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Thomas A. Mauet, Trials: Strategy, Skills, and the New Powers of Persuasion (Aspen, 2005)


In an argument or debate, the presentation of evidence and reasoning meant to weaken or undermine an opponent's claim.

See also:


From Anglo-French, "to beat, rebuke"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Strictly interpreted, refute means 'to overcome opposing evidence and reasoning by proving it to be false or erroneous.' The rebuttal, strictly interpreted, refers to argumentation meant 'to overcome opposing evidence and reasoning by introducing other evidence and reasoning that will destroy its effect.' In practice, the terms refutation and rebuttal are used interchangeably, except that the second speech by each advocate in an academic debate is designated as the rebuttal speech."
    (Austin J. Freeley and David L. Steinberg, Argumentation and Debate: Critical Thinking for Reasoned Decision Making, 12th ed. Cengage Learning, 2008)

  • "Editorial writer E.J. Dionne provides a good example of a rebuttal. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, some people had suggested that opposing the invasion was unpatriotic because it meant opposing the president of the United States. Dionne rejected that suggestion. If that were the case, Dionne argued, 'then Abraham Lincoln was an unpatriotic appeaser for opposing the Mexican War as a young congressman in the 1840s.'

    "Dionne's response is a rebuttal, a counter-argument intended to point out a weakness of the original argument. Dionne specifically targets the idea that opposing a president is unpatriotic, by setting up the parallel case of Abraham Lincoln's opposition to a war proposed by a president. He shows by this parallel case that 'opposing a war,' at least in one important instance, does not equal 'unpatriotic.'"
    (James A. Herrick, Argumentation: Understanding and Shaping Arguments. Strata, 2007)

  • Characteristics of an Effective Rebuttal
    "An effective rebuttal has several features. First, it states the position of the opposing side without distortion. If quotations are used, they are reported with fidelity and accuracy. The rebuttal also uses a professional tone marked by courtesy and rationality. You should not use ridicule to make your points. Finally, it is constructively critical; readers bristle when they encounter too much negativity."
    (Allan A. Glatthorn, Publish Or Perish: The Educator's Imperative. Corwin Press, 2002)

  • Benjamin Franklin's Corn Rebuttal
    "In January 1766, while living in London as an agent for the colonies of Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts to protest the Stamp Act, [Benjamin Franklin] could not resist writing a succinct rebuttal to 'Vindex Patriae,' a correspondent to the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser who had disparaged corn. Franklin wrote:
    A writer in your paper comforts himself, and the India Company, with the fancy, that the Americans, should they resolve to drink no more tea, can by no means keep that resolution, their Indian corn not affording 'an agreeable, or easy digestible breakfast.' Pray let me, an American, inform the gentleman, who seems quite ignorant of the matter, that Indian corn, take it for all in all, is one of the most agreeable and wholesome grains in the world; that its green ears roasted are a delicacy beyond expression; that samp, hominy, succatash, and nokehock, made of it, are so many pleasing varieties; and that a johny, or hoe-cake, hot from the fire, is better than a Yorkshire muffin."
    (Dave DeWitt, The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine. Sourcebooks, 2010)

  • The Lighter Side of Rebuttals
    "Attention all personnel: Come one, come all to a wake for the late, great Captain Pierce. We'll be mourning all afternoon and evening. The deceased will deliver the eulogy. And the guests will have twenty minutes for rebuttal."
    (Public-address announcer in "The Late Captain Pierce." M*A*S*H, 1975)
Pronunciation: ree-BUH-tel
Also Known As: counterargument
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