ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Evaluation Of Secondary Students’ Written Argumentations. Problems And Proposal Of An Evaluation Procedure.

logo  2002-1Abstract
This proposal combines the critical standards we use when assessing argumentations in every day life and the formal and structural criteria we generally use assessing students’ writing, integrating not only the linguistic clues and rhetorical aspects of the text but the logical and epistemological features as well. Such a tool is indispensable to appraise consistently the progresses of the students’ argumentative writing and to compare the relative effectiveness of different approaches to the instruction in writing argumentation. It would also facilitate the students’ metacognitive awareness on the distinctive characteristics of good arguments.

To assess the progresses of secondary school students writing argumentations, and evaluate the consequences of an intended educational intervention, we should elaborate a holistic method for the assessment of their argumentative text that would help us to evaluate the progress of the students through the time and the efficiency of different teaching methods. It would help too the students, to be aware of the features of a good argumentation and to improve their performance as writers and critical readers of arguments.
In every day situations we evaluate argumentations applying more or less consciously, and with more or less precision, the instructions that can be found in many of the manuals of Critical Thinking (Ennis 1995, Helpern 1996, Hoaglund 1995 and), Informal Logic (Walton 1989) or in the Pragma-dialectical approach (Van Eemeren 1992, 2002). Although differences exist among these proposals of evaluation of the arguments, in function of the conception of the argumentation, the type of normative constrains considered, and the differences relatives to the goals of each theory. We can accept that most of the time the form in which we evaluate, for instance, an opinion essay published in the newspaper follows roughly the steps that could be enforced by many of these models. This mode of evaluating arguments is based on the combination of common sense and education.
Outside the school context, to evaluate an argumentation means to see if it convinces us to the point of changing our beliefs, to modify our value system or to pursuit its proposals. Usually we don’t worry about its rhetorical quality, unless we don’t include under that idea the detection of some trick, dedicated to hide or distort relevant ideas for the justification or the rejection of the claim. In other words, if we don’t share the extended prejudice that considers rhetoric as a quibblers’ art, not dedicated to convince through a more attractive and appropriate presentation of our ideas, with the purpose of a better communication, but just to persuade the audience at any price. Neither, in general, we worry too much about the spelling or the grammatical correction of the message, but only about its intelligibility. This doesn’t mean that the rhetorical and grammatical quality of a text, or the order in which the ideas have been disposed, don’t play any role in the exchange of the ideas in a dialogue or in the persuasiveness of a text. The risk of an argumentative text rhetorically deficient, wrong structured or with grammatical incorrectness is to fail engaging the readers’ attention, generating a shortcut in the communication. Therefore, we should not undertake the teaching of written argumentation without considering these components. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Need For A New Rationality

logo  2002-11. Introduction
Looking for a new rationality is a relatively recently started activity in philosophy concerning mostly philosophy of science. It is certainly connected to the developments in the most contemporary natural science in the last decades of XX century. We are going to present some arguments that favour the new approach to rationality. Some philosophers of science, methodologists and scientists have been singled out as the most active proponents of the need to change the basics of rationality. For instance, Ilya Prigogine has entitled the introduction to his recent book “A New Rationality?” (Prigogine 1997). There is a symptomatic question mark at the end of this title as we can see. Prigogine is really quite justified to doubt, whether we have the real need to speak about a new rationality. However, the question mark rather stands for the question, whether the changes are deep enough for speaking about a new rationality than for the doubt, whether the essence of rationality is changing at all. We necessarily have to take a look into the traditional conception of rationality in order to discuss, if a principal alteration of the meaning of the term has really become necessary.
Nicholas Maxwell has put forward another serious challenge to classical rationality by arguing for a new conception of science (Maxwell 1998). In order to succeed in his task, Maxwell asks openly for a new rationality, claiming that classical science is not rational in the genuine sense of the concept. Discussing the claims of Prigogine and Maxwell we try to find out, whether they are asking for the same kind or different kinds of new rationality. In the closing section of the paper, we shall argue that temperate rationalism of William Newton-Smith is not really a new approach to rationality in science, but just an indication of one possible direction out of the outworn classical frames.

2. Understanding of Rationality in Classical Science
The concept of rationality plays the central role in all human activity, not just science. “In its primary sense, rationality is a normative concept that philosophers have generally tried to characterize in such a way that, for any action, belief, or desire, if it is rational we ought to choose it” (“The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy” 1999: 772). This is a pleasantly general formulation of the concept and cannot ask for any alteration. However, it does not give any clue, how to differentiate between rational, non-rational and irrational behaviour. We shall consider non-rational to be the opposite of rational. Irrational is not an issue here, as it is a principally different kind of human reasoning compared to rational. People, especially philosophers, are sometimes irrational on purpose, not by the reason that they are not capable of being rational. It does hardly make any sense, however, to be non-rational on purpose (If not a joke is performed, of course). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Differential Argument Construction: Examination Of Attorney And Pro Se Arguments In The Restraining Order Courtroom

logo  2002-11. Introduction
This essay compares the argument styles of pro se parties (those who represent themselves) and parties represented by attorneys in a Restraining Order courtroom in Denver, Colorado, USA. We were interested in examining the extent of differences and similarities in argumentation and their implications upon questions of allocation of justice, the maintenance of a monopoly on court argument held by lawyers in the United States and, especially, the extent to which arguments by lawyers may systematically distort client narratives. Data was gathered in two years of ethnographic observation in the Restraining Order courtroom, as well as twenty-seven qualitative interviews and an examination of one dozen Permanent Restraining Order hearing transcripts. Types of representation and styles of argumentation are discussed regarding how they influence perceptions and outcomes in the courtroom.

A brief overview of the Restraining Order process is needed to understand the context in which this communication occurs. The Restraining Order courtroom is a dedicated specialized court for survivors of domestic violence to obtain Restraining Orders against perpetrators of violence. An applicant (or plaintiff) is asking the court to order the defendant to have “no contact” with her[i]. The no- contact order may be accompanied by orders to vacate shared housing, for custody of children and for visitation. This is a two-step legal procedure in which the plaintiff must come to court two times. The first day in court is referred to as the Temporary Restraining Order.  This first day in court the plaintiff is most often the only party present.
The plaintiff returns to court in approximately two weeks for her Permanent Restraining Order hearing at which time the defendant has a right to be present to either agree or disagree with a Permanent Restraining Order (PRO) being placed against him. If the defendant disagrees with having a PRO placed on him, then the case will go to hearing that morning. Permanent is, as it sounds, forever. Although this is a civil complaint, if the defendant violates a “no contact” Restraining Order issued by the court then he is liable for criminal charges.
Parties (plaintiffs and defendants) can represent themselves at these hearings or hire attorneys to represent them, but no person other than an attorney may represent them or help them in presenting their cases. The great majority of plaintiffs represent themselves in court. Those few who do have lawyers are nearly always represented by legal aid programs. Defendants are more likely to be represented by attorneys that they have hired.
We conclude that there were few differences in content presented between attorneys and the unrepresented. However, the style of presentation and, especially, the fact that one other than the party in interest is making the arguments may affect outcomes in the courtroom. In particular, when an argument is made by a representative on behalf of a party, it may be given greater credence, while similar arguments made by the party may actually detract from her credibility by playing into a judge’s preexisting conceptions about the situation of violence in the home. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Thinking Critically About Media Violence: Does Media Violence Contribute To Real-World Violence?

logo  2002-1The United States has one of the highest homicide rates among developed nations. While the overall crime rate has dropped in recent times, the occurrence of violent crimes involving children and adolescents has not declined. For Americans aged 15 to 34 years, homicide is the second leading cause of death, and for young African Americans, 15 to 24 years, it is the leading cause of death (Foege, Rosenberg and Mercy 1995). During recent times there has been passionate and ongoing debate about whether there is a causal relationship between media violence and aggression in society. Current events, especially in the United States, have highlighted the need to understand the nature and causes of domestic violence. Recent school killings have been shocking and naturally enough, debate continues on why such gratuitous violence does occur. Is violence an intrinsic part of human nature, something innate, or is it learned? Or is it both? Reflective persons everywhere look for causal connections and wonder if media violence is a causal factor and, if it is, how much does it contribute to real world violence.

Almost everyone has his or her own theory about what causes or contributes to violence. Among other theorists, this paper will focus primarily on the work of Sissela Bok (1998) and George Gebner (1993). They have for a long time been investigating the role of media violence as a contributing factor to real world violence. It is clear from the research that has been done that there are no easy, universally agreed upon answers. Some believe that focusing on media violence makes it easier for United States citizens to avoid or ignore more significant causes such as poverty, poor parenting, or the easy access to guns. Still many wonder if the United States culture always been as violent as it is today or is the media simply presenting Americans with a greater exposure to violence, wherever it occurs, for purely economic reasons? Good news, we all know, is not particularly exciting. It neither sells newspapers nor boosts TV ratings. Bad news, on the other hand, events such as murders, rapes, assaults, and general mayhem, does sell. “If it bleeds, it leads,” as the media adage goes.
During the nineteenth century, educators and others warned about the effects of lurid dime novels and newspaper crime stories on the young. In the early twentieth century, motion pictures and radio were both viewed as significant social threats. Today, concerns are expressed about violence in computer games, popular songs, and on the Internet. Throughout the evolving changes in media technology, some fundamental questions remain the same: Do depictions of violence in the media somehow contribute to real-life violence such as the Jonesboro and Littleton tragedies in the United States? Are viewers of media violence encouraged to commit real world violence? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Persuasive Success And Normatively-Desirable Argumentative Conduct: Is It (Persuasively) Bad To Be (Normatively) Good?

logo  2002-1One recurring concern in argumentation studies is the interplay of descriptive and normative approaches to argument. For example, van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson, and Jacobs (1993) have discussed problems encountered in using normative models to describe natural argumentative discourse. This paper addresses a different but related aspect of the relationship of descriptive and normative concerns, by comparing the results of studies of factors influencing persuasive effectiveness (that is, research findings indicating what makes for persuasive success) against conceptions of normatively-desirable argumentative practice (particularly as suggested by the pragma-dialectical approach). The general question is that of the potential tension between practical persuasive success and normative directives about argumentative conduct. The nature and extent of such tension is an empirical question, and hence this paper closely inspects existing persuasion research to see what light might be shed on whether (and the degree to which) persuaders face a choice between being normatively sound or practically persuasive.

1. Preliminaries
Three preliminary observations are appropriate concerning some uncertainties attendant to this undertaking.
First: There is no single detailed normative argumentation framework that enjoys thoroughgoing acceptance, and hence there is no easily-identifiable set of obvious specific normative standards to employ in this sort of undertaking. In what follows I will often refer to elements of the pragma-dialectical approach (van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1984), because I think its focus on arguer conduct is especially congenial to the task at hand; but my hope is the relevant pragma-dialectical elements can be seen to be realizations of broader normative principles likely to enjoy widespread endorsement.
Second: Claims about the influence of various factors on persuasive effectiveness necessarily carry with them all sorts of caveats about the evidence underwriting such claims (both general caveats and ones specific to the particular research reviewed). This paper has not been burdened with all the hedging that might have been given. But–by way of reassurance–I do think that the empirical generalizations invoked here are sufficiently secure to permit us to consider their relationship to normative argumentative standards.
Third: Persuasion researchers have commonly not set out with the explicit aim of seeing the persuasive effects of variations in normatively-desirable argumentative conduct. That is to say, there is necessarily some imperfect articulation here, because the research evidence has been gathered with different purposes in mind. Even so, it turns out that various lines of persuasion research do speak to the question of the persuasive effects associated with various normative directives. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Reasoning In Listening

logo  2002-11. Introduction   
Our main thesis is that reasoning plays a different role in understanding oral discourse than it does in understanding written discourse [i]. In particular, this seems to be the case for listening to lectures, speeches, and other forms of monologue, as opposed to reading comparably long texts. The reason for this difference, as we shall see, is that listening takes place in “real time,” in the sense that one is not free to look ahead or back as one is in reading (We shall not deal explicitly with dialogue, which is the other main form of oral discourse, except to note here that it has a written counterpart, viz., the internet medium of “Instant Messenger” (IM), which is a kind of hybrid, in that, while it takes place in real time, it does permit the user to look backwards, though not forwards).
If listening does make different demands on reasoning than reading does, this may account for some of the differences between oral and literate cultures. It is sometimes assumed that oral cultures are generally less sophisticated than literate ones, but this assumption can hardly survive exposure to history. Havelock, writing about Greece in the time of Homer, offers an admittedly speculative corrective to such a view:
We can hazard the guess, in short, that that specific and unique Hellenic intelligence, the source or cause of which has baffled all historians, received its original nurture in communities in which the oral technique of preserved communication threw power and so prestige into the hands of the orally more gifted. It made the competition for power, endemic among all human beings, identifiable with the competition for intelligence. The total nonliteracy of Homeric Greece, so far from being a drawback, was the necessary medium in which the Greek genius could be nursed to its maturity. (Havelock, 1963, 127)

The classical civilizations retained an oral character long after the development of literacy. A modern listener would find it difficult to follow the oratory of Cicero, with its long sentences, or periods, characterized by subordinate clauses, often nested within one another. In The Art of Memory, Frances Yates describes the elaborate methods employed by ancient orators to commit their speeches to memory. But it is unlikely, to say the least, that the short-term memory of ancient listeners was more capacious than our own. Cognitive scientists have found severe and apparently universal limits on short-term memory. Consequently, if ancient listeners were more proficient at processing complex oral communications, it is probably because they employed different strategies than we are accustomed to. When Mark Twain made fun of Germans waiting with rapt attention for the verb at the end of a sentence, he was, of course, exaggerating for comic effect. But apprehending the ornate periods of a Cicero in real time must have involved the sort of suspense Twain describes. Read more

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