Rebuttal Strategies

Here are some strategies you can use to respond to arguments. They are not ranked in order of what is most effective. Effectiveness differs depending on the arguments made. This list is also not the list of the ONLY rebuttals you can make - these are what I believe are the most common.

Don't depend on them, always try to create your own. Also, quoting the type of rebuttal is not the same as making the rebuttal. That means just saying the name is the strategy is ("hey, that is a Problem Solution Mismatch!") is not actually showing that it is true. If you can show the problem with the argument without saying the name of the strategy, that is just as good (or maybe even better!)

Also, learning common rebuttal strategies will also ensure your arguments are logically stronger. You ensure you don't make simple mistakes that leave you open to attack!

Once you've read through this, try the activity at the bottom and see how many of strategies you can use. You can use more than one on each slide.

  • Problem Solution Mismatch
  • Wrong in Principle
  • Generalization
  • Causes more Harm
  • Not their Role
  • Not Practical
  • Just Not Logical
  • Contradiction

A) Problem Solution Mismatch

  • You agree there is a problem, but this solution doesn’t solve the problem or the cause of the problem is wrong from what is identified and thus the solution doesn’t cause the problem
  • For example, Argument : Korean education is over competitive and doesn’t develop creative thinking skills. Co-ed schools help ensure more interaction between different genders and can solve this problem -> Problem identified is competitiveness and lack of creative thinking - interaction between genders doesn’t solve this problem, at least not as explained in this argument

B) Wrong in Principle

  • The argument contradicts a basic principle that society acknowledges is right . You will need to explain why upholding that principle is more important than whatever gain the argument is trying to achieve
  • For example, Argument : Keeping a murderer in prison for life will cost many millions of dollars. Sentencing murderers to death saves the state money which can then be used to help society -> the state must always preserve life and life is always more important than money. Even if that money can be used to help other people, the state cannot justify killing one person to help others.

C) Generalization

  • This mean assuming every situation is the same because of one example or one small sample. To be more effective, you should try to show why this situation is different.
  • For example, Argument : The US-Mexico FTA lead to exploitation of Mexico, therefore the Korea-US FTA will lead to the same -> this is a generalization. Just because Mexico wasn’t able to take advantage of the FTA with the US doesn’t mean Korea cannot do the same. Korea is in a different position from Mexico and can learn from their mistakes. Korea already has a positive trade balance with US

D) Has the Same or Worse Effect

  • You argue that what the argument is trying to achieve does not happen or instead it becomes worse!
  • For example, Argument : Keeping a murderer in prison for life will cost many millions of dollars. Sentencing murderers to death saves the state money which can then be used to help society -> the death penalty doesn’t save money, the state has to spend lots more money on appeals as most prisoners sentences to death spend many years on death row
  • For example, Argument : Korea signing an FTA with US will lead to Korea losing competitiveness as our trade balance will drop -> this is not true. Actually NOT signing the FTA will US will lead to a loss of competitiveness

E) Not Practical

  • The argument is not practical - there no money, no willpower, no person to do, no time etc. 
  • For example, Argument : To solve the problem of unemployment in Korea, each company should be forced to hire more people! -> this is impossible. Companies will not cooperate, and even if the government can force all companies to do this, companies will lose money and will go bankrupt (leading to the same or Worse Effect - more unemployment)

F) Just Not Logical

  • Just does not make sense! Attack the logic behind an argument! Try to stretch the logic to apply to a different situation. If it cannot be applied, then the logic is not true.
  • For example, Argument : The state cannot remove life because the state cannot create life. The state can only take away what it can replace -> but the state removes things it cannot replace all the time - like time, or the environment.

G) Contradictions!

  • Often different parts of an argument might contradict each other. Pointing out contradictions is an incredibly effective rebuttal, as it is the worst logical mistake
  • For example, Argument : We should use the death penalty to discourage serial killers. Serial killers are crazy psychopaths who do not care about living or dying -> if serial killers don’t care about dying, why will they be discouraged by the death penalty?? It does not make sense!


Strategic Concession

If you cannot directly rebut an argument, you can concede it, but only if it’s not a major argument! You concede the argument, but argue that something else is more important.

For example, Argument : An embryo is a form of life, destroying it is killing -> we can concede the idea that the embryo is a form of life, but the life of the mother (quality of life) is more important than life that is not yet independent