Chapter four of Pullman’s work focuses on the skills that are necessary for academic argumentation. When drafting an argument of this nature, the author must be aware of possible opposing views that the audience may have. These arguments require one to “assume a skeptical audience.” (pg.229) This section of the chapter encourages one to pay special attention to what they are doing and how they are doing it. The details of an academic argument must account for any outliers or opposition. Pullman is essentially reiterating that it is important for the author or speaker to know their audience when crafting any form of argument, as he has noted in previous chapters. What I get from this is that an argument is more successful when one has identified their target audience first. Once there is a particular audience in mind, an academic argument is manipulated in a way that aligns with the views of that audience.
Pullman notes that is important that the author provides good evidence to support their claim because it will enhance the quality of the argument. Good evidence can also increase the authors credibility. However, Pullman does not particularly state to what extent an argument will be bettered based on the evidence. Pullman suggests that an academic argument consists of an assertion and proof. Pullman defines an assertion as a simple declarative sentence. More specifically, x is y. The amount of proof that is necessary for an argument is not strictly based on what type of argument it is. Proof also relies on how skeptical the audience is, as well as “their commitment to beliefs that oppose the one you are presenting.” (pg.232) For example, one who is more skeptical about an author or speaker’s proposed topic will need to be presented with an argument that has a significant amount of evidence to substantiate the claim set forth. This is because they will question anything that is challenging their own views and must be more thoroughly convinced. On the other hand, one who is not as interested in the topic you are presenting will not require as much evidence because they hold no apparent opposition to the claim.
This chapter challenges readers to get a better understanding of who they are convincing and how they should do it when constructing academic arguments. Unlike other arguments, those of an academic nature require more perspective. One side should not be argued in order for this type of argument to be successful. As previously noted, one must incorporate as many points of view as possible. This technique allows the author or speaker to even address, and hopefully persuade, the skeptic in the room.