ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Delineating The Reasonable And Rational For Humans


Abstract: The notions of “rational” and “reasonable” have much in common but are not synonymous. Conducting a review of the literature points to (at least) two distinct but related ideas as well as a middle “grey” area. This paper investigates and compares some characterizations of these notions and defends the view that focusing on reasonableness is best for those interested in human instances of reasoning and argumentation.

Keywords: argumentation theory, consistency, human, rational, reasonable.

1. Introduction
Glenn Greenwald, while speaking of his and his colleague Laura’s initial gut instinct affirming the credibility of the leaker who would later be revealed as Edward Snowden, explains that, “[r]easonably and rationally, Laura and I knew that our faith in the leaker’s veracity might have been misplaced” (2014, p. 13). Greenwald then goes on to offer reasons for this claim, such as not knowing the leaker’s name, recognizing the possibility that the leak could be an attempt at entrapment, or that the leaker could be someone just looking to ruin their credibility. As an accomplished journalist, author, and former litigator, Greenwald is no stranger to recognizing the importance of words, their definitions, and how they are received by his audience. Thus, I suspect he articulated the possibility of his and Laura’s error on both reasonable and rational grounds for a reason, even though he does not provide an explanation regarding the difference between them.

As van Eemeren and Grootendorst have pointed out, “[w]ords like “rational” and “reasonable” are used in and out of season in ordinary language. It is often unclear exactly what they are supposed to mean, and even if it is clear, the meaning is not always consistent” (2004, p. 123). Accordingly, the point of this paper is to investigate some of the differences between the ideas of the reasonable and rational from a philosophical perspective, but which I hope will also sound reasonable to the everyday language user. In what follows I will argue that there is some consistency in the two related but distinct ideas which emerge across a variety of texts. I will further argue that the notion of the rational is typically narrower than the notion of the reasonable and that those interested in investigating human reasoning and argumentation ought to focus on reasonableness. In order to proceed, I will start the second section by reviewing some characterizations of the notion of rationality. The third section, then, will discuss the notion of the reasonable, followed by a comparison of the two ideas in the fourth section. The conclusion will summarize the arguments presented and indicate avenues for future research. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Can Argumentation Skills Become A Therapeutic Resource? Results From An Observational Study In Diabetes Care


Abstract: The paper describes results from an observational study on argumentation in the medical setting, which show how and why argumentation skills can become a useful therapeutic tool in chronic care. The results of the study show that the therapeutic goals of chronic care are strongly linked to dialogic activities such as argumentation, explanation, decision making and information giving. The article discusses how doctors’ argumentation skills can be improved, especially in the crucial phase of shared decision making.

Keywords: argumentation schemes, chronic care, decision making, doctor-patient communication, medical argumentation.

1. Introduction
When we consider the relationship between the study of argumentation and the professions, the legal domain is probably the one in which the usefulness and applicability of argumentation skills for the achievement of professional goals is the clearest. Such link between the effective use of argumentation and professional goals, however, has not been as clear in other professional domains, such as the medical one.

The medical profession has developed in a such a way that for a long time it did not seem particularly relevant for physicians to be also good communicators and to have particular argumentation skills (see, Moja & Vegni, 2000; Roter & Hall, 2006). The trend of patient-centered care has progressively eroded the paternalistic, biomedical paradigm, collecting evidence to show that when communication between doctors and patients is good, significantly better clinical outcomes are reached. However, it has also been observed that there is still lack of evidence as to exactly which aspects of communication correlate positively with clinical outcomes (Epstein and Street, 2011). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – What Is Informal Logic?


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
Good morning.

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

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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

1. Introduction
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

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Cognitive Biases And Logical Fallacies


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.

1. Introduction
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

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Reasons Why Arguments And Explanations Are Different


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

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