I need to write a position paper (i.e., a persuasive essay), but I'm not sure how to do it. What techniques are available to complete this type of essay?
Before scientific discovery and the experimental method dominated our search for truth, another method was used to discover important facts and beliefs about the nature of life and existence: reason and persuasion. In ancient Greece, reason was the primary means of organizing and understanding truth, and persuasion was a way of validating and ratifying it. Before microscopes, telescopes, computers, and today's sophisticated electronic equipment were invented (indeed, even before the experimental method was formalized), truth was often a matter of belief, and thus it was subject to persuasion. If a scholar or philosopher could convince others that a particular idea was true (e.g., the sun revolves around the earth, honor is the highest virtue, all matter is comprised of fire), then, for all practical purposes, it was! Truth relied on belief, and belief relied on persuasion. The importance placed on persuasion afforded great thinkers of that era, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, tremendous honor and respect, for in their ability to reason and to persuade others, they held the power to create and perpetuate important philosophical truths. Today, of course, we typically explore the truths of our world in different ways--usually through science, empirical research studies, and/or technology. Yet, persuasion still has a very powerful role to play in our world.
The art of persuasion, also referred to as "rhetoric," can help us explore areas of truth where science may be inadequate. For example, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that it is unconstitutional to administer the death penalty to mentally retarded people convicted of serious crimes. But is this an adequate way to determine the truth of a moral action?... Six justices voted to uphold the death penalty ban, and three voted against it! If science held the answer to this question of "right and wrong," then shouldn't the vote have been unanimous in the face of objective, irrefutable evidence? Of course it would! But that's not what happened. Through dialogue and debate (i.e., rhetoric), each justice had to hear (or read) arguments, discuss the issue among themselves, weigh the evidence, and decide how to vote. They had to rely on reason and persuasion!
In this lecture, I'm going to present several rhetorical methods for introducing evidence that you can use to help persuade readers. You are probably familiar with these methods in some form or another, but they can become especially powerful allies if you ...