ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Two Conceptions Of Openness In Argumentation Theory

logo  2002-1One of the central values in dialectical models of argumentation is that of openness. Sometimes this value is embodied in the form of specific rules – such as those in the pragma-dialectical code of conduct (van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992) which specify such things as rights to challenge, burden of proof, and so forth. But usually openness has a more informal quality to it. In any case, the concept lacks the precision one finds with, say, the concept of inferential validity in logical models of argumentation where we find not only well-defined exemplars of deductively valid forms of inference, but also a relatively clear definition of validity in general. It is perhaps because of this informal quality that argumentation scholars have not fully appreciated how the value of openness is used in two distinct ways when evaluating the quality of argumentative conduct. In one way, the concept of openness reflects an epistemic orientation. In the other way, the concept of openness takes on a more socio-political orientation. This paper spells out these two different senses of openness, articulates their rationales, and then explores some of the implications of this distinction for understanding the nature of reasonable argumentative conduct.

1. Two Functions of Argumentation.
In large part, these two conceptions of openness in argumentation theory are responsive to two different functions of argumentation: a cognitive function and a social function. So, to get a better lock on the two sense of openness, we begin by considering these two different functions. There has always been a tension in argumentation theory between a cognitive understanding of argument and a social understanding of argument. Logical approaches most clearly exhibit a preference for emphasizing the cognitive function: that of belief management. Logical approaches have a tendency to reduce the argumentative function to processes of individual reasoning – so much so that not only are notions of interaction and audience easily erased from the picture, but discourse itself is largely stripped away until only something call ‘propositions’ remain. But whether or not such a reduction seems prudent, it does isolate this cognitive function of argumentation. Argumentation does clearly have a truth-testing function. It is this epistemological aspect that dominates the study of argument in philosophical traditions. And this concern is quite proper. This concern derives from the very structure of accountability and reason-giving that forms an integral basis for ordinary language uses of argument. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Effects Of Different Socio-Economic Factors, Language Environments And Attitudes Of First Year Natural Resources Students On Their Performance In A Critical Thinking Appraisal

logo  2002-11. Introduction
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), after consulting a wide variety of sources including results of many national and regional conferences and many experts in different fields of study, published a document titled: Educating for a Sustainable Future: A Transdisciplinary Vision for Concerted Action in 1997. In this document under curriculum reform, the following recommendation was made: ‘Students need to learn how to reflect critically on their place in the world and to consider what sustainability means to them and their communities. They need to practise envisioning alternative ways of development and living, evaluating alternative visions, learning how to negotiate and justify choices between visions, and making plans for achieving desired ones, and participating in community life to bring such visions into effect. These are the skills and abilities which underlie good citizenship, and make education for sustainability part of a process of building an informed, concerned and active populace. In this way, education for sustainability contributes to education for democracy and peace.’
It was clear from this document that critical thinking or, how to reflect critically should, in the future become an integral part of education and training in all fields of study. Against this background the aim was to establish if the first year students in the discipline of Natural Resources did have the skills, knowledge and attitudes for critical thinking, and if not, a possible explanation for the situation.

The initial intention of the investigation was to research the issue of critical thinking ability within the Namibian context. The latter may differ from other countries, as seen against previous research done on this issue. Namibia is regarded as a developing country, while most of the research has been done in developed countries. Political ideologies and policies which have an influence on all aspects of the life of the citizens of a country are not the same for all countries but in some cases differ radically from each other.
In certain rural areas in Namibia, communities still actively practise their traditions and cultures as they have done for the last centuries. In most communal areas socio-economic conditions are characterized by subsistence livelihood and a high rate of unemployment. As a result many adults moved to urban areas to seek employment and in many cases women became the main source of income for a household. Children in these cases are usually taken care of by other family members, namely the extended family.
This research can best be described as illuminative, to provide data that may shed light on or go some way towards explaining a situation, and retrospective, in that it is concerned with events which have already occurred (Parnell 1993).
In this paper the investigation regarding the socio-economic factors will be discussed in detail while investigation regarding language environments and attitudes will be briefly reviewed. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – E Contrario Reasoning And It’s Legal Consequences

logo  2002-11. Introduction[i]
E contrario reasoning is the argument that says that a certain legal rule must not be applied analogically, that is to say: that the legal rule must not be applied to certain facts that are not mentioned in this legal rule. A very nice example is mentioned by Harm Kloosterhuis in his recent dissertation. The example deals with the question whether or not the legal rule that holds persons liable for damage caused by tort committed in a group may be applied to a group of dogs that have caused damage. The Court judged this analogy unsound (NJ 1996, 172; Kloosterhuis 2002, 197).
The argument is famous for it’s logical validity problem. The problem is that at the surface e contrario reasoning seems to produce the fallacy of denying the antecedent. When, in modus ponens, the first premise states the legal rule ‘if p, then q’ – the antecedent ‘p’ meaning the legal facts and the consequent ‘q’ meaning the legal consequence – and the second premise states the concrete case which does not match the legal facts – symbolised by ‘not p’ – the conclusion ‘not q’ – meaning that the legal consequence is not entailed – is a logically invalid inference.
About a decade ago, the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law published a discussion between two jurisprudential scholars about the solution for the logical problem of e contrario reasoning. In this discussion they both tried to analyse e contrario reasoning as a logically valid argument. I agree with them that it is reasonable to suppose that e contrario reasoning is logically valid indeed, because there may be good reasons not to apply a legal rule analogically in specific circumstances and in law it happens all the time without any problem. However, in this paper I want to argue that both scholars, Maarten Henket from Utrecht University and Hendrik Kaptein from the University of Amsterdam, are solving a non existent problem. The reason for this is that two different types of e contrario reasoning have to be distinguished, that have to be analysed very differently. Kaptein and Henket have confused these two types by combining features of both types in one type of argument.
My strategy is as follows. First, I will elaborate on the validity problem and show how Kaptein and Henket have tried to solve the problem. Then I will show which argument types can be distinguished as instances of e contrario reasoning. Finally, I will try to find an explanation for why it is often overlooked that two concepts of e contrario reasoning exist. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Dialectical Tier Revisited

logo  2002-11. Introduction
Since I originally proposed that arguments require a dialectical tier, many commentators have weighed in with objections and challenges. Originally Govier (1997/98;1999), then Leff (1999/2000), Hitchcock (2000/2002, Tindale (2002/2002), Groarke (2000/2002, Hansen  (2000/2002), van Rees (2001) and Wyatt (2001) – to mention just those who have gone on record with objections to that proposal [i].
Now, here, in this auspicious setting, it does seem propitious, even incumbent upon me, to say something about how I now view that proposal, perhaps taking this opportunity to repent of my sins. For Govier has said that the requirement of the dialectical tier, as I have stated it, leads to an infinite regress – “a staircase that mounts forever” (233) which would not be a “Stairway to Heaven” but rather a descent into Hell.
I intend to take this occasion to respond to some of these objections and criticisms, as well as to share some thoughts they have set in motion. I will begin by revisiting the proposal, briefly, particularly with respect to its purpose. Since the division of labour in argumentation theory into logical, dialectical and rhetorical dimensions seems to have gained a certain level of acceptance among argumentation theorists with[ii], I have decided to use that division to structure most of my response. Accordingly, I will first look at an objection that is logical in character (that of Govier), then to one that is rhetorical (that of Leff); and finally to one that is dialectical (that of van Rees). After indicating how I propose to respond to these three objections, I want to a look at what difference the proposal makes and the broader issues it raises for argumentation theory.

2. The rationale for the proposal
The rationale for the proposal had its origins in our efforts (more than 30 years ago) to teach to logic to undergraduates in a university setting. [By “our” here I mean Johnson and Blair and other informal logicians.] We began with the tradition in which we had been raised which I have baptized FDL[iii]. According to that account, a good argument is a sound argument: an argument that is valid and all of whose premises are true. In this tradition. we find argument typically defined as: “a sequence of propositions one of which follows from the others.” We were not alone in experiencing difficulties teaching this sort of approach to logic to our students in the late 60s who demanded relevance and who wanted logic to help them appraise the arguments they came across in their attempts to deal with the issues of the day[iv]. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Gravity Too Is Relative: On The Logic Of Deliberative Debate

logo  2002-1In current argumentation theory, the focus is not often on deliberative argumentation as such. Most modern theorists tend to see argumentation as a homogeneous phenomenon. But in recent years, there has been a tendency to differentiate more, especially in the works of Douglas Walton, who has defined different types of argumentative dialogue. However, we also need to differentiate in another way, namely on the basis of argumentative issues.
Aristotle did this when he defined the three main genres of rhetoric. And if we take a closer look at the nature of the issues in deliberative argumentation, several interesting implications will ensue. Deliberative argumentation will turn out to be at odds with assumptions widely accepted in current theories, such as pragma-dialectics and the model of “presumptive” reasoning advocated by Walton.

An essential fact about deliberative argumentation is that it is not about truth, but action. This fact has been cursorily acknowledged by some theorists, but not explored. Even Toulmin (1958), who made a strong case for distinguishing between argumentative fields, only considers arguments for claims like “Harry is a British citizen” and other constative propositions. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca too fail to make a clear distinction. On the one hand, they emphasize that deliberative argumentation is “oriented toward the future” and “sets out to bring about some action or to prepare for it by acting, by discursive methods, on the minds of the hearers” (1969, 47); on the other hand, they consistently speak of “theses” presented for the audience’s assent. Characteristically, to find acknowledgement that the issues in deliberative argumentation are not propositions or theses, we must go to the textbook literature, including the work that Toulmin co-authored (1979). Educators remember what theorists like to forget: Deliberative argumentation is not about what is true, but about what to do.
A typical deliberative issue is (for the United States, at the time of writing), “starting a war on Iraq”, or “abolishing capital punishment”. It would be a categorial mistake to predicate truth, or falsehood, of these proposals. They are not propositions (assertions, constative statements); they do not predicate that anything is the case. Walton comes close to saying just that in his distinction between “practical” and “discursive” reasoning, when he states: “In the action type of critical discussion, the proposition is a practical ought-proposition that contains an imperative” (1996, 177). However, he blurs the distinction again by describing the deliberative issue as a proposition about what is prudential. The issue in deliberative argumentation is not a proposition; it is a proposal. It does not predicate a state of affairs, nor what ought to be the case; it proposes an action. It is like proposing a toast, or proposing marriage to someone. Proposals cannot be true or false. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Mytilene Debate: A Paradigm For Deliberative Rhetoric

logo  2002-1Readings of the speeches inserted in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War usually make reservations concerning their authenticity. To the historian the fictitiousness involved – openly acknowledged by Thucydides himself in his comments about the use of sources (book 1, chapter 1) – obviously poses a problem. For instance, Johansen[i] comments that the modern reader can only regret that it is usually impossible to distinguish report from reconstruction in Thucydides’ account (Johansen, 1984, 275). Depending on the scope of the analysis, the rhetorician, of course, may also regard the fictitiousness of the speeches as a drawback. However, in my approach to the Mytilene debate, this is not an issue. On the contrary, it is precisely the element of fiction that makes it possible to approach the text as I do. I join Michael C. Leff when he says that the most important feature of Thucydides’ representation of the debate is “the reflexive turn it takes” (1996, 89). Not only does the account illustrate how political debaters in a paradigmatic rhetorical situation argue “by the book”, an illustration with striking similarities to contemporary debates on the issue of capital and severe punishment. It is also a story, in Leff’s words, “about the proper conduct of public discourse.” What furthermore makes the text intriguing is that, on the one hand, it invites its reader to speculate on the norms for legitimate political persuasion, and, on the other, it is very open to interpretation. You might say about Thucydides what Wayne Booth pointed out about the implied author: “Everything he shows will serve to tell” (Booth, 1961, 20). Only he does it in a subtle way, sprinkling the text with ambiguities leaving the reader speculating as to his true intention.

What, then, does the account of the Mytilene debate tell us about legitimate deliberation? In my answering that, I am primarily going to address Michael C. Leff’s analysis of the text[ii].
The situation at the Athenian Assembly 427 B.C. is this: There has been a revolt against Athens in Mytilene on Lesbos, a privileged ally in the Athenian league. The oligarchic leaders responsible for the defection have appealed to Sparta for help, but the Athenian fleet has arrived first, and under the siege the democrats at the island have forced the new government to surrender to the Athenians. The captured leaders have been sent to Athens, where the citizens at the Assembly the day before “in their angry mood” have decided to put all male Mytilenians to death and to make slaves of the women and children. The next day, however, the Athenians wake up with a moral hangover, and it is decided to reopen the debate on the punishment of the Mytilenians. The two main debaters are Kleon, an influential politician at the time, and Diodotos, an otherwise unknown citizen. Kleon argues against revoking the punishment, while Diodotos proposes that only the captured prisoners be executed, and that the others be spared. At the close of the debate the vote is almost a tie, but Diodotos’ motion is passed. A second ship is sent to Mytilene in pursuit of that dispatched the previous day. Since the first is slow because of “its distasteful mission”, the second ship arrives just in time to prevent the massacre. Read more

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