Disagreement Hierarchy: Arguments, ranked from name-calling to the careful refutation of an opponent’s central point

My weekend coronavirus lockdown project was writing up a new handout devoted to Graham’s “Disagreement Hierarchy” for academic arguments.

Does the word “argument” make you think of angry people yelling? This document presents Graham’s “disagreement hierarchy,” which catalogs multiple stages between juvenile name-calling and carefully refuting an error in your opponent’s central point.

Siblings might “argue” over who gets the comfy chair. Persuasion in that case might involve out-shouting or wearing down the other party with distractions (“Why are you being so mean?” “You always get your way.”)

Your task when writing an academic argument is very different.

For a college research paper, an argument takes a clear stand. Each well-organized paragraph develops the position, driven by direct quotations from the published work of a range of experts.

Graham named seven levels of what he calls the  “Disagreement Hierarchy.”

  1. Name-calling
  2. Ad Hominem
  3. Responding to Tone
  4. Contradiction
  5. Counterargument
  6. Refutation
  7. Refuting the Central Point