September 22, 2009

Homework #6 Answer

The moral outrage and anger, voiced by some segments of the public, at the students arrested recently while demonstrating at City Hall, is wrong. We should keep in mind that, more than 200 years ago, our forefathers dumped tea in Boston Harbor in defiance of the British.

Which one of the following would be the most effective response, for the author's opponents, to dispute the argument?

A. It is unpatriotic to demonstrate in front of City Hall.

(A) is incorrect because it is an opinion, and an inflammatory one at that. Whether or not a behavior is "patriotic" is largely a matter of opinion, and in this case it does not refute the argument. Even though political partisans say things like this all the time, a blanket statement of opinion is never a reasonable counter-argument. Why those people have condemned the protesters, or their opinion of the protesters, is no more relevant to this argument than why the protesters protested in the first place.

B. Students are too inexperienced to understand the consequences of demonstrations.

(B) is incorrect because it's also an opinion, and an exercise in excuse-making. Just who is "too inexperienced" and who is "experienced enough" to do anything is a matter of opinion. Further, claiming that young people who do the wrong thing should be forgiven because they can't understand the consequences is not logical or reasonable. It's an emotional plea for sympathy. In addition, the author is arguing that the outrage against the protesters is wrong; i.e., that they should be forgiven albeit for a different reason. One would assume that to refute the argument, one would have to argue that the outrage against the protest was proper, and at least imply that the protest itself was not.

C. In today's world, one's beliefs and conscience are rarely the reasons for one's actions.

(C) is incorrect because, like (B), it is an attempt to make an excuse for the protesters or justify the protest, which is the same thing the author is trying to do. Why the protesters were out protesting is irrelevant, as are the other people's reasons for denouncing the protesters. Having a "reason" to do the wrong thing does not make it any less wrong.

D. The American patriots who threw tea into Boston Harbor had some public support for their cause.

(D) is incorrect because the author is trying to justify this protest by implicitly comparing it to the Boston Tea Party. This response implies that the current protesters have no public support, but that fact cannot be ascertained from the stimulus. Regardless, the author is not using public support as the basis for his argument that the protesters should not be condemned for protesting.

E. Simply because some past demonstrations by citizens are considered justified, doesn't mean that all such acts are justified.

(E) is correct. The author's argument is that those who have denounced the protesters are wrong, because the 18th-century Boston Tea Party has been accepted as legitimate and celebrated throughout history as an heroic act of defiance. The obvious weakness in the argument is that not all protests are created equal. Obviously, just because one protest that took place a very long time ago, under very different social conditions, has been accepted and celebrated does not mean that EVERY protest is legitimate or worth celebrating.