Basic Claim Types
We’ve hardly spoken about claims (and claim types) at all in class, so I don’t expect you to readily recognize a Definition/Categorical claim, but one thing should be obvious from the name. It’s a claim about how a term is defined or what category of thing it belongs to. We can start there. Here are some claim types.
1. Definition Claim. When you say “PTSD is a psychological disorder,” in your first five words you’re making a definition claim.
2. Analogy Claim. When you say, “PTSD is similar to other communicable diseases because it can be spread by a victim to others with whom he interacts,” you’re claiming a similarity of one thing to another.
3. Categorical Claim. A simple categorical claim would be the naming of several examples of PTSD symptoms (hyperawareness, sleeplessness, quick anger). They all belong to the category: Symptoms of PTSD. Similarly, if you claimed, “PTSD is not only a psychological disorder but also one that can be spread to others through close contact,” you could be making a categorical claim of the sort: PTSD belongs to the category of ailments that can be spread or communicable ailments.
4. Factual Claim. A claim that circumstances or conditions exist beyond doubt. Factual claims can be proved by appealing to indisputable evidence. “Ten thousand veterans of the Iraq war have been diagnosed with PTSD” can be quantified and proved. However, “Ten thousand veterans of the Iraq war SUFFER FROM PTSD” is not indisputable since it depends on a clear definition, accurate diagnosis, and an absence of fraud or error.
5. Evaluative Claim. A claim that involves judgment of the characteristics of an item or situation. Evaluations are arguable and can be supported by expertise, authority, credentials, or a preponderance of evidence. They can evaluate the quality of an item, its suitability for a particular purpose, or the effectiveness of a course of action. “Family members of veterans suffering from PTSD are not getting adequate support to deal with their own traumas” is an evaluative claim.
6. Ethical or Moral Claim. A type of evaluative claim that places a judgment on a social situation expresses an ethical or moral judgment. “Family members are not getting the support THEY DESERVE” is an ethical claim that blames the Veterans Administration for a failure to support the veteran’s family.
7. Quantitative or Numerical Claim. Such claims may be factual or evaluative depending on the reliability of the measurements. To say “There are more returning veterans with PTSD now than ever before in the history of warfare” is to make an evaluative numerical claim (it also compares this day with all previous days and is therefore comparative).
8. Comparative Claim. As hinted above, any claim that two or more things can be ranked involves a comparative claim. “Best” and “worst” involve comparisons, as do “most” and “least” and all the flavors of categorizing by quantity or quality.
9. Causal Claim. Causal claims are assertions of cause and effect, consequences, preconditions, or predictions of what will occur in certain circumstances. An example of a causal claim you’ll likely encounter is that PTSD develops as a result of sustained trauma. The claim is that “Trauma causes PTSD.”
10. Recommendation or Proposal Claim. Authors who write to convince an audience to adopt a course of action (or at the very least to adopt a different point of view on a topic of social importance) are making a proposal claim. The word “should,” or “must,” or “demand” almost always appears in a proposal argument (and also in Ethical claims).
11. Attributive Claim. Authors don’t or can’t verify every claim they make, so, to signal that they are passing along someone else’s claim, they distance themselves by an arms-length with a phrase like, “according to,” or “says X,” or “It is said.”
12. Illustrative Claim. Some claims use the methods of poetry to draw similarities or to illustrate situations. They describe people in ways that evoke sympathy. They compare homes to tombs. They detail the endless paperwork needed to get a simple prescription to illustrate the frustration of medication-seekers.
13. Credibility Claim. A special type of Evaluative Claim is the Credibility Claim, which names the credentials of the person responsible for the claim, as in: “Harvard professor of Film Ethan Coen reviewed the new thriller.” It’s Factual that Ethan Coen reviewed the film. It’s a Credibility Claim to identify him by his line of work.
Similarity of Category and Analogy
Calling PTSD “contagious” also seems like an analogy, doesn’t it? Colds and flus are likely contagious. Measles is; polio is. The Corona viruses are. But if we say a yawn is contagious, or that enthusiasm is contagious, we’re making an analogy to suggest, poetically, that a yawn belongs to the category: contagious things (things that can be transmitted from one person to others like a virus).
Yawning isn’t spread through bacteria or viruses, so it isn’t literally contagious. Neither is enthusiasm. But it spreads similarly to diseases: one person in close proximity to others transfers a condition: a physical yawn or a purposeful emotional energy to a roomful of other people, for example.
So what do you think? Is PTSD transferred from one person to another? If so, is the process more like spreading the flu, or more like spreading enthusiasm? Or a third way you could explain in a different analogy?
Did Brannan “catch” Caleb’s PTSD? Or is hers an entirely new case?
A student in last semester’s class did a creditable job of informally analyzing claims from the source material and categorizing the claims as types from the list above. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good model of the sort of analysis this assignment requires, a strong sample of a smart student making good observations.
It’s also nicely formatted with block quotes and boldface for the category types.
BEGIN THE ONE HOUR EXERCISE
Imagine there’s a murderer in your house. And it is dark outside, and the electricity is out. Imagine your nervous system spiking, readying you as you feel your way along the walls, the sensitivity of your hearing, the tautness in your muscles, the alertness shooting around inside your skull. And then imagine feeling like that all the time.
—This whole section is a long analogy claim, or it could be called a categorical claim. The author lists the symptoms of PTSD that Caleb Vines faces because of his mental illness. Besides just listing his symptoms, the author compares his symptoms to the nervous and scared feelings one would get at a murder house, which is what makes it an analogy.
He’s one of 103,200, or 228,875, or 336,000 Americans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and came back with PTSD, depending on whom you ask, and one of 115,000 to 456,000 with traumatic brain injury.
—The author uses a numerical claims when he mentions the number of soldiers who came back with PTSD and TBI, who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Obviously, she is citing the claims of others here, all of whom make different counts.
—When the author states “depending on who you ask,” it means that the definition of TBI is not exact and doctors may have different diagnoses for it. So the difference in numerical claims highlights the problem of a vague definition. She doesn’t evaluate which numbers are the “best,” so it’s not evaluative.
Even doctors can’t say for sure exactly why he has flashbacks, why he could be standing in a bookstore when all of a sudden he’s sure he’s in Ramadi, the pictures in his brain disorienting him among the stacks, which could turn from stacks to rows of rooftops that need to be scanned for snipers.
—This quote is a causal claim. Even though the quote states that the doctors don’t know the exact reason for these flashbacks, we do know that the cause is this mental illness called PTSD.
The divorce rate was twice as high for vets with PTSD as for those without. Vietnam vets with severe PTSD are 69 percent more likely to have their marriages fail than other vets.
—These two sentences contain factual, causal, and evaluative claims. The facts as presented depend on who defines PTSD, and what qualifies as “severe PTSD” is evaluative. PTSD is said to cause divorce, which is obviously a causal claim.
The VA also endorses eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), which is based on the theory that memories of traumatic events are, in effect, improperly stored, and tries to refile them by discussing those memories while providing visual or auditory stimulus.
—This quote is a definition and factual claim. The author mentions (EMDR) and follows it with a factual definition of what the therapy is. Therapists using EMDR are depending on a theoretical claim that the therapy relieves trauma.
Of the soldiers coming home with PTSD now, he says, “You need time. You need time, and perspective.”
—The use of the word “need” makes this a proposal claim that soldiers returning with PTSD need time and perspective.
END OF ONE HOUR
- Budget two hours for this assignment between now and Wednesday midnight. You’ll need one hour to read the article or listen to the podcast, one hour to write your Claims analysis.
- Find the entire text of the article (separated into 22 sections, one of which has been assigned to YOU) at THIS LINK.
- DUE THU FEB 16 (11:59PM WED FEB 15).
- Publish your assignment in two categories: PTSD Claims and the category for your username found under Authors.
- Give your post the title Claims–Username, substituting your own username, of course.
- Word count is irrelevant, but thorough analyses of whatever length will be graded higher than superficial writing that wastes words. Complex ideas briefly expressed are rewarded best.
- Give yourself a One Hour Time Limit to Write about the Author’s Claims.
- Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
- Minor (Non-Portfolio) Assignment (10%)