Controversial Topics That are Using Stasis Theory

Initially developed in Ancient Greece, the stasis theory has been reviewed and critiqued by modern rhetoricians regularly over the last several decades.

The word ‘stasis’ can be literally translated as meaning ‘stopping point’ or even ‘slowing down.’ Rhetorically, stasis refers to a debate or an issue that might be disputed or a specific question that needs to be answered before an argument can continue.

Stases, in its plural form, are often expressed in the form of typical, recurring questions; Those that can be modified to be applied to any given topic or subject matter. A common practice amongst theorists is to identify three to five stases (questions regarding fact, value, policy, etc)

Fact:  What has happened or what will happen? What facts are known about the subject? Ex. What happened on the night of February 18, 2001?

Definition:  How will the subject be named or what is its classification? Ex. What motivated the protagonist to act in the way he did?

Cause / Effect: What was the cause of the subject? What consequences will arise as a result? Ex. What motivated the protagonist to act in this way?

Value: Is the subject good or bad? Is it right or wrong? Ex. How bad were the actions of the protagonist?

Policy: What action should be taken as a result? Ex. Should the protagonist be punished? Why?

In the real world, stasis theory offers a tangible means of classifying the type of argument being made and is most often seen in the legal world. Outside of the justice setting, the two most common examples of using stasis theory and how they can assist are seen in two different ways.

  1. Heuristically – or as a method for the generation of things to say about a particular topic or subject. More so, stasis can help a writer to develop their argument. For example, you could choose to ask yourself “What are the questions that I might be able to come up with about this topic based on the stasis theory. More specifically, knowing my audience, which stasis should I address the most closely?”
  2. As a means of critiquing the arguments made by others. You might ask yourself, “Which stasis has the speaker or author given the most attention to, were those choices successful?”

Controversial Points of Using Stasis Theory

The stasis theory has grown in popularity and has become the preferred method for the exploration of controversial issues and coming to conclusions or claims about said issues. Historically, example of stasis theory would most often be seen in the delivery of legal claims in a court of justice.

Calling upon that same legal example, consider how a specific set of questions might be useful when exploring an alleged crime.

  • Questions based on fact or ‘conjecture’; What occurred? Was it the accused?
  • Questions based on definition: What was the crime?
  • Questions based on quality: Was this wrong? Was the accused justified? What motivated them?
  • Questions based on policy: What should happen as a result?

Over time, these questions have been redeveloped into more generalized questions that can be interjected into any issue where a disagreement might be present. In order to be able to argue effectively, you must achieve stasis in order to know exactly what the issue at hand is.

The standard stasis questions are regularly used in writing classes as a method of enticing students to explore a subject on a deeper level. When used as an invention, stasis questions present a tremendous amount of valuable insight and information. That being said, it is likely that a write would only use a small sample of the ideas generated by an invention exercise, however, they may also uncover ideas and concepts that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

The four basic stasis questions (Fact, Definition, Quality and, Policy) help writers and rhetors to arrive at decisions as to what they should say with regards to a specific topic. More specifically,  each of the four basic stasis questions lead to a specific kind of claim – or a thesis statement.

Refer to the next section for an example!

Getting to Know Stasis Theory Facts

As mentioned previously, the answers to stasis questions will help a writer to determine how to best structure their argument and delivery of their thesis statement.

Questions of Fact result in Claims of Fact as well as Analysis
Questions of Definition result in Claims of Definition as well as Definition of Arguments
Questions of Quality result in Claims of Value as well as Evaluation of Arguments
Questions of Policy result in Claims of Policy as well as Proposals of Arguments

Bare in mind that not every argument is a pure type of any of these forms of argument. Determining the actual facts and correct definitions is often needed in order to build a solid evaluation or proposal. Evaluation is a regular component of establishing the need for change.

Useful information: Learn how to write an evaluation paper.

Applying Stasis Theory for Teamwork

The stasis teamwork theory can aid writers in working together to solve problems and build a common ground. When deployed correctly, it becomes a process for using communication to work through challenges and generate dialogue in order to arrive to a common conclusion.

For instance, writers working together to compose a report on prejudice in the United States of America might not agree on which actions are considered prejudiced and which are not. Here is a sample dialogue from a team conversation wherein a group is trying to work through their written report on the topic.

“Not hiring a woman to work in a welding shop is prejudiced.”

“Only hiring men is not prejudiced.”

“Yes it is, because it represents gender bias and further substantiates the belief that women cannot contribute value to the Trades.”

“Not hiring women to work in an industrial welding shop is not prejudice. Women are smaller and not able to handle the environment.”

These two individuals are not able to agree on whether or not a company refusing to hire female trades workers is prejudice. This type of disagreement could result in a breakdown of the group is common ground is not established.

In this example, the team members go on to agree that a lot needs to be done to level the gender gap in skilled trades (fact), but there are situations where a female worker might feel uncomfortable in certain settings (also fact). They further state that the issue of gender equality is extremely important to the American people and that women add value to the workplace (quality).

Furthermore, they note the occurrence of several law cases that have been filed for discrimination based on things like pay equity and gender (again, quality).

In this scenario, they have worked through two of the four basic stasis questions and have been successful in keeping the lines of communication open. Where they disagree on certain elements, they are able to establish a common ground and have begun to work towards a resolution and analysis. It is not necessary for every party to agree on every element so long as they are able to come to a conclusion that is acceptable to the masses.

Some Prominent Stasis Theory Examples

Stasis theory, in a practical setting, is based on the concept that a concrete argument can be solved. In order for someone to achieve this, they must consider the following:

  1. Fact – did or does it happen
  2. Definition – what actually happened and how do we define it
  3. Value (Quality) – Was this good or bad
  4. Policy – What needs to be done

After asking these questions, most of the disagreement will become clear. Ie: is the argument over facts, definitions, values or policies?

In order to see stasis theory in action, let’s look at a few samples:

If you would like to challenge yourself and your understanding of the stasis theory here are a few quick exercises and practice questions you can try out.