Diagnostic Essay: Definition as Argument
Is the definition of marriage or a cross changing? This assignment asks for an extended argument (12
pages) that defines marriage or a cross either as a religious or a legal/secular term and sustains the argument, using
Jodi O’Brien and Peter Kollock in The Production of Reality (1997) interestingly point out that “A person’s reactions to the
world depend on how he or she defines the situation” (5). But they also state that “Cultural rules dictate what is ‘real’ and
what is ‘not real’” (5). They seem to suggest that one’s perception of the world is ultimately bound by cultural rules even
though the individual might believe that his or her responses are independent and original. Do you agree with O’Brien and
Kollock that what we see is dictated by culture? For example, how do you define marriage (is it a religious ceremony or a
civil union?)? How do you define a cross (a religious or a secular symbol of honor?)? Where do you draw the boundary
between legal definition and religious definition? What is real for you? Do the cultural rules have the final say? Provide
support (specific examples) from outside sources such as articles by Stanley Fish (Elements of Argument 145), Howard
Moody (EA 158), and Jo Ann Citron (EA 163).
N.B. Please review “Definition” in Chapter 4 in Elements of Argument (131) for your diagnostic.
1. In your journals, respond to the following questions:
1) Why is the definition of a crucial term important in argument? (13133)
2) What is stipulative definition? Is it itself arguable? Explain. (136)