Abstract: Why do we hold arguers culpable for missing obvious objections against their arguments but not for missing obvious lines of reasoning for their positions? In both cases, their arguments are not as strong as they could be. Two factors cause this: adversarial models of argumentation and the permeable boundaries separating argumentation, meta-argumentation, and argument evaluation. Strategic considerations and dialectical obligations partially justify the asymmetry; virtue argumentation theory explains when and why it is not justified.
Keywords: argumentation evaluation, virtue argumentation.
1. Introduction: an odd asymmetry
There is a curious asymmetry in how we evaluate arguments. On the one hand, it is taken as fair game to point out obvious objections to a line of reasoning that have not been anticipated. Arguments that fail to do this are not as strong as they could be and should be. Elementary critical thinking textbooks and advanced argumentation theorists all agree that the failure to criticize an argument for failing to take relevant and available negative information into account would be critically culpable. Of course, arguments that fail to take relevant and available positive information into account are also not as strong as they could be and should be, but those same voices are curiously silent on this omission. The failure to criticize arguments this way is so routine that it largely goes unnoticed, and when it is noticed, it is apparently regarded as acceptably strategic. Following Finocchiaro 2013 (p. 136), the question can be put very simply: Why are unanticipated objections culpable omissions but missed opportunities are not?
In the first part of this paper I propose an explanation for the presence of this odd asymmetry, including how it arises, why it can seem natural and comfortable from one perspective, why it can seem artificial and discordant from another perspective, and why the difference has not even registered on other perspectives. In the next sections, I offer a partial justification for this asymmetry by reference to arguers’ dialectical roles and obligations which put significant roadblocks in the way of offering positive and constructive criticism. Strategies are then proposed for overcoming them, leading, first, to the conclusion that the virtues approach to argumentation evaluation is especially well suited to accommodating and explaining the phenomena in question. However, those same considerations also lead to the conclusion that the fundamental insight of virtue argumentation – that a good argument is one in which the arguers argue well – has to be qualified in two substantial ways. The crucial analytic element for understanding this largely invisible problem about evaluating arguments is recognizing that the critical evaluation of arguments cannot be independent of the critical evaluation of arguers – all the arguers, not just the proponents and opponents. And, in addition, the value of an argument is not simply the sum of the values contributed by its arguers, so virtuous arguers can be only a necessary but not sufficient condition for good arguments. Finally, the entire exercise forces us to rethink what we mean be a good argument. Read more
ISSA Proceedings 2014 – A Poem Without Words: Visual Argumentation And The Photography Collections Of The Black Panther Party
Abstract: The 40th anniversary of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s founding in 2006 brought a renewed interest in an important organization within the Civil Rights Movement. Since the anniversary, two new collections of photography, by Howard Bingham and Stephen Shames, have been published that create discontinuities in the dominant historical narrative surrounding the organization. This essay draws on Cara Finnegan’s work on visual rhetoric to advance our understanding of the transformative power of the image.
Keywords: argumentation, Bingham, Black Panther Party, image, photography, Shames, visual rhetoric.
Non-dominant narratives often clash with conventional traditions and interpretations. Take, for example, the civil rights and counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s. These movements were comprised of smaller groups, charismatic leaders, and single events that helped to define their broader contributions. While a dominant historical narrative developed in these cases, new artifacts have been recently published that reveal new wrinkles in the movement’s history. When new artifacts create non-dominant narratives that challenge previous assumptions, audiences are afforded the opportunity to reevaluate accepted historical narratives and frames. This essay argues that new, contradictory artifacts invite audiences to reconsider dominant historical narratives and reconfigure these narratives to reflect a deeper understanding of a unique and important moment in history. Read more
Abstract: A variant of the ad hominem argument amounts to challenging the opponent’s mental health. Semi-technical designations borrowed from psychiatric paradigms (such as autistic, paranoiac, hysterical) are thus appealed to in order to qualify the opponent. Based on three examples from polemical discussions on political issues, we investigate what kind of behaviour triggers such accusations, how they are justified, and how they are handled by the speaker to whom they are addressed.
Keywords: ad hominem argument, disqualifying strategies, mental pathologies.
The present paper deals with the lexical dimension of some argumentative devices – more specifically, it focuses on the ad hominem use of terms like “paranoiac”, “schizophrenic”, “autistic”, “hysterical”, or “mythomaniac”. All these terms are originally issued from esoteric bodies of knowledge pertaining to psychiatry. In France, they have been disseminated, beyond their technical use in expert fields, to ordinary discourses, in the political domain as well as in everyday conversations.
In their technical use, these terms designate specific mental pathologies. As such, they should not convey any negative judgment[i]. When used in ordinary interactions, they nevertheless often serve as pejorative devices aiming at disqualifying a person. Some linguistic arguments support this claim. French language offers specific discursive patterns which may change almost any item into an insult. Thus, in “espèce de X” and “sale X”[ii], X has an offending dimension because of its insertion within such phrases, whatever its initial meaning. Even a neutral, descriptive word may work as an insult when obeying such a pattern. However, even if any word may be turned into an insult owing to such discursive patterns, the words that are intrinsically marked as pejorative are much more likely to be used that way. Read more
Abstract: The paper discusses theoretical and practical relations between dialectic and eristic. It begins with the origin of the notion of eristic in Greece. Next, it considers eristic from three points of view. First, it is seen as an aggressive attitude in the context of an argument. Then, it discusses the philosophical motivations of some eristic practices in Greece. Finally, the contemporary notions of eristic dialogue and eristic discussion are considered.
Keywords: Aggressiveness, antilogic, Aristotle, dialectic, dialogue, eristic discussion, eristic, Plato, Schopenhauer, sophist.
In his monumental Greek Thinkers: History of Ancient Philosophy the Austrian philosopher and historian Theodor Gomperz (1920) discusses the sentence ascribed by Diogenes Laertius (1925) to the Greek sophist Protagoras: “On every question there are two speeches, which stand in opposition to one another”. This statement would have been the core of Protagoras Antilogies, his legendary but missing book. According to Diogenes, Protagoras also wrote an Art of eristic which actually was only a part of the Antilogies if we follow Untersteiner (1949). In a footnote, Gomperz (1920, p 590) had already expressed a doubt about the very existence of a separate book on eristic: “Nobody ever called himself an Eristic; the term remained at all times one of disparagement … so that the above mentioned title of his book cannot have been of Protagoras’ own choosing”. Read more
ISSA Proceedings 2014 – The September 11, 1973 Military Coup In Chile And The Military Regime 1973-1990: A Case Of Social And Political Deep Disagreement
Abstract: This paper intends to describe and analyze the argumentation that has taken place in El Mercurio, Chile’s main daily newspaper, both in articles in the printed edition as well as in blogs in the online edition, during the months of September and October 2013. This argumentation constitutes a case of social and political deep disagreement. The nature of the disagreement lies in the ways of explaining the coup and the military regime.
Keywords: blogs, deep disagreement, multi-modal argumentation, pragma-dialectics, strategies for overcoming deep disagreement.
In several conferences of ISSA and OSSA, I have presented a number of papers on arguments in political propaganda taking the Chilean daily El Mercurio as the source of the argumentation. The main thrust of these papers is the view that the study of argumentation in general should include the analysis of emotional, physical and intuitive arguments as well as logical ones. The paper presented in the 2010 ISSA conference (Duran, 2010) intended to show that, on the basis of work done in the previous papers, the psychoanalytic theory of Bi-Logic is in a position to explain some fundamental aspects of argumentation in agitation propaganda as developed by the press. That paper concluded with a reflection on the dramatic disagreement in Chilean society about the causes and circumstances of the military coup, the military dictatorship, and the return to democracy. Read more
ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Politicizing Tragedy: Third Order Strategic Maneuvering In The Response To Mass Shootings
Abstract: In 2012, the U.S. public overwhelmingly supported gun regulations. Yet, Wayne La Pierre claimed that the U.S. lacked the correct climate for meaningful discussion. In a gesture to the third-order condition of argumentation, he argued that we must first satisfy other concerns to create the proper climate for debate. We discuss whether this appeal was a legitimate maneuver or a derailment.
Keywords: affect, commitment, conviction, gun debate, political context, strategic maneuvering, third order conditions.
On December 14, 2012, at around 9:35am a man “dressed in black fatigues entered the Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and perpetrated the worst shooting at a primary school in U.S. history” (Kauffman, 2012, p. A10). Adam Lanza carried three weapons including, “a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle made by Bushmaster and pistols” (CNN, 2014, para. 2). “Somebody’s got a gun . . . . They’re running down the hall. They’re still running, they’re still shooting . . . . Sandy Hook School, please” a trembling voice told emergence services (Susman, 2013, p. A8). In approximately 10 minutes, the shooter had discharged “as many as 100 rounds” (Kauffman, 2012, p. A10) killing 26 people including 20 children and 6 adults, and himself (Fifield, 2012, p. 5). First responders “found the hallway strewn with rifle casings, the ‘distinct smell of fired ammunition’ in the building, and children and teachers locked in closets and afraid to open the doors” (Susman, 2013, p. A8). This shooting was one of the deadliest in the United States history and it occurred within 6 months of 3 other massacres. The images of dead children, mourning parents, and a community ripped apart coupled with the accumulation of mass shootings brought the nation to a tipping point. Read more