April 22, 2010
In “Thinking for Yourself”, Marlys Mayfield, defines a good argument as “an structure of claims supported through reasoning,facts, examples, and evidence. Moreover, all of these elements are made clear and explicit...[and]…designed to be persuasive.” (147) The 1994 Michael Fay caning controversy in Singapore sparked aheated debate in America, illustrated in the articles Singapore vs. San Francisco and It’s a Grand Old Flog, respectively in favor of and in opposition to the caning. By analyzing these two impassionarticles, we can explore what constitutes an effective argument.
It is worth first examining the logical underpinnings of It’s a Grand Old Flog and Singapore vs. San Francisco. The assumptionthat Singapore is a safer and cleaner society than the United States is included either explicitly or implicitly in each argument. Singapore vs. San Francisco completely hinges on this assumption andIt’s a Grand Old Flog generally doesn’t challenge it. The articles differ in how they attribute causality of Singapore is assumed superior safety and cleanliness. Singapore vs. San Francisco wants readersto believe a pseudo syllogism that goes something like this:
1. In Singapore, vandals are punished with caning.
2. Singapore is safer and cleaner than San Francisco.3. Therefore, punishing vandals with caning makes Singapore a safer society than San Francisco.
By contrast, Stephanie Salter wants to cast doubt on the above chain of causality. She usesfacts such as that, “the population of the United Sates is much larger and more diverse than Singapore’s, which is 77 percent ethnic Chinese and 14 percent Muslim Malays.” (20), to imply an alternativepossible chain of causality without explicitly stating it, e.g.
1. Singapore is an ethnically and culturally homogenous society whereas the United States is highly diverse.