ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ The Rules Of The Critical Discussion And The Development Of Critical Thinking

logo 2006The purpose of this paper is to discuss the concept of critical thinking as an operative concept that makes it possible to generate a strategy for developing critical abilities in the students and, in this way, to achieve one of the most important objectives of the Chilean Educational Reform.

It is evident that the concept of critical thinking is vague. Many authors have different perspectives about this concept and, to same extent, they contradict each other. My intention is not to intervene in this controversy, but to look for a solution in a different direction. This means using a methodology that allows us to determine some basic characteristics of the concept of critical thinking avoiding dealing with general conceptions of the concept. The main objectives are then to establish a list of the most important characteristics that allow the development of critical thinking among the students.

1. Conceptual analysis
What I am going to do is to analyze the concept of critical thinking in the same way that anyone would analyze concepts such as democracy, education, science, etc. I will make use of the technique of conceptual analysis as developed for John Wilson (1960, pp. 1-49). In Wilson’s conception, these concepts are called philosophical concepts, because even though we know how to use them in some contexts, we do not know the boundaries of each concept or, simply, such limits are open or don’t exist. We know, nevertheless, some typical cases that are central to the concept. This means that nobody that would use these concepts could ignore them as instances of such concepts. So we can use these instances in order to obtain some specific characteristics of the concept, and we can avoid the difficult task of defining the general concept of critical thinking.

In the case of critical thinking, one of the central instances is, of course, logical abilities, or more specifically, the ability to infer consequences from some principles or assertions. It would be strange to say of a student that cannot infer consequences in a correct way that he is a critical person. It is obvious that one of the main characteristics of a critical student is the ability to distinguish between correct arguments and fallacies or incorrect arguments. Therefore, Wilson’s methodology consists in dealing with specific instances of the concept, the central ones in the first place and, then, we continuing attempting to explore the limits of the concept analyzing the consequences that follow from each of these instances. What does logical ability imply? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ A Discussion Of Habermas’ Reading And Use Of Toulmin’s Model Of Argumentation

logo 2006Introduction
It will probably be useful to start with some contextualization of the discussion. Apart from a desire to better understand both Habermas and Toulmin, the starting point here is a research and teaching interest in applied ethics. Difficult epistemological problems are raised especially concerning environmental issues. We find ourselves in need of seeing excellent environmental practices adopted if possible by all the major players, whether it be companies or countries, while at the same time the decision makers are affected by risk assessment problems and uncertainties that require modal judgments, using probability or the like. As we will see, those issues are central to the discussion of Habermas’ reading and use of Toulmin.

Habermas contributed in an extraordinary way to normative thinking since the 1960s. He asserted the foundational nature of his theoretical work, especially in the period of the Diskursethik and his Theory of Communicative Action (beginning of the 1980s). Still quite recently, he presents himself as part of what he calls pragmatic Kantianism (Habermas, 2003, 2, p. 16). Throughout his work, he is looking for some rational validation of moral principles, and in a kantian manner he wants to arrive at this justification by means of a universalizing procedure, but according to him, this should proceed in considering first and foremost discourse practices. Any norm implies that some action is required, or forbidden; in considering the consequences, could all persons affected by the norm agree on it? (Habermas, 1983). We must remember also that he adopts a cognitivist perspective on moral issues, which means he does not want to let moral evaluation or prescription rely on emotion or on the will, but wishes to understand normative problems as susceptible of rational solutions. Those elements explain in part why he refers to the so-called Toulmin model, especially between 1972 and 1983: it refers to rationality, to argumentation and seems to permit universalization. In 1972, Habermas’ purpose is not to give a precise presentation. In fact, even in 1981, his use of Toulmin is rather rhetorical and selective. He is mobilizing Toulmin to serve his foundational project, which should not come as a surprise.

On the other side, it is also clear why Toulmin still has an enormous importance today in ethics, in particular (among other things) in decision making situations. Modals and rebuttals are of the foremost importance if we are to make decisions and judgments while taking into account context and possible exceptions. In the problem domain of environmental ethics, where risk issues and decision processes in quite uncertain situations are regularly required, this is even more the case. Those are difficult issues to treat and the available knowledge is far from the level of certainty most people would prefer for making decisions.

Here I will briefly recall some of Jürgen Habermas’ theoretical work, and limit the focus to the use by Habermas of Stephen Toulmin’s model of argumentation, especially in the article Wahrheitstheorien that is not translated in English yet.[i] The article will be looked at in detail.[ii] I will conclude by looking at the 1981 treatment and to what happens with the issue in later work (especially Habermas, 1983 and Habermas, 2003). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ An Analysis Of Preschool Hebrew Speaking Children’s Arguments From The Perspective Of The Pragma-Dialectical Model

logo 20061. Characteristics of Children’s Verbal Arguments
Verbal arguments are part of young children’s normal activity and are usually “rule governed and socially organized events” (Benoit 1992, p. 733). Researchers have concluded that they have a positive effect on friendships and cognitive development (Corsaro 1994, Dawe 1934, Garvey 1993, Green 1933, and Shantz 1987). Corsaro (1994, p. 22) states “disputes provide children with a rich arena for development of language, interpersonal and social organization skills, and social knowledge.” In fact, O’Keefe and Benoit (1982) see argument as part of normal language learning. Piaget (1952, p. 65) states “[i]t may well be through quarrelling that children first come to feel the need for making themselves understood”.

Children’s arguments are generally short in duration. For example, Dawe (1934) found that on average quarrels last 14 seconds, while O’Keefe and Benoit (1982) found that young children’s disputes consisted of an average of five turns. Although these disputes are not long in duration, they are powerful events. Once a dispute has begun, “any prior goal or task is abandoned and the attention is directed to resolving the incompatibility” but “[o]nce the conflict is resolved, play can once again be resumed” (Eisenberg and Garvey 1981, p.151). These verbal disputes can be considered as “side-sequences” (Jefferson, 1972), important at the moment, but with no lasting effect on interaction.

2. The Study and Research Question
This paper will report on ongoing research investigating the verbal arguments of Hebrew speaking pre-school children. The data for this research was transcribed from videotapes of fourteen triads of pre-school children at play in a playroom that was set up for the purpose of the study. The children are also in daily attendance at the same pre-school. The subjects’ ages ranged from 4 years six months to six years five months, however the maximum age differences of the children in each individual group was usually around six months. Children above the age of four were chosen since by this age normally developing children have acquired the basics of their language system (Brown, 1973). The children were all native speakers of Hebrew. While the children conducted their talk in Hebrew it was transcribed and translated simultaneously into English by the author.

While this is an ongoing study with a number of research questions, only one of these will be related to in this paper. This question is presented below:
Is the process of Israeli preschool children’s arguments consistent with the pragma-dialectical model of van Eemeren and Grootendorst (2004)? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ Putin’s Terrorism Discourse As Part of Democracy And Governance Debate In Russia

logo 2006Abstract
This paper [i] presents a study of President Putin’s use of the issue of terrorism in public debate in Russia. President Putin’s speech made in the wake of the Beslan tragedy, on September 4th, 2004, is examined. The logico-pragma-stylistic analysis employed in the paper describes communicative strategies of persuasion employed by the speaker and investigates how the Russian leader uses the issue of terrorism to further his political goals. The terrorism debate is analysed within a wider context of democracy and governance debate between the President and the liberal opposition.

Key words: argumentative discourse, rhetoric, pragmatics, pragma-dialectics, fallacies.

This paper is a study of the use of the issue of terrorism in public debate in Russia. It examines President Putin’s address to the nation in the wake of the Beslan terrorist attack, on 4 September 2004.

The study doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive treatment of the topic; rather it aims to present a logico-pragma-stylistic analysis of the speech, to identify communicative strategies of persuasion employed by the speaker, and to investigate how the Russian leader used the problem of terrorism to further his political goals. The terrorism debate is analysed within a wider context of the democracy and governance debate between the President and a liberal opposition.

In trying to persuade his or her audience a skilled arguer assesses the audience and the issues at hand. When composing a message the speaker takes into account of several factors: the medium of communication (electronic mass media, print media), topic of discussion, audience (gender, level of education, expertise in the topic under discussion, rationality/emotionality, degree of involvement in the problem, level of life threat presented by the problem, etc), nature of the discussion (i.e. whether it is a direct dialogue with an opponent in a studio or an indirect dialogue through electronic or print media), applicable conventions (e.g. parliamentary procedures), and finally a broader, cultural and political context in which communication is taking place including such elements as openness/restrictiveness of the political regime, moral dilemmas and cultural taboos existing in the society, and traditions of conducting discussions inherent in the culture.

The process of assessment and adaptation of the issues to the audience establishes a communicative strategy of persuasion. The key decisions in a communicative strategy are to choose targets to appeal to and to prioritize them. While there are a wide variety of possible targets of appeal, it is possible to identify three major ones, people’s mind, emotions, and aesthetic feeling. An appeal to people’s reason or rational appeal is based on the strength of arguments. Emotional appeals arouse in the reader or listener various emotions ranging from a feeling of insecurity to fear, from a sense of injustice to pity, mercy, and compassion. Aesthetic appeals are based on people’s appreciation of linguistic and stylistic beauty of the message, its stylistic originality, rich language, sharp humour and wit. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ Changing Our Minds: On The Value Of Analogies For Extending Similitude

logo 2006Analogies are important in invention and argumentation fundamentally because they facilitate the development and extension of thought. (Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric)[i]

In a recent article, A. Juthe notes that “it is not obvious that the most plausible interpretation [of an “argument by conclusive analogy”] is a deductive argument”; reconstructing those arguments as deductive, Juthe suggests, reveals “the perhaps too great influence of the deductive perspective in philosophy” (2005: 23). Juthe goes on to argue that “argument by analogy is a type of argument in its own right and not reducible to any other type” (16). In this paper, I extend Juthe’s analysis of analogical arguments in the interest of supporting an expansion of the category of argumentation in the public sphere beyond the traditional conception that’s valorized in Habermas’s conception of “communicative action.”

Analogical arguments may be assessed as valid, Juthe argues, by virtue of “a correlation or an intuitive connection based on our experience and background knowledge” (15). This conception suggests that there’s a major shift in orientation that’s needed to appropriately assess the value of analogical argumentation. More precisely, there are three shifts in orientation: reversing the relative importance usually allotted to properties in contrast to relations as well as to substances in contrast to events, when constructing arguments, and reversing the relative importance usually allotted to “warrant” in contrast to “background” when using the Toulmin model for argument analysis. Analysis of discussion of topics in public sphere argumentation suggests that we often rely upon analogical reasoning to propose alternatives to views propounded by discourse partners. Thus, examples in that domain inform my sense of the importance of analogical argumentation, background knowledge, temporality (events rather than substances) and relationality (correlations and counterparts, rather than identities) in mundane concept formation. It may be helpful to note that I am not concerned to reject the value of warranted arguments involving properties and substances. Rather, my interest is in valorizing analogical argument as worthy in its own right; as irreducible to other forms; and as a form of argument that bypasses what I suspect is a lurking remnant of that “perhaps too great influence of the deductive perspective in philosophy” that Juthe notices. That same influence, I suggest, may well be efficacious in what I argue elsewhere (Langsdorf 2000, 2002b) is a constrained conception of argumentation that limits, and even distorts, Habermas’s conception of “communicative action.”[ii]

This paper continues my previous work on the ontological aspect of articulation by focusing on analogical reasoning’s revelatory power in argumentation that seeks truth in Heidegger’s sense of “aletheia,” or “uncovering.” But that concept easily suggests a realist, in contrast to constitutive, basis for inquiry. Thus my initial task is to delineate the contrasts between realist and constitutive ontological starting points, in relation to dramatically different expectations as to what analogical arguments may accomplish. My further task concerns the implications that follow from acknowledging that these expectations are embedded in constitutive rather than realist ontologies; namely, we must assess their truth value by standards other than those more traditionally used in argumentation theory. In this paper I pursue only the initial task. The titles I use for the two orientations rely upon John Dewey’s identification of philosophy’s “proper task of liberating and clarifying meanings” as one for which “truth and falsity as such are irrelevant” (1925/1981, p. 307). Yet Dewey modifies that separation of “meanings” and “truth” by his recognition that “constituent truths,” in contrast to “ultimate truths,” rely on a “realm of meanings [that] is wider than that of true-and-false meanings.” My thesis, then, is that analogical reasoning’s value lies in uncovering alternate meanings by using the implicit “background knowledge” that’s intrinsic to any communicative situation. That knowledge includes “intuitive connections” that shape “wider” meanings – those meanings that propose “constituent truths” – and so “facilitate the development and extension of thought.” For that process of developing alternative possibilities and extending conventionally accepted meanings, I suspect, is crucial for that little-understood process we call changing our minds. Read more

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Interests And Difficulties In Understanding Chinese Culture: What To Prepare For When Communicating With Cultural Others

Ills.: yangshuoshaolin.com

Ills.: yangshuoshaolin.com

Abstract
Because of the long history and richness of civilization in China (Leung, 2008; Liu, 2009; Hu, Grove, and Zhuang, 2010), as well as the complexity and diversity of Chinese culture in mainland China and in the Chinese community worldwide (The Chinese Culture Connection, 1987; Fan, 2000), the task of designing an introductory course on Chinese culture for Westerners presents certain difficulties (Luk, 1991; Fan, 2000). While the content of a comprehensive course on Chinese culture remains to be decided, the present study explores a 12-week introductory course on four areas of Chinese culture. It was delivered to 16 Irish students who were doing a degree in Intercultural Studies. Each participant was asked to write a 500-word reflective journal entry every two weeks and an essay of 2,000–2,500 words at the end of the course.
The study aims to find out which area(s) and topic(s) might be of interest to or potential obstacles for Irish students in future participation in intercultural dialogue with Chinese people. Using the software Wordsmith Tools (Scott, 1996), the study identifies both the area and the sub-topic within each area that are of greatest interest yet previously unknown to Irish students.

The results show that the section on “love, sex, and marriage in China” was very well received and the most discussed topic in their journals and essays. The participants demonstrated fascination with the changing role of women in Chinese culture and identified shared ground in terms of marriage choices in both Irish and Chinese societies, which could help them to develop a deeper understanding of Chinese society and participate in intercultural dialogue from this perspective. A number of topics, such as martial arts films, the urban/rural divide, loss of face, etc., can be employed as prisms through which students can explore and understand elements of Chinese culture and its evolution over time.
The understanding of “face” in Chinese culture is perceived by the participants as being of great importance in intercultural and interpersonal communication, which could undoubtedly support engagement in open and respectful exchange or interaction between the Irish and Chinese. Interestingly, the participants indicated that it is difficult to understand that the use of linguistic politeness could lead to the speaker being perceived as “powerless” in Chinese society, which could mean that not being aware of this might lead to miscommunication between individuals with different cultural backgrounds. In general, the findings presented in this chapter may have significant pedagogical implications for teachers and students of intercultural communication, but may also be of interest to those with a practical involvement in intercultural dialogue. Read more

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