Refutation of an Argument: Definition & Examples

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  • 1:30 Counterargument
  • 2:02 Concession
  • 2:14 Examples
  • 3:40 Causation & Correlation
  • 5:10 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Gentry
In academic writing, the ability to refute an argument is a cornerstone of logical and critical thought, as well as an essential persuasive tool. Learn more through a comprehensive definition and examples, then put your new expertise to the test with a quiz.

Definition of Refutation

You may remember arguing with your siblings as a child about which water park or amusement park your family should visit. Perhaps you loved the Arctic Plunge at the water park, and your brother preferred the Wild Demon coaster at the amusement park.

Water Slide
Water Slide

If your brother presented his case for preferring the amusement park, then you probably also refuted it by presenting your case for the water park. This is only one example of how naturally an argument and the refutation of an argument fit into our lives. Let's look into these concepts more closely.

Refutation is simply disproving an opposing argument. It is an important rhetorical skill because it is frequently the hinge point as to whether or not a writer or speaker successfully persuades the audience. We often see argument and refutation for a particularly controversial topic. This means that a reasonable person could easily prefer either side with valid justifications for doing so. Therefore, it is all the more difficult for a writer to persuade an audience to his or her perspective because the audience usually has their own pre-established beliefs and preferences.

However, when a writer takes the initiative to face the very best arguments head-on and is able to first acknowledge their validity and then refute or disprove them, it is all the more persuasive. The writer then builds major credibility points with the audience because this demonstrates to the readers that the writer thought about the issue globally. When a writer raises the points of objection to his or her own arguments in the context of a paper, we call it a counterargument.

A counterargument, though, differs from a refutation. When a writer presents a counterargument, it acknowledges the opposing perspective's viewpoints or evidence for taking a given position. A refutation, on the other hand, takes this a step further by actually presenting evidence to disprove the opposing arguments.

If a writer happens to agree with certain aspects of the opposing argument, then he or she can make a concession, which would mean to admit that an opposing view is correct. Writers and speakers will use concession sparingly, though, because it can very easily undermine their own argument.

Examples of Refutation

As we've established, a refutation is disproving an argument, and there are quite a few means by which a writer can accomplish this successfully.

First, refutation through evidence.

An argument stands on legs of evidence. If there is no support or clear justifications for an argument, it cannot be sound or valid. A writer can refute an opposing argument by successfully countering it through evidence, whether it's evidence that conclusively disproves it by its findings or because it's more recent or credible evidence.

One popular debate right now centers on the existence of global warming. If a proponent for the existence of global warming cited an article about tsunamis from 2005, the opponent could come back with a more recent article (say, from 2010) demonstrating scientific evidence that disproved the correlation between tsunamis and global warming. This would be an instance of refutation through evidence.

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