Prescriptive and Descriptive Arguments
Descriptions “describe”—they depict the “what is” of a statement. Prescriptions “prescribe”—they express the “what ought to be” of a statement. When approaching controversial or emotionally charged subjects, critical thinkers are mindful of the different roles that facts and values play in people’s judgments and the different roles they play in different kinds of judgments. This assignment will help deepen your understanding of those distinctions.
To understand the difference between prescriptive and descriptive arguments, review the following sets of arguments:
Young men and women under twenty-one years of age are not responsible enough and do not demonstrate enough self-restraint to use alcohol responsibly. One should only use alcohol responsibly. Therefore, the drinking age should remain at twenty-one.
If a person is old enough to vote in public elections, be tried as an adult in capital crimes, or enlist in military service, he or she should be treated as a responsible adult, and responsible adults should have the right to use alcohol. Therefore, the drinking age ought to be eighteen years of age.
Drinking and driving in the United States, as measured by alcohol involvement in fatal crashes in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), decreased substantially from 1982 to 1998. . . . This decrease was led by young drivers under the age of twenty-one. The number of young drivers in fatal crashes with a positive blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) dropped 61 percent, from 4,393 in 1982 to 1,714 in 1998. While 43 percent of young drivers in fatal crashes had a positive BAC in 1982, only 21 percent did in 1998. . . . Thirty-six states raised their minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) to twenty-one years between 1982 and 1987 so that by 1988, MLDA was in effect in all states. MLDA 21 laws clearly reduced youth drinking and driving by reducing alcohol availability and by establishing the threat of punishment for alcohol use. (NHTSA, 2001). Therefore, having a drinking age of twenty-one years saves lives by creating and maintaining a reduction in alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities.
People suffering from type 2 diabetes are not able to handle sugary or high-fat foods, due to a metabolic disorder. If type 2 diabetics indulge in high-sugar diets, it tends to lead to compromised health, increased medical expenses, and loss of productivity due to absenteeism from work. People that do not take proper care of themselves physically do not deserve to have related medical expenses subsidized by medical insurance (Risérus, Willett, & Hu, 2009).
Therefore type 2 diabetics who do not practice strict dietary restrictions and eliminate refined sugars and high-fat foods from their diets are grossly irresponsible, and do not deserve to have medical insurance coverage for their diabetes-related illnesses. (Risérus, Willett, & Hu, 2009).
Type 2 diabetes occurs due to a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. Research has shown a number of lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise to be important in the development and advancement of type 2 diabetes. In particular, obesity has been shown to contribute to over 50 percent of type 2 diabetes cases (Risérus, Willett, & Hu, 2009).
Therefore, for persons at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) may help delay or prevent the onset of the disease (Risérus, Willett, & Hu, 2009).
Based on your understanding of prescriptive and descriptive arguments, respond to the following:
- Identify a subject of interest for which arguments of different perspectives can be created.
- Construct short, paired original arguments on this topic: one prescriptive and one descriptive.
Support your arguments with scholarly references. Be sure to provide citations for your sources as well as citations for a premise you state to be a fact.
Write your initial response in 1–2 paragraphs. Apply APA standards to citation of sources.
By Wednesday, May 22, 2013, post your response to the appropriate Discussion Area. Through Sunday, May 26, 2013, review at least two peers’ responses. Critically comment on how they have used evidence in different types of arguments. Be sure to address the following:
- Identify the supporting evidence for their arguments.
- Offer an assessment of the strength of the evidence provided in support of the argument. Include a rationale for your statements. You may offer a suggestion for improved supporting evidence.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Traffic Tech. (2001). Decline in youth alcohol-related fatalities attributed to four factors. Retrieved from
Risérus, U., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2009). Dietary fats and prevention of type 2 diabetes. National Institutes of Health, 48(1), 44–51. Retrieved from
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