Refutation is when a writer or speaker argues against an opposing argument or viewpoint. Writers or speakers can refute an argument in several ways. For example, one might employ evidence or logic in a refutation.
A defense attorney would refute the prosecutor's statement that his client is guilty by providing evidence or logical statements that refute the claim. For example, in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the prosecutor tried to argue that the bloody gloves found were Simpson's. His attorney refuted this claim by showing that the gloves were not big enough for Simpson's hand.
You would like to refute a statement by the principal that you skipped class yesterday. To refute his claim, you offer evidence of notes you took during the class, and the logical argument that he could call witnesses from the class to see if you were there.
Examples of Refutation in Literature and Speech
While in jail in Birmingham, AL, Martin Luther King, Jr. received a letter from fellow clergymen, basically asking him to stop his protest movement. In his response (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963), he refutes their arguments:
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
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