ISSA Proceedings 2014 – What Could Virtue Contribute To Argumentation?


Abstract: In this paper[i] I argue that a virtue approach to argumentation would not commit the ad hominem fallacy provided that the object study of our theory is well delimited. A theory of argumentative virtue should not focus on argument appraisal, but on those traits that make an individual achieve excellence in argumentative practices. Within this framework, argumentation theory could study argumentative behaviour in a broader sense, especially from an ethical point of view.

Keywords: ad hominem, arguers, ethics, informal logic, pragma-dialectics, virtue.

1. Introduction
A virtue approach, characteristic of ancient ethical theories, such as Plato’s, Aristotle’s and the Stoics’, is agent-based instead of act-based; it does not assess the moral value of isolated actions performed by an individual, but focuses instead on the character and traits of an individual that make her either virtuous or vicious. Within this paradigm, the crucial question is not “What should I do in this situation?” but “What kind of person should I be?”.

Virtue ethics revived in the second half of the 20th century, attracting interest to the notion of virtue from within other fields than ethics. The most remarkable success is the case of virtue epistemology. Arguably, several of the virtues proposed in virtue epistemology – such as intellectual humility, intellectual perseverance and, most conspicuously, fairness in argument evaluation (Zagzebski, 1996, p. 114) – are not only epistemic but also intellectual in a broad sense, and thus it should come as no surprise that this approach has finally caught the attention of argumentation theorists. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Don’t Drink That Water!: The Role Of Counter-Intuitive Science In Conspiracy Arguments


Abstract: In this essay, we focus on one of the most persistent examples of the ‘intuitive validation of conspiracy’ type of argument—the conspiracy theory that claims that fluoridating public water supplies is an attack on public safety. We argue that the controversy surrounding water fluoridation highlights the potential for conspiracy proponents to supplant complicated phenomena with intuitive observational data used to support the opposite of the scientific consensus.

Keywords: conspiracy theories, counter-intuitive arguments, water fluoridation

1. Introduction
How could President Kennedy’s head move backward if he was shot from behind? How could the American flag wave on the moon if there was no atmosphere to move it? How could the Twin Towers have collapsed on 9/11 at the speed of free fall if there were no bombs in the buildings? Although these three conspiracy theories span decades of history and locations to the moon and back, they all share a common argumentative feature: they rely on intuition to argue against the scientific explanations for the complicated phenomena involved. In this essay, we focus on one of the most persistent examples of this ‘intuitive validation of conspiracy’ type of argument – the conspiracy theory that claims that fluoridating public water supplies is an attack on public safety. We argue that the controversy surrounding water fluoridation highlights the potential for conspiracy proponents to supplant complicated phenomena with intuitive observational data used to support the opposite of the scientific consensus. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Conductive Argumentation, Degrees Of Confidence, And The Communication Of Uncertainty


Abstract: The paper argues that there is an epistemic obligation to communicate the appropriate degree of confidence when asserting conclusions in conductive argumentation. Contrary to the position of some theorists, we argue that such conclusions frequently are, and should be expressed with appropriate qualifications. As an illustration, we discuss the case of the Italian scientists tried for failing to convey to the public appropriate warnings of the risks of the earthquake in L’Aquila.

Keywords: conductive argumentation, judgment confidence, expression of uncertainty

1. Prologue
On April 6, 2009, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck L’Aquila, Abruzzo, resulting in considerable devastation and the death of 300 people. Seven Italian officials and scientists were subsequently put on trial for manslaughter. The accusation was that scientists presented incomplete, inconsistent information which falsely assured the public and caused the deaths of 30 residents. The usual practice when an earthquake was likely was for residents to sleep outside, but it was alleged that because of the assurance, these individuals remained in their houses and were killed in the quake (Ashcroft 2012). The prosecution argued that the assessment of risk communicated to the public was unjustifiably optimistic and that lives could have been saved had people not been persuaded by the assurances to remain in their houses (Hooper 2012). In 2012, the scientists were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.

We will return to this case later. We have no intention to try to evaluate its merits, but we shall examine the issues it raises regarding the obligation to communicate an appropriate degree of certainty or uncertainty in one’s judgments. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – The Integration Of Pragma-Dialectics And Collaborative Learning Research: Argumentation Dialogue, Externalisation And Collective Thinking


Abstract: This paper describes extensions of pragma-dialectical theory for analysing learning processes in students’ argumentation dialogues. It is argued that although pragma-dialectics is the most appropriate theory in this context, it needs to be ‘psychologised’ by the consideration of additional discursive, dialogical, epistemological, interpersonal and affective dimensions of dialogue. In conclusion, prospects for new rapprochement between argumentation theory and psychology are discussed.

Keywords: collaborative learning, argumentation dialogue, pragma-dialectics, psychology, externalisation principle

1. Introduction
Over the past two decades, a specialised subfield of collaborative learning research (Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye & O’Malley, 1996) has emerged, called “collaborative argumentation-based learning” (see, for example, the collective works: Andriessen & Coirier, 1999; Andriessen, Baker & Suthers, 2003; Muller Mirza & Perret-Clermont, 2009). Its general aims are to understand how and what students could learn (apart from argumentation competencies themselves) from engaging in pedagogical activities based on argumentation, such as debates, writing argumentative texts, or joint problem-solving that involving spontaneous phases of argumentative interaction. However, collaborative argumentation-based learning research has been mostly carried out either on the basis of everyday notions of what “argument” is, or else by drawing on a limited set of argumentation theories (e.g. the model of Toulmin, 1958) that that are not necessarily well adapted to the task at hand, i.e. analysing argumentative interaction.

This paper explores the relevance and utility of the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation (e.g. van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1984) for analysing students’ argumentation dialogues in a way that brings to light interactive learning processes. I propose firstly that the pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation is the most appropriate approach to analysing students’ argumentation dialogues given — quite simply — that it is a theory of argumentation in dialogue, and that the components of the theory are generally applicable to the data. Secondly, I propose that in order to understand collaborative arguing to learn, within a specific domain, notably with respect to conceptual elaboration, a broad pragma-dialectical framework is also well fitted to the task, provided that additional dimensions of social interaction are taken into account. For the empirical support of the relevance of these dimensions to analysing students’ argumentation dialogues, this paper draws on the author’s previously published work (for example, Baker, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2009) on the analysis of corpora of students’ problem solving dialogues in physics, biology and geography. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Controversy, Racial Equality, And American World War I, Cemeteries In Europe


Abstract: Approximately two million U.S. soldiers were deployed to the Western Front during WWI. The vast majority of those killed were repatriated to the United States and buried in racially segregated plots. Still, nearly 32,000 remain in U.S. cemeteries in Europe which are not segregated by race. Controversy may arise over the transgression of boundaries and borrow from both discursive and nondiscursive arguments. These integrated cemeteries constitute an argument grounded in materiality against racial segregation.

Keywords: argumentation, American cemeteries, controversy, distribution of the sensible, material argument, nondiscursive argument, Rancière, World War I.

1. Introduction
The American Expeditionary Force deployed more than two million U.S. soldiers to the Western Front during World War I. Despite the desire of many to leave the nearly 80,000 American dead in overseas cemeteries, the vast majority were repatriated to the United States at the request of next of kin. Many of them were buried in U.S. national cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery for example, and, following accepted practice, were placed in racially segregated plots. Still, not all were returned and nearly 32,000 remain in eight U.S. cemeteries in Europe (six in France, one in Belgium and one in England). There was one remarkable difference between the cemeteries: Those in the U.S. were racially segregated, while those in Europe were racially integrated.

This essay examines this occurrence as a significant moment in the controversy over racial equality. Goodnight (1991, p.2) notes that controversy may arise over the transgression of boundaries and borrow from a “broad range of both discursive and nondiscursive argument.” We contend that the presence of integrated cemeteries in Europe constitutes an oppositional, material argument against the then accepted practice of racial segregation. We also believe that Jacques Rancière’s (2004, p. 1) concept of the “distribution of the sensible” offers valuable insights into the function of this nondiscursive argument. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Interpersonal Argumentation Through The Context Of Distributed Cognition: The Case Of Christian Sermon


Abstract: According to the biocognitive paradigm, communication is joint activity aimed at creating a consensual domain of interactions, including linguistic interactions. Applying this approach to the study of interpersonal argumentation gives an opportunity to view language in communication as a part of social and physical environment. The most important component of this environment is socially and subjectively conditioned values, patterns of social behavior. We argue that the aforesaid component is an implicit constituent element of persuasion.

Keywords: Communication, the Coordinative Function of Language, Distributed Cognition, Ethos, Strategic Maneuvering, Topos.

1. Background
In a vast literature argumentation is considered as a rationally organized type of discourse. Primarily, it is analyzed from the point of view of the persuasive function of argumentative speech. Secondly, it is often seen as a means to resolve a difference of opinion. For the present purposes, the notable feature of argumentation is that it is seen as verbal and social activity, or behavior. In this regard, issues focusing on speech communication seem very promising as a way to tackle such problems in the study of argumentation as the production and interpretation of argumentative speech, its understanding, the problem of context, individual argumentative competence. However, despite the wealth of literature on argumentation studies, scholars specializing in speech communication don’t often seem to be working “from a clear and common perspective” (Eemeren, 1996, p. 191). So, the aim of this paper is (1) to introduce a new approach to linguistic research in argumentative interactions which is closely connected with communicative and cognitive science, and (2) present a method of analysis illustrated by examples of arguments from the Bible. Read more

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