated in special centers for refugees, and also trained to find a job in the United States. Most of the refugees are normal people with normal life. They did not flee in order to organize terrorist attacks, but they rather run away from the terrorists who are now in control of some parts of Syria.
Part 3: Looking for an agreement and common points
The similarities shared by both points of view are the following: first, there are terrorists in the world planning attacks also in America; and second, at least some number of refugees could be taken in America. Now, the problem is how to define who has the right to asylum: only doctors, teachers, and other people with university degrees; or mostly women and children; or all Syrians who are confirmed to be real refugees to be taken in America. The first point could also be addressed by both theses: some of the Syrian refugees are also afraid of terrorists, thus they could help to fight terrorism.
You can support all this information by adding quotations - excerpts from texts written by your opponent, as well as articles, monographs, opinions presented on the forums, etc. You have to support your theses with data, statistics, or any kind of reliable information (for example, to show what is the percentage of terrorists among the refugees from Syria).
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