Abstract: In this keynote address at the eighth ISSA conference on argumentation I describe the emergence of two themes that I think are key to the constitution of informal logic. One is the development of analytic tools for the recognition, identification and display of so-called “non-interactive” arguments. The other is the development of evaluative tools for assessing deductive, inductive, and other kinds of arguments. At the end I mention several current interests of informal logic.
Keywords: argument analysis, argument appraisal, informal logic, non-interactive argument, reasoning appraisal
1. Prefatory remarks
If you consider this year’s ISSA keynoters, you can’t help but get the impression of a kind of Aristotelian trivium of argumentation theory – rhetoric, dialectic and logic. Professor Fahnestock represents rhetoric. Professor van Eemeren represents dialectic (at least the Pragma version of it). So Professor Blair must represent logic. Alas, I am no logician, as my friends are quick to tell me. What I will try to do is represent informal logic, which is a some-what different kettle of fish.
I must insert here two unplanned remarks. First, as you know, Frans van Eemeren did not rep-resent dialectic in particular in his address yesterday. Instead, he took the point of view of an eagle flying high above, surveying the argumentation forest below – albeit a Pragma-dialectical eagle. Today, in contrast, I will be taking the point of view of a sparrow, surveying just one species of tree in the forest.
Second, in case you have read it in the conference program, you will know that, along with Ralph Johnson, I am credited with inventing and developing informal logic. I would be happy to take that credit. However, there are some dozens of other people, several of whom are in this room today and many who have stood on this dais at earlier ISSA conferences, who would rightly take exception. “What about me?” they can say. No, informal logic’s rise and development are due to the contributions of many scholars, and no one or two people can take credit for it. And in my talk this morning, of course, I speak only for myself. Read more
ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Evolutionary Arguments In The Birth Control Debate: Casuistic Shifting In Conservative Rhetoric
Abstract: We use dramatism to explore the birth control controversy and how it complicates conservative agent-focused arguments. Conservatives borrow from evolutionary discourse and argue that females are not agents. They are agents-minus that are irrational and subordinate to the scene. To remain loyal to underlying religious values, conservatives situationally abandon, rather than permanently stretch, their focus on the agent. This casuistic shifting enables conservatives to undermine female agency while remaining within their idealistic framework.
Keywords: argumentation, birth control, Burke, casuistic shifting, conservative rhetoric, gender, human origins, rhetoric, War on Women
The United States Supreme Court recently ruled on Burwell v Hobby Lobby and decided on whether for-profit companies would be required to cover birth control on health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Part of the argument against this mandate is that offering birth control as a preventative measure is seen as tantamount to supporting abortion and thus violates the owner’s religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby founder David Green, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, said, “These abortion-causing pills go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families” (Rovner, 2014, para. 14).
The Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other privately held companies claiming religious exemption do not have to cover employee birth control costs. This ruling appealed to the free exercise clause and stated that the fines levied on businesses that would not provide coverage for contraceptives would be a “substantial burden” on business owners (Schwartz, 2014, para. 2). No matter the medical purpose for which it might be used, birth control will now become more expensive for some females whose employers can opt out of covering birth control without punitive government measures. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in her dissent, noted that females will now experience the burden of “cost barriers operated to block many women from obtaining needed care” (Ohlheiser, 2014, p. 3-4). The Supreme Court ruled that it is worse to constrain the choices of business owners (to deny birth control on religious grounds) than to constrain the ability of females (to access birth control). Read more
Abstract: Cognitive biases indentified in psychology are indications of imperfect reasonableness of human minds. A person affected by a cognitive bias will reason wrongly without realizing it. Argumentation theory should take the findings of cognitive psychology into consideration for two main reasons. First, the biases registered by psychologists will help create a more comprehensive inventory of fallacious reasoning patterns. Second, some cognitive biases may help explain why a person is reasoning fallaciously.
Keywords: cognitive biases, fallacious reasoning patterns, psychology, unreasonableness.
We know that a speaker may use some of the reasoning patterns called fallacies in order to manipulate her opponent, or to mislead the audience present at the discussion. For instance, an illegitimate appeal to the expert’s status or a straw man can be used as purely sophistical devices that presumably may help the speaker win the debate. We also know that a person can reason fallaciously without realizing that she’s actually doing so. For instance, she may be affirming the consequent or using an undistributed middle term in a syllogism while not realizing that she is, in fact, committing a logical fallacy. In such cases we usually put it down to poor logic in the reasoner. However, with the help of a few examples I’ll show that some reasoning errors are committed not because the arguer’s mind lacks in logic, but because it is abundant in psycho-logic. As the human mind is a multifaceted structure, our choice of argumentation patterns can be determined not only by logic – or lack of it – but also by our psychology. In other words, I want to argue that if a speaker is reasoning wrongly it may be not because of bad intent, and not because his logical machine breaks down, but because his psychological machine is in gear. Read more
Abstract: Trudy Govier defends the distinction (elsewhere taken for granted) between arguments and explanations. I will discuss what making the distinction really amounts to and try to show that the kind of distinction she wants to make between products (rather than between speech-acts whose distinctness from each other is uncontroversial) is under-motivated. In particular, I will show that her discussion of Hempel’s covering law model is a terminological muddle.
Keywords: argument, deductivism, explanation, Govier, justification, prediction, Stephen Thomas
1. Four ambiguities in setting the problem
In this section I want to narrow down what the distinction between arguments and explanations would amount to.
One might wonder whether defence is at all necessary, since ‘argument’ and ‘explanation’ are not synonyms and nobody takes them to be such. The issue, rather, is what the distinction is a distinction between and what notice we need to take of it. Kasachkoff (1988, p.25) instructively puts it this way:
What we are faced with, then, is a dispute not about whether there is a distinction between explanations and justifications: a distinction between them is maintained not only by those who . . . hold that we should analyze explanations and justifications differently, but also by those who claim that – at least for purposes of critical examination and evaluation – explanations are NO different from justifications. What, then, is the point of contention? It is whether the (admitted) distinction between explanations and justifications provides a reason for treating them differently. . . . . It is beside the point to argue against holders of this latter position that there is a difference between explanations and arguments, for their position does not deny this point. It is only the difference these differences make which it calls into question.
Kasachkoff, like Govier and like most who write on this subject, thinks that the matter is to be settled by showing that there are different normative constraints on the two things being evaluated; all that is then required to establish the distinction is an example of something that is successful as an explanation but unsuccessful as a justification, or vice versa. Read more
ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Meeting The Demands Of A Changing Electorate: The political Rhetoric Of Julian Castro And Marco Rubio
Abstract: Rapid demographic changes in the United States have made American Hispanics an increasingly powerful force in American politics. This paper examines the argumentative strategies of two rising Hispanic stars of American politics: Democrat Julian Castro of Texas and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. This paper analyzes the argumentative strategies that Castro and Rubio use in their 2012 party convention speeches to build political coalitions with Hispanic and non-Hispanic voters.
Keywords: American Dream, American Hispanic politicians, identification, Julian Castro, Marco Rubio, narrative, political argumentation, political rhetoric.
Rapid demographic changes within the United States mean that the country will soon have a majority-minority population. One group that has gained prominence during this demographic shift is American Hispanics, who are becoming a critical political population and are challenging the demographic hegemony held by white Americans. This demographic change has also created more opportunity than ever before for Hispanic politicians on the national stage. While many scholars of political rhetoric have studied the argumentative strategies used by non-Hispanic political rhetors to gain support from Hispanic voters, this paper examines how Hispanic politicians reach out to Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences in their political arguments.
This paper examines the argumentative strategies of two rising Hispanic stars of American politics: Democrat Julian Castro of Texas and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. Castro represents a state that is already majority-minority and Rubio represents a state that soon will be. Both politicians made strong national debuts as prominent speakers for their respective parties during the 2012 presidential campaign. Both Castro and Rubio have parlayed this success into national political recognition. Julian Castro, as the youngest mayor of a major American city, is frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic vice presidential or presidential candidate. Meanwhile Marco Rubio has become an important conservative Republican voice in the U.S. Senate and is viewed as a potential Republican vice presidential or presidential candidate. This paper analyzes the argumentative strategy of identification that Castro and Rubio use in their public arguments in order to build political coalitions. Read more
ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Justification And Effectiveness: Critical Thinking And Strategic Maneuvering
Abstract: Advocates of dialectical perspectives and critical thinking theorists require all the objections to a standpoint to be considered in order to justify it. Rhetorical attitudes on persuasion seem to contradict this position. Pragma-dialecticians relieve the tension between justification and effectiveness by strategic maneuvering. We find it necessary to link the nature of the issue and the degree of uncertainty to the rhetorical context to adapt the argumentative dialectical procedures.
Keywords: context, effectiveness, justification, persuasion, rhetoric, uncertainty
There are different senses of using, and subsequent ways of defining what is meant by “argument”. An argument can be defined as a set of statements, one of which, called the conclusion (thesis, claim, standpoint etc.) is affirmed on the basis of the others. An argument can also be defined as an act of persuasion intended to cause an interlocutor to believe that something is the case. Arguing can be seen also as a mutual pursuit of truth or shared understanding.
By arguing one may try to sustain a well-grounded theory or a settled factual claim related to some state of affairs unknown to the addressee, but arguing can be also just a way of thinking about a claim that at the moment is uncertain for both parties in the discussion. Sometimes it is possible to analytically confirm the adequacy of the claim by means of sound arguments but in many cases, the justification of a claim may not fulfill strong epistemic requirements. Nevertheless, in many such cases, a change in the cognitive environment of the interlocutors can be induced because the acceptance of the claim can be strengthened as a consequence of the dialectical interchange.
As a consequence of the different approaches to the concept of argument, there are also different proposals for a theory of argument(ation), with evident tension between strong epistemic proposals and more holistic approaches that include elements related to the social component of argumentative practices. Read more