Essay 2: Rhetorical Analysis
Prompt: For this essay, you will analyze how the author uses argumentative techniques to appeal to the audience in specific ways.
Sources: Choose 1 of the assigned articles.
• An introduction paragraph that sets up the context of the debate, the argument of the text, and the purpose of the argument for
a specific target audience. Introduction should end with an analytical thesis statement.
• 3 body paragraphs analyzing what the author is doing to persuade their audience and how that is designed to appeal to the
• 1 body paragraph that comments on a major weakness in the text and how that voice/appeal was ineffective for the audience
• You must have one paragraph on ethos, one paragraph on logos, and one paragraph on pathos
• A conclusion that comments on the significance of this debate and how it may or may not affect real world actions/work of
the target audience(s)
• Uses correct MLA format for document set up, works cited page, and citations
• Minimum page requirement: 4 full pages in MLA (can be more)
Structure: Successful papers will:
Have an effective academic introduction and conclusion paragraphs that follow guidelines given in class.
The 3 rhetorical appeals body paragraphs should effectively develop the following tasks:
beginning of the
technique to the
fully set up,
what the author
is doing in the
text to persuade
Analyze HOW the argumentative technique
is supposed to support the claim.
Analyze how the technique was supposed to
appeal to the target audience.
--What is the author doing? What technique
are they using?
--How does that technique support the
claim/opinion of the author?
--How does this moment in the text support
the main argument?
--Is this technique appealing to ethos, pathos,
--Why is the technique dominantly that
appeal and not one of the others?
--How does the audience react to the appeal?
--Why does the appeal get the audience to
act/react/think the way the author wants them
to? How does it change their point of view?
The 4th body paragraph should address the following tasks:
o What was the weakest technique/appeal the author attempted?
o Evidence: Quote sandwich(es) to illustrate what the author was TRYING to do and where they went wrong.
o Analysis: Why did the author do this? What assumption/belief about their audience or topic made them attempt this?
Why did they think it would work?
o Significance: Why didn’t it work? Why isn’t the audience persuaded? What rhetorical appeal failed here? What is
the overall reaction by the audience—how does it change their reaction to the main argument?
Use quote sandwiches
Use TEAS paragraph structure
Edit and proofread for spelling, grammar, and clarity
Format according to MLA rules
Follow triangle structures for introduction and conclusion
“Response to Steven Pinker: Is the World Really Getting Better?”
By Phil Torres
Feb 16, 2018 posted on Medium.com
Is the world getting better? The Harvard psychologist and polymath Steven Pinker wants you to think that it is.
And there happens to be a considerable body of evidence to support Pinker’s claim that humanity has indeed
made progress with respect to human well-being, not to mention scientific knowledge and technological
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Pinker outlines some of this evidence, arguing that the supposed
“gloominess” found on the political “right” and “left” is not merely wrong but “decidedly un-American.” Yet I
believe that Pinker’s proselytizing for progress is misleading at best and potentially dangerous at worst. Let’s
begin with the following paragraph from his article:
Isn’t it good to be pessimistic, many activists ask — to rake the muck, afflict the comfortable, speak truth
to power? The answer is no: It’s good to be accurate. … Indiscriminate pessimism can lead to fatalism:
to wondering why we should throw time and money at a hopeless cause. And it can lead to radicalism: to
calls to smash the machine, drain the swamp or empower a charismatic tyrant.
First, who advocates for “indiscriminate pessimism”? Definitely not
the leading figures of existential risk studies!
Second, I agree that “accuracy” should be the goal of any serious assessment of the human condition — of where
we were, are, and might end up. But this is precisely why Pinker’s analysis is problematic: his claims
aren’t incorrect, they’re incomplete, resulting in a distortedly sanguine picture of humanity’s progress.
The reality is that the contemporary world is also more dangerous than it’s ever been in recorded history — or
perhaps the history of the human species, bracketing the Toba catastrophe that, according to some scientists,
nearly killed off our ancestors. There is a growing swarm of problems facing humanity that are unprecedented in
their scale and severity; some even have genuinely existential implications. It behooves people — the electorate,
our political leaders, scientists, and so on — to construct as comprehensive a view of the world as possible, and
one cannot do this without recognizing the obstacle course of civilizational hazards before us.
(The rest of this paper will draw from a forthcoming article of mine titled “Facing Disaster: The Great
Challenges Framework.” For a far more detailed analysis of our evolving existential predicament, please see this
First, anthropogenic climate change is a historically unique problem that, as such, humanity has never before
encountered. Thus, we have no track record of displaying the collective wisdom needed to overcome this
immense danger. The hottest 18 years on record have all occurred since 2000 (with one exception), and the best
current science warns of extreme weather events, megadroughts lasting decades, devastating coastal flooding,
sea-level rise, melting glaciers and the polar icecaps, desertification, deforestation, food supply disruptions,
infectious disease outbreaks, mass migrations, and heat waves that surpass the 95 degree wet-bulb threshold for
human survivability, meaning that even if one were naked in the shade in front of a giant fan, death would follow.
In fact, a large 2017 study notes that about 30 percent of the global population is exposed to “lethal heat events”
for 20 or more days a year. But if greenhouse emissions continue to grow, approximately 74 percent will be
exposed to this “deadly threshold,” and even if humanity drastically reduces its emissions, the percentage will
still rise to about 50. As another study reports, between 20 and 30 percent of the planet will undergo aridification
if the global mean temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius.
Climate change is also a “conflict multiplier” that will — and already has — increase the probability of wars and
even terrorism. And by the end of this century, unless drastic changes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are
made, a huge portion of the US will become largely uninhabited arid land.
But carbon dioxide, one of the primary GHGs causing climate change, is also causing ocean acidification.
And studies show that this is occurring faster than ocean acidification occurred during the Permian-Triassic
extinction event, also known as the “Great Dying,” during which 95 percent of all species alive on the planet
kicked the bucket. Even more, the ocean’s gyros are full of plastic trash (see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch),
about 90 percent of the world’s coral reefs are projected to die by 2050, there are some 500 hypoxic “dead zones”
around the world due to human pollution, and one study estimates that, if business continues as usual, there will
be virtually no more wild-caught seafood by 2048. Another study projects that there will be more plastic than
fish, by weight, in the world’s oceans by 2050. (Again, see here.)
Even more, human activity has launched the biosphere into the sixth mass extinction. This conclusion holds on
even the most optimistic assumptions of current and past extinction rates. Studies show that, for example, the
global population of wild vertebrates has declined by an unthinkable 58 percent since 1970, and we will likely
see a two-thirds decline by the middle of this century. Colony collapse disorder has devastated the populations of
honey bees, and while we will likely need to produce more food in the next 50 years than we have produced in
our species entire history, soil erosion is reducing the annual crop yield by 0.3 percent, meaning that “at this rate,
we will have lost 10 percent of soil productivity by 2050” — about the same loss that global warming is expected
Consequently, we have crossed three “planetary boundaries” that make us vulnerable to sudden, irreversible, and
catastrophic changes to the biosphere upon which we depend for our survival. As the authors of an ominous
paper on this topic write:
anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where abrupt global environmental
change can no longer be excluded. … Transgressing one or more planetary boundaries may be
deleterious or even catastrophic due to the risk of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt
environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems.
Making matters worse, there is preliminary evidence that higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the ambient
atmosphere could literally make us “dumber.” We have now crossed the 400 parts per million (ppm) threshold
and we could reach 1,000 ppm by the end of the century; in contrast, our ancestors evolved with concentrations
between 180 and 280 ppm. According to two studies, even relatively small increases in carbon dioxide levels
could have measurable negative effects on our ability to think. If this is the case, it’s a recipe for disaster, given
the complexity and size of the global problems that children today will have to face. (Add to this the calculation
by Harvard researcher David Bellinger that “Americans have collectively forfeited” 41 million IQ points “as a
result of exposure to lead, mercury, and organophosphate pesticides.”)
But environmental degradation isn’t the biggest challenge before us. An even more worrisome trend is the
distribution of unprecedented offensive capabilities across society that is being driven by certain emerging
technologies. Consider emerging artifacts like CRISPR/Cas-9, digital-to-biological converters, base
editing, USB-powered DNA sequencers, SILEX (separation of uranium isotopes by laser excitation), which
enable humans to manipulate the world in truly extraordinary ways. But there are also anticipated future
technologies like nanofactories, which could enable state and nonstate actors to manufacture huge arsenals of
advanced weaponry; autonomous nanobots that could target specific people, races, or species; lethal autonomous
weapons — e.g., “slaughterbots” — not to mention invisibility cloaks, robot soldiers, mind-reading technologies,
mind-control technologies, laser weapons, self-guided bullets, etc.
The point is that many of these “dual-use” technologies are becoming not only more powerful than ever before,
but more accessible as well. In other words, they are rapidly multiplying the total number of actors — states,
terrorist groups, and even lone wolves with a death wish for humanity — capable of wreaking unprecedented
harm on civilization. As I have written elsewhere, the malicious actors of tomorrow will have bulldozers rather
than shovels to dig mass graves for their victims.
This is an extremely worrisome predicament. There are perhaps 300 million psychopaths in the world today —
and as I have detailed elsewhere, some really would destroy the world if only they could. Meanwhile, religion —
especially Islam — is growing worldwide, meaning that the number of religious terrorists will likely grow in
proportion. According to the Global Terrorism Index, religious extremism is the number one driver of global
terrorism today, and religious terrorism has proven to be far more lethal and indiscriminate than past forms of
This is a bad situation: terrorism isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, and it could even increase in the coming
century (as a result of “demographic inflation” and the instability caused by climate change); at the very same
time, such individuals will be empowered like never before to inflict genuinely existential harm on our species.
The distribution of offensive capabilities will also increasingly undercut the ability of states to maintain law and
order, a point that I have made elsewhere. As Max Weber famously wrote, states must have a monopoly of
legitimate force in order to govern effectively. But if individuals begin to wield a comparable degree of power as
states, the social contract will collapse and, along with it, the modern state system.
Consider that al-Qaeda consisted of perhaps 500 individuals when they attacked New York in 2001, resulting in
two massive wars that could cost $6 trillion in total and that have resulted in more than 110,000 Iraqi civilian
deaths. Similarly, the 2016 Dyn cyberattack may have been perpetrated by a single “angry gamer.” This lone
wolf interfered with an incredible number of major websites, including Airbnb, Amazon, BBC, The Boston
Globe, CNN, Comcast, FiveThirtyEight, Fox News, The Guardian, iHeartRadio, Imgur, National Hockey
League, Netflix, The New York Times, PayPal, Pinterest, Pixlr, Reddit, SoundCloud, Squarespace, Spotify,
Starbucks, Storify, the Swedish Government, Tumblr, Twitter, Verizon Communications, Visa, Vox Media,
Walgreens, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Yelp, and Zillow (to name a few).
How can states prevent society from plummeting into Hobbesian anarchy when small groups and single
individuals can wreak havoc that crosses national boundaries and rivals what states themselves are capable of?
Thinking about this situation more abstractly, John Sotos has recently crunched some numbers to show that the
distribution of offensive capabilities could all but guarantee civilizational collapse. For example, a 1 in 100
chance that only a few hundred agents releasing a pandemic-level pathogen yields almost inevitable doom with
100 years or so. If the total number of people who can cause global-scale harm rises to 100,000, the probability
of any one person releasing such a pathogen must be less than 1 in 10⁹ for civilization to survive a single
millennium. In other words, low probabilities can add up pretty quickly as the total number of individuals
capable of mass destruction increases.
So far, we haven’t even mentioned the dangers associated with artificial intelligence as it approaches humanlevel intelligence — and possibly surpasses it. Here Pinker holds some strange views, or so I would argue. For
example, he writes:
AI dystopias project a parochial alpha-male psychology onto the concept of intelligence. They assume
that superhumanly intelligent robots would develop goals like deposing their masters or taking over the
world. But intelligence is the ability to deploy novel means to attain a goal; the goals are extraneous to
the intelligence itself. Being smart is not the same as wanting something. … It’s telling that many of our
techno-prophets don’t entertain the possibility that artificial intelligence will naturally develop along
female lines: fully capable of solving problems, but with no desire to annihilate innocents or dominate the
civilization (Pinker 2015).
This succumbs to what the cosmologist Max Tegmark refers to as one of the “top myths of advanced AI.” The
concern isn’t that an artificially intelligent machine will become evil or malicious, motivated by an alpha-male
drive to dominate. Literally no one is arguing this! Rather, the concern is that a machine of this sort could have
goals programmed into it that are in some way — perhaps in completely unforeseen ways — misaligned with our
human values and that it could be competent enough to achieve those goals. For example, we might program the
machine to cure cancer and in response it converts the entire planet into a giant cancer research center. Oops!
When it comes to systems that are better at solving problems in every cognitive domain than even the smartest
humans, it is absolutely crucial that the system does what we intend rather than what we tell it to do. Yet how to
ensure that this is the case — that is, how to align the value system of a superintelligence with our value system
— turns out to be an incredibly difficult, and perhaps insoluble, problem.
This is why many experts on the topic believe that superintelligence could pose the greatest long-term threat to
our survival. And this is why these experts believe that superintelligence deserves immediate attention. In
fact, survey after survey reveals that the AI research community overwhelmingly expects human-level artificial
intelligence to arrive before the end of the century, with a sizable portion believing that this could occur even
sooner — in a few decades — followed after by superintelligence. So, we may not have much time to solve the
value-alignment problem mentioned above, which is worrisome.
Does this mean that we should be pessimistic about the future? Here I would argue that the pessimism-optimism
dichotomy misses the point. What matters is that humanity does everything it can to ensure that the future is as
good as it can possibly be. But to do this, as Pinker himself suggests, one needs an accurate model of what
exactly our species is up against. This requires acknowledging both the good and the bad — it means affirming
the moral progress that we have made so far, enabled in large part by the Enlightenment, as well as admitting that
our existential predicament today is almost certainly more existentially risky than ever before. Pinker notes that
progress isn’t guaranteed to continue — but I would argue that the best way to continue progress is to be
painfully realistic about the immense risks to our survival and prosperity caused by phenomena like
environmental degradation, emerging technologies, and artificial intelligence. Only once humanity takes these
risks seriously can we implement judicious policies to obviate them.
There is no question that Pinker — among the leading intellectuals in the world, and for good reason — has
made a huge contribution to human knowledge with his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, and no doubt his
forthcoming Enlightenment Now (which Bill Gates has called his “new favorite book of all time”). But I worry
that Pinker’s form of “Enlightenment progressionism” could lead to complacency, to a false sense of security at
this critical juncture in human history.
Phil Torres is an author and scholar of existential threats to humanity and civilization. www.xriskology.org. @xriskology
“Hype for the Best: Why Does Steven Pinker Insist that Human Life is On the Up?”
By SAMUEL MOYN
March 19, 2018 posted on THE NEW REPUBLIC
Belief in human progress has always depended on a kind of provisional faith. Philosophers of the Enlightenment imagined
that it was possible to break the chains of oppression and bring about the emancipation of all people. After the Scientific
Revolution, priestcraft and superstition lost credibility, and after American independence, the French Revolution established
hopes that liberty and equality for all were on the way, putting an end to material penury and social hierarchy. Yet things
went south in the rise of empire and the victory of reaction, the explosion of a dehumanizing brand of capitalism, and two
world wars, c ...
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