Goodwill Hunting–Refutation Strategy

A bit unorthodox, but Matt Damon’s monlogue in Goodwill Hunting provides an interesting example of refutation.  It isn’t much, but initially Matt’s character is presented with a situation that seems to his benefit: he’s a math prodigy and the NSA wants him to work for them, pointing out the advantages they have over other opportunities.  In response, he uses pathos and a roundabout form of logos to express his disinterest.  Rather than try to combat the obvious reasons for not taking the job (i.e. pay, benefits) he appeals to things outside of the scope of what one might expect.  He gives an example of an average guy and the troubles he could face that make you sympathize with his plight.  It turns into an extended analogy of all the things he deems wrong with the system as it exists.

Though the film is old, I think it is also interesting to consider it’s pathos and logos in relation to the recent issues we have seen in society.  Mention of an unjust war, an oil spill in the ocean, these are all things that we can say we have experience with and that still have an impact.  They make us think of the things going on in our world, and many of these words still ring true.  The power of public address can reach far beyond its intended audience and impact.  The best and most effective cases will address problems in different ways and make the audience think rather than just listen.  It is in these cases that pathos and logos work best, when they force the listener to see things in a different light and become engaged with the arguments being made.  It is much more difficult to dismiss his refutation offhand because you must follow his argument and see where it leads.  It hits close to home and has an impact beyond just the speech itself, but makes you think about your thoughts on the same issues.  By the end, though we are seemingly so far from the original question asked,  it is apparent we have gotten there with effective speech.

Jake Lewing


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