Safer Saws–Joe Mleczko

1. The constituent that I am quoting is a satisfied customer of the SawStop table saw. Larry Okrend of HANDY Magazine has confidence in the effectiveness of the SawStop. He says, “I believe every commercial job site and institutional shop should be equipped with this type of saw. The greatly reduced risk of injury (and the associated medical costs) more than justifies the saw’s higher price.”

2. Although the quote is fairly straight forward, Larry Okrend is proposing that all shops using table saws should invest in the SawStop table saw, because it is safe and ultimately saves appendages and money in the long run by eliminating medical bills.

3. The type of claim Okrend is making is a Proposal Claim.

4. Obviously the sound of a saw that WILL NOT cut off your fingers is a very enticing one. With that being said, this quote I found comes from a popular magazine for the every day handyman, and does not do an effective job explaining why everyone should buy this saw. Simply saying the saw is safe, while is an attention grabber, does not explain why. The author, Larry Okrend, should have explained how the safety mechanism works, as a way to show its ability. Furthermore, later in the article, I feel Okrend takes away from his claim when talking about a government mandate of the product. He says that government mandate should not occur, because too many other power tools create injury. I agree that a government mandate is unnecessary; however, I disagree with his reasoning. It appears as though he is meaning to say that the number of table saw injuries is negligible to injuries caused by other power tools. If he truly backed the product, it would make sense that he would want every table saw to have this safety device, even though other power tools are still dangerous. With these faults, the initial claim lacks the elements (accuracy, quality, reasonableness, and persuasiveness) needed to make people act.

5. I ultimately agree with the initial proposal claim that this saw should be purchased by those using table saws. Unfortunately, I disagree with how Okrend presents this claim. Explaining the saw’s safety capabilities, and not writing his opinion on a government mandate, would have made this a much better claim.

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5 Responses to Safer Saws–Joe Mleczko

  1. davidbdale says:

    Thank you, Joe, for posting early. I always appreciate seeing a good example for students to model and emulate, and your posts routinely provide that. I am again in your debt.

    The quote is nicely chosen. It represents a clearly stated claim by a very specific constituency. You fairly paraphrase his thesis and correctly identify it as a proposal claim. (1)(2)(3)

    Okrend’s quote also contains several additional claims:

    • a categorical claim: that this saw is a particular type of saw
    • a causation claim too: such saws reduce injuries and the cost of injuries
    • a very important qualitative claim of comparison: safety justifies the price

    His smaller but essential claims form a chain of reasoning that supports his overall proposal claim. I don’t mean to suggest you didn’t notice these claims, or that you would have agreed with Okrend in absence of these claims, but it’s important for me to note and for you to recognize that even simple sounding arguments involve claims in series.

    As for your evaluation of his claim (4), you’re entirely right to note that Okrend provides no specific evidence of the saw’s safety, but I don’t think it’s fair to criticize his argument on those grounds, and it’s certainly not a refutation of his argument to object that you didn’t get the evidence you wanted. How many injuries can be averted is interesting, but for an individual saw purchaser, one averted injury is more than sufficient reason to buy the safer saw. Okrend could have said, “I saw video of Steve Gass putting his own finger into the blade without injury.” He didn’t say so, but such evidence was perhaps enough for him to make his choice, and to recommend the saw and its inventor.

    What I’m saying more generally is that Okrend’s argument might serve Okrend’s purpose without the evidence you’re looking for. If he were selling saws, he would have to bring out all the data. He’s not selling saws; he’s sharing his opinion; therefore, his burden of proof is much lower.

    I disagree that Okrend contradicts himself, Joe. It’s compatible to find Product A preferable to Product B without supporting that Product A be mandated. Think of your own good examples.

    If you demand less of Okrend’s argument than that it convince skeptics to lobby for a government mandate, can you grant that it is more successful than flawed on it own merits, as measured by its own more modest goals?

  2. davidbdale says:

    You’ve made good changes to your post, Joe. May I ask you make another since many students may read yours as a model? The first time you refer to Larry Okrend, call him Larry Okrend, please. The next time and all subsequent times, please refer to him simply as Okrend. Thanks.

  3. davidbdale says:

    Your “if he truly backed the product” troubles me, Joe. You yourself express support for the saw but not the mandate. Why can’t Okrend take that same position?
    Grade Posted.

    • joeymleczko says:

      The reason why I am allowed to support the saw but not the mandate, is because I am not publishing an article in a popular handyman magazine. Okrend advocates that anyone using a table saw should own this safer saw. However, he later makes it seem as though since so many other power tools cause injury this safer tool is irrelevant, which takes away from the initial advocacy of buying the saw. If people were reading my work and it went in two opposite directions in the same piece, I would lose my ability to make the comments I have.

      • davidbdale says:

        Thanks, Joe. I completely agree with you that Okrend’s argument that since other tools also injure a mandate is not required is utter nonsense, the equivalent of saying that since people run stop lights cars don’t need to have rear-view mirrors, utterly unconnected to logic.

        However, certainly I can heartily support a behavior without wanting it mandated. I endorse childlessness, love of literature, robust heterosexuality, singing in the shower, and sending Valentine’s flowers to the office on Monday for all to see, but I wouldn’t support a government mandate for any such thing. More importantly, I wouldn’t think of driving without a buckled seat belt, but I think the law requiring it is inexcusably intrusive. On the other hand, I would deny medical benefits for injuries to any unbelted driver or passenger if a working belt was available. How does that sound?

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