ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Adapted Arguments: Logic And Rhetoric In The Age Of Genes And Hardwired Brains

logo  2002-1It is said that the Greek philosopher Diogenes once sought to prove that the apparently unique capacity of humans to engage in logical reasoning was not really special to humans alone. His proof relied on an observation about hunting dogs. On the hunt, such dogs may have occasion to come to a fork in the road. When they do, they stop and sniff one of the two paths in the road. If they do not pick up the scent on that path, they immediately turn and run down the other path, without stopping to sniff it. Diogenes asserted that these beasts were “reasoning” as follows:
P or Q
not P
therefore Q

Dogs may indeed have a rudimentary capacity to engage in what we call logical reasoning – even if they could not recognize the above case as an example of modus tollendo ponens. But that, pace Diogenes, is really the point. No animal other than humans can engage in abstract logical reasoning. No animal other than humans can think in terms of Ps and Qs, or conditionals, or negations, or inference rules. Until recently, it was assumed that when humans engaged in logical reasoning, we were engaging that specific part of the brain that enables us to solve abstract logic problems like the ones found in textbooks on formal logic. To be sure, emotions or passions surrounding a particular situation might “cloud” our logical reasoning processes and make it difficult for us to come to a logical conclusion about a particular matter. But neither the emotions surrounding a situation, nor any other concrete aspect of the situation, could change the actual reasoning process that we used. In short, it was assumed that humans come equipped with one all-purpose reasoning mechanism in our brain, and that we utilize only that particular mechanism when we reason about anything.
But that may be wrong. Recent research by evolutionary psychologists seems to indicate that humans “reason” dramatically differently – and better – when we are “processing” a social exchange situation that is open to the possibility of cheating (see Cosmides and Tooby 1992a). The point is not that the rules of formal logic do not apply to such situations. The point is that humans do not automatically apply the rules of formal logic to such situations. Indeed, we automatically apply other rules – probably located in another part of our brains – to those situations alone. This is fortunate however, because the human capacity to reason in general is (as I said) relatively poor when compared to our capacity to “reason” about social exchange situations in which we ourselves or others can be cheated. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Identity As Action. Methodological Implications For The Study Of Cultural Identity From A Historical – Cultural Approach

logo  2002-1This paper is part of a large project about cultural identity runned by the Laboratorio de Actividad Humana (Universidad de Sevilla).
Before presenting our position about cultural identity, we are going to describe briefly the Social Psychology perspective about this concept. Social Psychology is the most influent perspective in the study of cultural identity in the psychological discipline.  We are going to talk about this tradition as the “alter” in front of which we are constructing our theoretical and methodological approach to identity from an argumentative point of view.
Social Psychology considers self-concept as the element that articulates and integrates the person’s different social identities. The self-concept is conceptualized as a complex scheme organized in categories and classifications. Then, the research planed in this tradition have the aim of searching and reflecting that organized scheme. To get that information, researchers study social identities in artificial laboratory environments, where the subject has to answer questions about his/her social adscriptions in a categorical fashion.
The main problem with that method is that when understanding social identity as a categorically structured entity, these researchers search for categories, and by doing that they do not allow subjects to express themselves about their identities as they would do in their everyday life. Everyday expressions of cultural identity do not fit the researcher’s theoretical criteria and methods. The consequence of this is a disintegrated and fragmented idea of identity.

We think that other ways of studying identity are possible without renouncing to empirical research. Showing that is the main goal of this presentation.
We are going to propose an approach to cultural identity from a cultural-historical perspective. From this point of view we understand that:
a. Identity is created through social interactions. We must search for identity mechanisms and construction processes (not only identity contents) in the social processes where they are originated.
b. Identity is mediated by cultural tools. The construction of cultural identity, as other superior psychological functions, is mediated by cultural tools, mainly by semiotic tools (Wertsch, 1998). The use of a given set of instruments not only will configure identity itself, but also the nature of its trigger functions.
c. Identity is situated (linked to institution of practice/ cultural activity settings). Cultural identity is a socially situated process. To understand that process, we should analyze the social settings where it takes place. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Let’s Talk: Emotion And The Pragma-Dialectic Model

logo  2002-11. Introduction
The purpose of this paper is to continue my programme of making space within the major argumentative theories for human emotion (Gilbert 1997, 1997a, 2001, 2002). I believe that there is, in fact, no argument, no disagreement, perhaps even no communication without at least a minimal emotional component. At the least, writers such as Damasio (1994) see emotion in the form of preference, choice and concern as necessary conditions for caring enough to take up a position. Still, it is not an essential hypothesis of this programme that there exist no argumentative interactions that are devoid of emotion. Moreover, there may be ideal critical discussions as envisaged in the Pragma-Dialectic (PD) model that are wholly rational and disinterested. It is sufficient for my concerns that the vast majority of human dissensual communications contain at least a modest element of emotional commitment.
While the fact that emotion plays some role in most argumentative interactions is sufficient to make its study important, the real key is that in many such interactions the role played by emotions is crucial. Emotional attachment explains why we hold on to a position that is clearly untenable, or defend a view that is indefensible. But even when such extremes are not at issue, the understanding of why a position appeals to a proponent is often part and parcel of the reasons for the its maintenance. Moreover, in a significant number of arguments, the real issues are not those discursive matters initially raised, but rather the feelings of the proponent who raised them. In the majority, however, there is an integration between the emotional and logical, an intermixing that is frequently so thorough that separation is difficult if not impossible. (This, of course, supposes that such a separation is philosophically comprehensible in the first place).
As human communicators we are attuned to the emotional communications being transmitted by our dispute partners. We are aware of and constantly process messages for their sincerity, truth, and the feelings, such as anger, love and fear, embedded in them. These aspects of a message, whether explicit or implicit, frequently direct or inform our subsequent moves within the interaction. Understanding what someone means or intends, whether referring to logical or emotional content is always a matter of interpretation and processing (Gilbert, 2002). Language, as Wittgenstein showed us, is rarely so simple as to be incapable of misinterpretation; no message is so straightforward as to be impossible to misunderstand. More, it is often necessary to be familiar with the language and social customs of particular sub groups in order to be able to truly follow the implicit meanings and references in their communications (Willard, 1989). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – On Toulmin’s Fields And Wittgenstein’s Later Views On Logic

logo  2002-11. Toumlin’s Fields: An Interpretative Conundrum
Perhaps one of the most significant contributions to the study of argument and applied epistemology since Aristotle’s Topics was the introduction of the concept of a field of argument. Together with his Data-Warrant-Claim [D-W-C] model of argument, argument fields were Toulmin’s principal theoretical device in the constructive program he launched against the formal model of argument analysis and evaluation. The problem for the contemporary argumentation theorist is: How ought Toulmin’s concept of argument field to be interpreted, operationalized and applied in the projects of argument analysis and evaluation.
Willard has mused that the concept’s “most attractive feature … [is] that it can be made to say virtually anything” (1981: 21). To this, Zarefsky, has, more solemnly, added “there are so many different notions of fields that the result is conceptual confusion” (1982: 191). Before attempting to fathom this interpretive conundrum, it is perhaps best to situate the discussion by observing the significance and function of the concept of field in Toulmin’s overall theory of argument.

1.1 The Field-Dependency Thesis
Certainly, the most significant feature of argument fields is the thesis of field-dependency. Toulmin introduced the concept of field in answer to the question: “How far can justifcatory arguments take one and the same form, or involve appeal to one and the same standards, in all the different kinds of case which we have occasion to consider” (1958: 14)? On Toulmin’s account, there can be no single, abstract model that successfully captures the rational structure of all argument. Instead, while some features of arguments are field-invariant, others vary according to the field to which an argument belongs. For Toulmin, then, the first reason, that fields are significant to the study of argument is that theorists will be unable to create accurate models of argument unless we appreciate the nature, boundaries, and inner structure of argument fields. In fact, by failing to appreciate the field-dependency of certain features of argument, theorists fail to appreciate something fundamental about the very nature of justification.
What, then, is field-dependent? It is perhaps easier to ask what is not field-dependent. Because the structure of the D-W-C model is meant to capture “certain basic similarities of pattern and procedure [which] can be recognized … among justificatory arguments in general” (1958: 17), about the only thing does not vary according to an argument’s field is the overall D-W-C structure itself (1958: 175; 103; 119). By contrast, everything from an argument’s evidence (or data) (1958: 16), to warrants (1958: 100), to its backing (1958: 104) is field-dependent. Further, while the force of certain logical terms (e.g., modal terms and quantifiers) is field-invariant, the criteria according to which these terms are employed is field-dependent (1958: 29-35, 111-112)(i). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Context And Argument Evaluation

logo  2002-1Does the correct evaluation of an argument depend on the context of the argument? Many might consider the answer to this question is obviously ‘no’ while others that it is obviously ‘yes’. One should most likely conclude that the answer is not yet obvious. In this paper I shall explore in more detail whether argument evaluation is context dependent. In section one, I shall provide and discuss some preliminary definitions and reduce the original question to the following: is it context dependent whether or not the premises adequately support the conclusion? In section two, I will explore this latter question and conclude that the correct evaluation of an argument does depend on the context of the argument. In section three, I shall conclude by making some brief comments about the nature of contexts.

1. Preliminaries
Does the correct evaluation of an argument depend on the context of the argument? In order to answer one might wish to know:
a. what is an argument?
b. what is involved in correctly evaluating an argument?
c. what is context dependence or independence? and
d. what exactly is the context of an argument? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Wiles Of Argument: Protodeliberation And Heroic Prudence In Homer’s Odyssey

logo  2002-1“Rhetoric, in the most general sense, is the energy inherent in emotion and thought, transmitted through a system of signs, including language, to others to influence their decisions or actions” (Kennedy, 1991, 7). In Rhetoric 1.3 Aristotle identifies a powerful form of advancing interests, political deliberation. Such argumentation is directed toward “future action in best interests of a state” (7). Aristotle believes that this form of discourse has a distinctive temporal quality, which “for the deliberative speaker [is] the future (for whether exhorting or dissuading he advises about future events).” A rhetor connects present to future through weighing excess and deficiency in alternatives. Public policy is tested by estimating its future consequences for advantage and justice. Similarly, personal decisions of “what ought to be done or not to be done,” he tells us in the Nichomachean Ethics, may be so informed by practical reasoning (Ross, 1988/1925, vi.10). Whether public or private, all deliberation is “reasoning involved in choice,” “a kind of seeking – into what action both is possible in the circumstance and will lead to the goal in question” (Bostock, 2000, 79).
Aristotle’s outlook on deliberation appears appropriate to peacetime circumstance with its plans for progressive reform, support for engaged scientific inquiry, and rising prestige in foreign policy. Of course, the deliberations of a post-war period are somewhat distinct. Such an era cannot rely upon commonly shared connections between past and future. As the lives of ordinary citizens and ruling classes are affected differentially by concerted violence, the processes of social legitimation are thrown into question. Whether prewar goals can flourish in postwar society is always an open question. The duration recedes to a distant past for the fortunate, but for the still grieving its effect remains. Some move on; others cannot. A culture languishes in between times, knowing neither the untroubled, irenic diversions of peace nor the desperate unity of sacrifice. The past – the war that framed deliberative argument in a singular, urgent, and mounting discourses of bloody struggle – is over; and, yet, its business is not finished.

This essay analyzes the protodeliberations of the Odyssey as the rhetoric of an archaic, postwar rhetorical culture. Throughout history, the remaindered trauma of war, with its memories of individual and collective destruction, periodically disrupts lives, alters politics, and unhinges communicative norms. A postwar culture can neither dwell entirely in its losses, nor easily move on to a future; so events drift; issues fail to statiate, if they are raised at all; and reasons tangle in cross-expectations. Who will or will not return? How can men of violence reenter a society based on norms of civility? How is lost time made up or forgotten? Was it worth it after all? Answers to these questions play out controversially in intimate family relations and across the landscape of Attic politics in Homer’s comic epic of return and renewal. Read more

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