Empathic Argument

We have an idea and a project this week in class. The idea is empathic argument, the project is podcasting. My father returned to the idea of empathic argument in Monday’s lecture to try to make it a bit more concrete. And he certainly did that with his main example: the battle rap scene from 8 Mile. He argued to our students that Eminem made a masterful empathic argument in that scene. How did he do it? He started off his argument by clearly and fairly stating the case for his opposition in a way that even his opposition wouldn’t disagree with. He says, with much obscenity that I’ll leave out, “Yes I live in a trailer park. Yes I’m white. Yes he slept with my girlfriend. etc. etc. But I’m still standing her in front of you, still being a good rapper.” And then he goes on to make his argument for why his opponent is not good. By doing this, he leaves his opponent without anything to throw back at him. There is nothing his opponent can say that he hasn’t already said.

So how does this demonstrate empathic argument? The idea is that if you want to persuade someone of something, you first have to make them understand that you understand their point of view. And you can do that by stating the facts of the situation and the issues at stake in the dispute in a way that they can agree with. Once you’ve done that, you can argue against their point of view from a common ground of understanding of the dispute.

We went on, in Tuesday’s class, to put this idea into practice by having 4 very brave students volunteer to make their own empathic arguments about the projects that they’ve chosen to do for the class. They did this in 2 and half minute oral statements that we recorded and put up as podcasts. I won’t link to them now because we’ve given all the students a week to produce a 2 and a half minute podcast that empathically argues their positions and these 4 students, like the rest, may wish to put some finishing touches on their work from class today. If you are looking for some discussion of empathic argument or a really good tutorial on how to make a podcast yourself, check out the lecture.

Tonight in office hours in SL we did it again. This time we did it live by role playing various arguments where students, Gene and I wrestled with what empathic argument is and how to do it effectively. The transcript of tonights office hours is available here.

3 Comments

  1. Todd Floyd

    November 17, 2006 @ 7:38 pm

    1

    Thinking of empathic argument; If I were to file a compliant in the court of
    public opinion with whom would I empathize? Since my argument would mostly
    be personal in nature, would “the other” be the general public, some
    preconceived notion of what my particular audience might be like, or
    something else altogether.

    Or should I be thinking of this as a lawyer (I’m not, I’m in the extension
    school but viewing this class at-large) and try to imagine myself in the
    place of my client? I don’t think this captures the essence of Prof.
    Nesson’s idea since advocacy for some one else’s cause is not really what
    shapes public opinion. I need to explain. Suppose I support the war in Iraq,
    that’s Bush’s cause; but if I support him it becomes my cause too. Think of
    it as the difference between Daily Kos and Howard Dean, Kos does his thing
    because he – ostensibly – believes in the issues he supports. Dean’s work is
    based on political gamesmanship and the acquisition of power.

    So if I were crafting an argument for the court of public opinion, should I
    pay more attention to the people who are most likely to agree with me and
    thus be inspired to carry forth my message? Or should I focus on those who
    are most likely to disagree so that my argument will stand up to wide
    ranging public criticism, and risk moderating my message?

    I’d love to here any thoughts anyone might have
    Thanks

  2. erca

    November 18, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

    2

    I think that Professor Nesson’s point goes back to the quote from Carl Rogers earlier in the semester that you have to experience the issue or problem “as if” you were your opponent — you have to put yourself in the opposition’s shoes to understand their experience. I say understand their “experience” of the issue rather than understand their “argument” because I believe that Rogers’ view of empathy includes an emotional understanding of the other person’s view, not just an intellectual grasp of their argument. You process the issue “as if” you were the other person. If you are able to understand the opposition’s motivations, beliefs, concerns, etc. then you can better understand the way to craft your own presentation.

    In the battle rap scene from 8 Mile, Eminem didn’t advocate for the other guy but he presented what the other guy was likely to say and then his response to that. So having an empathic understanding is not the same as supporting the other side or advocating for it. I think that in the court of public opinion, an empathic argument will be more well-reasoned and balanced than if you refuse to acknowledge the opposing arguments. In the court of public opinion, “the other” would be those who experience the issue differently than you do.

    I’m not sure that using empathic argument would necessarily result in your message losing strength — the argument in 8 Mile gained strength from it. Of course there is always the chance that empathic understanding of the opposing viewpoint might cause you to rethink and modify your own position.

    — Just my 2 cents from an “at-larger”

  3. Cris Ericson

    December 17, 2006 @ 7:05 pm

    3

    Hi! I just came across this page today, December 17, 2006.

    The reason I will comment is that starting with
    the premise,

    “First World” and corporate domination of entertainment media, laws and news can be balanced by the voices of individuals, goups and universities who use new media intelligently”

    I thought, well, that’s what I do,
    that’s what I have been doing,

    I lost a ten year court battle representing myself without an attorney.

    I was assaulted and battered and blasted with concealed military high explosives by Patrick Swayze while filming “Point Break”.

    The case has been written up in the Federal Register EPA response to Citizen (that’s me) petition against Lead Azide -that’s a military high explosive concealed in “trade secret” “special effects”:
    http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-TOX/1997/April/Day-15t9690.htm
    Bankruptcy Law Reporter P 77,826 Ericson vs. In re IDC,
    Cite as 1998 WL 547085 (S.D.N.Y)
    97 Civ 3081 (T.P.G.)
    93 B 45992 (S.M.B.( Southern District of NY Bankruptcy)
    U.S.D.C. Central CA 94-4630 (R.M.T.)
    etc.
    I fought like hell and lost.
    The movie industry won the right to assault and batter and blast non-union movie extras
    sent to work on union movies and deny all medical treatment and deny all evidence
    ( I still have the explosives fragments the judges wouldn’t allow in evidence,
    they refused to allow the film footage and out-take film footage in evidence)
    etc.
    THEY WON, NOW THE LOWEST STANDARDS OF LABOR IN THE ENTIRE WORLD
    EXIST RIGHT HERE IN THE U.S.A.
    THE MOVIE INDUSTRY IS ALLOWED
    TO ASSAULT AND BATTER AND BLAST
    NON-UNION MOVIE EXTRAS
    WORKING ON UNION MOVIES
    WITH CONCEALED MILITARY HIGH EXPLOSIVES
    IN UNKNOWN AMOUNTS,
    LEAD AZIDE, LEAD STYPHNATE AND PETN PLASTIC HIGH EXPLOSIVE DETONATORS.

    NOW, WHAT TO DO NEXT?

    I THOUGHT, OK,
    NOW HOW WILL I STOP THE DOMINATION OF THE ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA,
    STOP THEM FROM DOMINATING THE COURTS AND THE JUDGES,
    STOP THEM FROM DOMINATING U.S. SENATORS,

    OH, YES,
    U.S. SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY TOOK CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS FROM
    MY OPPOSING ATTORNEYS, STUART HIRSCHFIELD AND WAYNE CROSS,
    ANTI TRUST ATTORNEY FOR DEWEY BALLANTINE,
    AND THAT’S AFTER I WROTE TO LEAHY,
    BECAUSE I HAD MOVED TO VERMONT,
    AND ASKED HIM TO INVESTIGATE
    FEDERAL JUDGES FOR DENYING MY MOTIONS TO COMPEL
    THE QUANTITY OF GRAINS OF EXPLOSIVES TO PROVE
    THE CASE WAS BEYOND THE EXCLUSIVITY OF WORKERS’ COMP
    JURISDICTION FOR TOXIC TORT……..

    WHATEVER,
    SO I LOST,
    SO THEN WHAT DID I DO NEXT
    AS AN INDIVIDUAL
    TO
    BALANCE THE DOMINATION OF ATTORNEYS WHO HAVE ATTORNEYS WHO HAVE ATTORNEYS,

    I RAN FOR GOVERNOR OF VERMONT IN 2002,
    THOUGHT THAT WOULD GET ATTENTION,

    NOT.

    THEN I RAN FOR GOVERNOR OF VERMONT AND FOR U.S. SENATOR FOR VERMONT
    AGAINST U.S. SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY IN 2004,

    NO, THAT DIDN’T WORK,

    THEN I RAN FOR GOVERNOR OF VERMONT AND FOR U.S. SENATOR FOR VERMONT
    IN 2006,

    STILL DIDN’T WORK,

    WELL,
    I’M NOT DONE YET.

    I AM STILL WORKING ON FIGURING OUT A WAY TO
    STOP DOMINATION OF ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA, THEIR ATTORNEYS WHO HAVE ATTORNEYS WHO
    HAVE ATTORNEYS WHO ALL COMITT FRAUD IN A FIDUCIARY CAPACITY AND
    FRAUDULENT CONCEALMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS,
    AND
    I AM STILL TRYING TO BALANCE
    ALL OF THIS DOMINATION OF THE MOVIE INDUSTRY

    AND I AM TRYING TO STOP THEM FROM
    ASSAULTING AND BATTERING AND BLASTING NON UNION MOVIE
    EXTRAS WITH CONCEALED MILITARY HIGH EXPLOSIVES.

    INTELLIGENTLY.

    STILL TRYING.

    INTELLIGENTLY.

    WON’T GIVE UP.

    Supreme Court of U.S. Docket #99-6899 denied, three petitions denied.

    WON’T GIVE UP,
    WILL GET ELECTED TO U.S. CONGRESS 2008 AND OPEN COMMITTEE TO INVESTIGATE
    ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA.
    MY SOURCE SAYS 60% OF THESE SO CALLED SPECIAL EFFECTS ARE SOLD OVERSEAS AS WEAPONS.

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