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Arguing Past Fact

Past Fact is concerned with whether something has or hasn’t happened. Sometimes there will be proof to show with certainty whether something has or hasn’t happened. Most of the time, however, you will need to deal with probability rather than certainty. When there is a lack of certainty, you can use the following arguments to persuade.

 

There are two events, and one is more likely to have happened than the other. If the less probable event has happened, the more probable event is likely to have happened.

This line of argument is common in courts of law.

Example

A prosecutor speaks to a jury and says

‘We know this woman stole from her mother. If she stole from her mother, is it not probable that she also stole from the shop?’

This form of argument offers no certainty, but it is persuasive.

 

If, through our experience, one thing naturally follows another and the following this happened, the initial thing has probably also happened.

When there is snow on the ground, you think it has fallen from the sky. Snow on the ground is usually preceded by snow falling from the sky so it makes sense to think that the snow fell, even if you didn’t see it happen.

 

If you see a car with crumpled and smashed, you think it has been in an accident rather than thinking the damage was done on purpose as a piece of art work.

You can use the ‘natural expectation’ of events to persuade audiences that something happened even when there is no evidence (other than their previous experience) to show it really did happen.

 

Power + Desire + Opportunity = Action

Human nature can be quite predictable. If someone has the power, desire, and opportunity to do something, they will probably do it. You do not need to show that someone actually did something. Instead, if you show that the person had the power, desire, and opportunity, most people will believe that a person did something. On the other hand, if you want to show that someone did not do something, you just need to show that the person did not have one or more of power, desire, and opportunity.

Posted On February, 07 Tuesday 2017 01:18 PM

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