Essay on This Is Water a speech by David Foster Wallace

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In David Foster Wallace’s graduation speech, This Is Water, he uses logical and emotional appeals to discuss the importance of critical thinking. Wallace uses the term “conscious” to signal critical thinkers, while those who do not think critically are referred to as “unconscious.” Wallace’s main argument is that a person has the choice to think critically and should do so every day. Wallace’s analysis of consciousness and unconsciousness focusses too heavily on the logical and emotional appeals and ignores the possible ethical arguments that support the development of conscious societies, such as activism. In doing so, Wallace favours the self-interested members of the audience and alienates those who favour altruism, limiting the…show more content…
Through proving that we are not always correct, and reminding the audience that different people can have different views of reality, Wallace is able to use logical reasoning to show that humans have the ability to change their perspectives. Wallace’s use of negative emotional words and the parable of the college graduate who goes grocery shopping evoke negative emotional responses to unconscious thinking, resulting in a strong, convincing emotional appeal. Throughout the speech, Wallace stresses the tediousness of everyday life, dwelling on negative emotions such as “tired, hurried,” “somewhat stressed,” and “pissed and miserable.” Through these negative words and more, Wallace shows how awful life is for unconscious people. In addition to the negative emotions, Wallace implicitly refers to suicide in phrases such as: “…[living] in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.” By this statement, Wallace is arguing that unconscious thinking can lead to death. He also claims that consciousness is a way “…to keep from going through your […] adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head,” and that “most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.” This selection reinforces the negativity of unconsciousness (through the words “dead” and “slave”) and Wallace’s claim that a person can become a
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