Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

Saturday School: Lesson #8 – Supporting your Thesis, Part IV (Induction)


Lesson #8 – Supporting your Thesis, Part IV (Induction)

  • Complete the reading assignment
  • Complete the writing exercise
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Last week we learned how syllogisms work. They are the framework of a deductive argument. We learned there are three kinds of syllogisms writers need to be familiar with: categorical, hypothetical, and disjunctive. We introduced the concept briefly and developed them just enough to give you some tools to help you formulate an idea of what should be going on in a persuasive essay.

Today’s Lesson

Today, I want to introduce the second kind of argument you will use to prove your thesis, inductive arguments. Inductive arguments are sometimes called empirical arguments because they are arguments based on certain particular examples. Again, we can point to our understanding of scientific observation as an example of an inductive argument.

How to develop quality inductive arguments will be further taught as we explore topics of invention. But in this lesson, I simply want to illustrate how empirical arguments can be used well.

In Scott Crider’s book, The Office of Assertion, he illustrates this lesson well using Jefferson’s skills as a rhetorician when he penned the Declaration of Independence.

After Jefferson makes a brilliant deductive argument in the second paragraph, that in the event a government ceased to observe its intended function and by doing so became tyrannical, natural law gives men the right to revolt and establish a proper government in the interest of their well-being, he then proves King George was a tyrant which gave the reluctant revolutionaries the right to establish their cause.

What was offered were twenty-seven empirical grievances, abuses of the Crown that were documented and publicly acknowledged, that began with this statement:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

What followed this statement were particular examples of the “injuries and usurpations” the colonists claimed to have suffered.

To summarize, a deductive argument uses syllogistic logic to make a point that supports your thesis, and an inductive argument offers particular examples that either support your thesis directly, or that support your thesis indirectly by supporting your deductive argument.

Writing Exercise

Using the Declaration of Independence, find Jefferson’s thesis, discern which kind(s) of syllogisms Jefferson used in his deductive arguments, then find the inductive arguments he used. Once you identify these, use the Declaration as a model to write your own Declaration of Something.

Do you want to touch readers with your words, learn the craft of writing, or simply improve your writing skills from a classical perspective? Join me each week for Saturday (Writing) School. Every Saturday I’ll send a lesson to your inbox you can complete in an hour, or you can work on it at your leisure. It’s free!

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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