ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Are Musical Arguments Possible ?

logo  2002-11. Introduction
Recent work on argumentation suggests that images, gestures and other non-verbal elements may play a crucial role in argument (see Birdsell & Groarke, 1996; Blair, 1996; Gilbert, 1997; Groarke, 1998; and Lunsford, Ruszkiewicz, & Walters, 2001). In the wake of such research, I want to ask how argumentation theory should understand the role that music and other non-verbal sounds (sounds other than words and sentences) play in argumentative exchange [i].
I shall understand questions about music and arguments as questions about arguments as they are understood in the theory of argument. One could talk of musical arguments in a more figurative sense, to describe formal relationships between or within particular pieces of music. A composition might, for example, be said to contain two musical themes that ‘argue’ with one another, if they compete for attention in a way that culminates in some resolution of their differences. There is much that might be made of musical arguments in this sense, but I must leave them for elsewhere.
In the present paper, I understand musical arguments as arguments in the traditional sense associated with logic B as attempts to convince someone of a conclusion by providing them with reasons for accepting it. My aim is a tentative account of the role that music and other non-verbal sounds play in arguments of this sort. In keeping with the emphasis that contemporary argumentation theory places on real argument, I will discuss musical arguments in the context of examples of actual argument, not by pursuing a philosophical discussion of the meaning and analysis of music (a discussion which would require an elaborate account of formalist and expressionist theories of music and aesthetics).

In sketching an account of musical argument, I am not claiming that all or most music argues. We can imagine a situation in which the playing of a Rachmaninoff piano concerto is properly understood as argument –  when a concerto is played as background to an advertisement or a political commentary, or as proof of the composer’s ability to create a certain kind of music. This said, musical performances of this sort are normally intended for entertainment or aesthetic appreciation, and cannot be classified as attempts to establish some conclusion. In view of this, the argumentative use of music is properly described as one of its secondary or derivative functions. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Coductive And Abductive Foundations For Sentimental Arguments In Politics

logo  2002-1In 1936 A. J. Ayer wielded the ax that chopped away sentimentality and other emotions, ethics, and aesthetics from their roots in rational argument theory. He divided the world into the arenas of sense and non-sense. The verifiability principle was used for the sorting process: that which was verifiable, accessible to the senses, was adjudged sensible and hence capable of supporting truth-claims and reasoning about them, while everything else was relegated to the world of non-sense. (And, of course, it was easy to remove that hyphen.) Mathematics, ethics, self-expressive statements, and aesthetic judgments were dispossessed and dispatched to non-sense. In Ayer’s (1936/1952: 108) words, sentimental arguments are “used to express feelings about certain objects, not to make any assertion about them.” Thus, they could be considered “normative,” yet “unanalysable… pseudo-concepts” (107).

And so, to Ayer and much of the western world of ethics and aesthetics since then, value and aesthetic theories – other than those grounded on utilitarian or admittedly subjectivist speculation – have faced the so-called “problem of truth.” Ethical and aesthetic statements or reports of feelingfulness have been confronted with serious problems in reasoning because of modernist assumptions that premises in arguments should be propositions capable of being assessed as true or false (1936/1952: ch. V, passim). If feelings, moral pronouncements, and aesthetic judgments can be expressed but not asserted, then there is no place for evidence in support of such propositions that, when taken together, would be recognized as an argument.

A year ago at the biennial Alta conference (Gronbeck, 2002), I started an inquiry into these problems particularly as they operate in a portion, at least, of the American political arena. I examined some of the events of the 2000 Republican and Democratic national political conventions. Each party hosted a four-day convention filled with broadcast videos, parades of citizens and politicians who synecdochally re-presented or epitomized the policies advocated in their platforms and by their leaders, and both of the presidential candidates – Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore – permitted viewers to see personalized, romanticized depictions of their lives. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Designing Premises

logo  2002-11. Introduction.
The problem of premise adequacy has vexed argumentation theorists since Hamblin opened the issue in his pioneering work on Fallacies (1986/1970). Anyone trying to evaluate an argument that has been made must apply some standard to assess the goodness of the premises. Various informal logicians have proposed one or more of the following: truth (Johnson, 2000), acceptance (or, roughly, belief; Johnson, 2000; Hamblin, in one reading), and acceptability (what is reasonable to believe, with variations; Govier, 1987; Johnson & Blair, 1994; Pinto, 1994).
Premise adequacy is not just a puzzle for evaluators after the fact, however; arguers as they practice also face the problem of securing starting points for their arguing. Each arguer presumably expects the arguments she deploys to do some work for her. To do that work, the arguments will need (among other things) to have adequate premises. Thus she too confronts the problem of figuring out what premises are up to standard, whatever that standard may be. Still, her task is somewhat different than that of the evaluator, due to the constraints of her immediate situation. The arguer is addressing her argument to others; she needs to make sure that her premises not only are adequate, but that the adequacy is conspicuous to them. And in securing such conspicuous adequacy, the arguer faces two difficulties.

First, the situations in which arguments are expected to work are characterized by open and sometimes deep disagreement. Under conditions of disagreement, it may occur that arguers will start with few shared understandings as to what premises count as adequate. And the arguers may have little motive to cooperate with each other to reach new understandings, whether by examining the truth or acceptability of proposed premises, by admitting that they are accepted, or by otherwise establishing them as adequate. They may, for example, refuse to openly express to their “dark-side commitments” (Walton & Krabbe, 1995). The arguer therefore may need to exert some (communicative) force to get her interlocutor to recognize the adequacy of her premises.
Second, the arguer often works to a tight deadline, since in practice not to complete an argument within a reasonable, often quite limited, time is effectively to not argue. Whatever work she needs to do to secure the adequacy of her premises, she needs to do quickly. She doesn’t have time for infinite regresses where her premises are secured by further arguments, whose premises in turn need to be argued; she often won’t have time even for one or two. To begin her argument, she needs to locate the unargued.
To achieve her purposes through arguing, the arguer must do something to overcome these difficulties – to invent (that is, create or discover) expeditiously the adequate premises she will need to proceed. Premise adequacy, in other words, is not just a problem in evaluation; it is a pragmatic problem as well. Or more specifically, a problem of normative pragmatics (van Eemeren, 1994; Goodwin, forthcoming b; Jacobs, 1999): for as above I will take it for granted that premises must be of a certain quality in order to do their work. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Dialogical And Logical Structure Of A Strategy To Block Certain Vicious Infinite Regresses

logo  2002-1I will examine two examples that illustrate a particular pattern of reasoning occasionally advanced to block a certain kind of vicious infinite regress, and use their mistakes and weaknesses to describe generally overlooked logical and dialogical properties in this kind of pattern. The reasoning can be summarized in five stages:
a. A proponent asserts that an entity y has a relation R to x1: yRx1. The entity x1 usually has an important role for the proponent, e.g. it can stand for a divine being, or an explanation.
b. An opponent argues from yRx1 that there follows an infinite regress: x1R x2R x3R x4…, and
c. then shows that the regress is vicious.
d. The proponent responds by claiming that x1 has a certain property that blocks the regress at x1.
e. The opponent retorts by showing that y also has that property, and consequently, just as ~(x1Rx2), then ~(yRx1): x1 is thus rendered unnecessary, superfluous, with respect to y.

1. Hume
I will begin with an example from Hume because, unlike most arguments of this type, it explicitly includes most of the stages of the general pattern of reasoning that I have just summarized. His goal in Part IV of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion is to show “that there is no ground to suppose a plan of the world to be formed in the divine mind consisting of distinct ideas, differently arranged, in the same manner as an architect forms in his head the plan of a house which he intends to execute” (Hume, 1948, 33). So stage (a), the position to be criticized, is the relational statement that the physical world is created by a divine mind: wCd1.

At stage (b) Hume wants to show that given this relational statement, the divine cause must itself also have a divine cause, and so on for each divine cause: d1Cd2Cd3Cd4…. His general procedure is to argue that the material world and the divine cause are similar in the relevant respects, and thus that a divine cause also requires a distinct divine cause, just as the material world requires one. An infinite regress logically follows if and only if those similarities are established, and all subsequent divine causes are also similar in the same relevant respects.
Hume first examines the material and mental worlds from the points of view of a priori reason, and tacitly assumes that the material world is to a divine mind just as the material world is to a mental world:
[A] mental world or universe of ideas requires a cause as much as does a material world or universe of objects, and if similar in its arrangement, must require a similar cause. For […] in an abstract view, they are entirely alike; and no difficulty attends the one supposition which is not common to both of them. (Hume, 1948, 33) Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The “Argument Of Continuity”

logo  2002-11. Introduction
Thirteen years after the revolution in the GDR and twelve years after the unification of the two Germanies, a gap still exists between East and West. One reason for this gap may be the dominance of a formerly Western discourse that has been transformed into an All-German public discourse. This overtaking of the eastern discourse by the West becomes apparent and especially interesting where the history of the two German states and its representation is concerned. Explaining the history of the GDR through a predominantely Western discourse leaves the citizens in East Germany in a difficult and ambivalent position: they may have to conclude that what they had lived by was false, and are thus lead to dissociate themselves from their own believes. Alternatively, they can take an ironic perspective by recognizing that the Western discourse functions the same way the Eastern did, and that both just tell a story from a certain standpoint; hence, that none of the stories represent the “real past”.

One of the most evident examples for this clash of discourses is the employment and transformation of what could be called the “argument of continuity”, the analogy both German states established between the other state and Nazi Germany. The “other Germany” was displayed as the successor of Nazi Germany. This analogy accomplished two tasks: it discredited the other Germany and its political system, and it fostered identification with the own state.

This paper takes a first step at analyzing the development and the effect of the Nazi-analogy in East and West Germany, with a special focus on its use since the unification. First, I will propose a view of this analogy in terms of an “argument of continuity” that functioned as a powerful tool in West as well as in East Germany, at the example of the Braunbuch. I will then describe the employment and transformation of this argument in contemporary public discourse at the example of the exhibition in the “Zeitgeschichtliches Forum” (“Forum of contemporary history”). By analyzing the use of the “argument of continuity”, as employed in the exhibition, through the lens of Rorty’s concepts of irony and solidarity, I will suggest that the contemporary Western employment of the “argument of continuity” offers an insight into the function of contemporary discourse in East and West Germany. The question this papers asks is, how the discourse about this continuity is represented and altered in contemporary public discourse. I will argue, that the clash of discourses encountered by the people in East Germany may foster an ironic perspective on public discourse – an ironic perspective that might strengthen as well as weaken democracy in Germany. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Tu Quoque? Fallacy And Vindication In Appeal To Other People’s “Wrongs”

logo  2002-11. “Practice what you preach or you’re wrong”: wrong?
Tu quoque is the type of argument trying to rebut standpoints by referring to speakers’ conduct inconsistent with their standpoints. For example: A tells B to be less lazy in physical exercise. B answers A that he must be telling nonsense, because he is not performing any physical exercise himself. Tu quoque may also denote arguments referring to (direct) contradiction in speakers’ standpoints, like: “You can’t be right, because yesteryear you vigorously defended a completely contrary standpoint.” This second (and probably less interesting) variety of tu quoque will not be discussed here.
Such arguments seem obviously fallacious, if only because of their complete lack of reference to any relevant subject matter. Whether physical exercise is a good or bad thing to do (at least in the sense of: being good or bad for health) is to be determined by medical evidence, not at all by any speakers’ conduct in physically exercising themselves or not (see § 2 for further reasons against tu quoque reasoning).
Though simply fallacious at first sight, the well-nigh omnipresence of tu quoque in daily and even in professional and scholarly life may not just be a consequence of listeners’ lack of intellect and dexterity in discussion. Actually, tu quoque appears to be something like an “umbrella” concept, covering a wide variety of types of reasoning, ranging from obvious fallacies to sound and important argument.

First, tu quoque fallacies may serve important argumentative and communicative purposes apart from rebuttal of speakers’ standpoints, for example in showing up speakers’ lack of integrity (see §§ 3 and 4). Second, not all argument presenting itself as tu quoque really is tu quoque in any fallacious sense. Legal and moral argument may look like tu quoque, but may in effect come down to sound argument from contract, precedent and “tit for tat” rules (see § 5). Also, varieties of tu quoque are implied in and related to many more forms of interesting argument, for example in attempts to justify rules of conduct by reference to third parties’ behaviour (see § 6).
Thus tu quoque appears to be not so much a simple fallacy as well as a highly useful complex of heterogeneous appeals to some or other kind of commitment, mutual or otherwise. Not so much avoidance of tu quoque may be the thing to do as well as to avoidance of conduct leaving room for tu quoque reactions. The essence of (avoidance of) tu quoque is positive commitment in the first place (§ 7).

2. Fallacious varieties, for fundamental reasons
Tu quoque arguments purport to lead to normative and/or evaluative conclusions, with few exceptions. It could not be otherwise, as tu quoque refers to inconsistency of utterance and conduct: “You tell me to do x, you yourself are doing non-x, so you’re wrong”. A descriptive tu quoque may not be a fallacy at all, as it may run along the following lines: “You’re stating to me that human beings are x, you are non-x, so you must be wrong”. Anyway, discussion will here be focused on evaluative and/or normative tu quoque arguments. Read more

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