ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Community Literacy: Negotiating Difference In Contemporary Public Spheres

logo  2002-1Those interested in the field of argumentation theory and its application are increasingly turning their attention to the growing body of scholarship documenting how everyday people use literate practices in their day-to-day lives (Burton, 2001; Cushman, 1998; Fitzgerald, 2001), what Ann Gere (1994) refers to as “community literacy” (75). With its commitment to writing in the service of joint inquiry and collaborative problem solving, with its vision for the transformative possibilities of inventive practice, community literacy stands to help interested argumentation theorists and practitioners to update and to refine their understanding of contemporary public rhetoric. In this paper, I present a teenager’s rap. The analysis of the rap focuses on controversies surrounding it. The paper suggests that within public spheres, arguments have multiple functions, including to clarify stakeholders’ interests, to reveal their competing – sometimes conflicting – conceptions of the social problem that brings them together, and to highlight the alternative visions for rhetorical action that they recommend in response to the problem.

According to Gerard Hauser (1999), the current state of public life calls a rhetorical imagination, grounded in history, up short. Simply said: the contemporary scene for public rhetoric is significantly different from that of the past. Whether characterizing public life in ancient Athens or during the Enlightenment in Europe, two of the most striking differences are the degree of pluralism and changes in communication technology. In the past, conditions for communication were “weak in diversity,” relying on “shared tradition to resolve difference” (55). Technology, needless to say, has also changed the nature of public communication. As technology has intersected with a set of other factors, one effect has been to separate people from forums where policy decisions are made, a phenomenon that leads Hauser to note the marked differences in public rhetoric of ancient Greece and our own (19). Furthermore, technology supports the work of spin doctors, CNN tappers, public opinion polls, and belittling talk radio – the results of which “discourage a spirit of reflective political activism in this country” (5). In Vernacular Voices, Hauser (1999) contrasts our everyday encounters with public opinion and the media’s portrayal of “the public” this way:
Most individuals understand their speaking and writing as personal expression…. Most of our communication directed at persons or groups has some immediacy, and we know them in some way. We experience our transactions with them in concrete terms as addressed discourse: our own thoughts, our intended message, a specific audience to which we have adapted, and that audience’s perceived response. The public portrayed by the media, in contrast, is an abstract representation whose needs, thoughts, and responses are extrapolated from survey data … creat[ing] the impression of “the public” as an anonymous assemblage given to volatile mood swings likely to dissipate into apathy and from which we personally are disengaged. (5)

Such conditions lead Hauser to conclude that as “citizens, commentators, the news media, and scholars” we become “desensitized to our own rhetorical practices and their possibilities for shaping our public lives as citizens, neighbors, and cultural agents” (6). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – “We Destroy Arguments…” (2 Corinthians 10:5): The Apostle Paul’s Use Of Epicheirematic Argumentation

logo  2002-11. Introduction
There was a moral crisis among the earliest Christians in Corinth. Intimately connected with this moral crisis was a criticism of Paul’s modus operandi (Litfin, 1994, 151-55; Long, 1999, 181-218; cf. Malherbe, 1983, 166-72) or more specifically Paul’s psychagogy (see Malherbe, 1987, 81-88; Stowers, 1990; Glad, 1995). Second Corinthians gives vivid testimony to this dual crisis, whatever we might conclude about the unity or sequencing of the Corinthian letters (see Long, 1999; Amador, 2000). In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul explains that he “destroys arguments (logismous).” Then he discloses a few sentences later (vv 9-10) a general evaluation of his letters as “weighty and strong” (bareiai kai ischurai). These comments are made in the context of Paul’s attempt to explain his rationale for his moral instruction and expectations of the Corinthians, as he explains in vv 3-6 (trans. Stowers, 1990, 267):
I do live in the flesh, but I do not make war as the flesh does; the weapons of my warfare are not weapons of the flesh, but divinely strong to demolish fortresses – I demolish reasonings [logismoi] and any rampart thrown up to resist the knowledge of God, I take captive every mind [or thought (noēmata)] to make it obey Christ, I am prepared to court-martial anyone who remains insubordinate, once your submission is complete.

Abraham Malherbe (1983) and others have investigated this passage identifying social connections with Hellenistic schools of philosophy. This passage, however, also speaks to the strategies of Paul’s previous epistolary correspondences, as Stowers (1990) has well noted. While Stowers has shown that Paul’s use of sarcasm, irony, and diatribe in the previous letter, 1 Corinthians, was in conformity to psychagogic strategies not dissimilar to Epicurean psychagogy, another feature of Paul’s manner of argumentation may be observed; namely, the use of epicheiremes. I surmise that this aspect of Paul’s argumentation led to the conclusion that his letters were weighty and strong. Indeed, if Paul was interested in promoting “faith” or “persuasion” in the early fledgling Christian communities (see Kinneavy, 1987), we should not be surprised by this discovery of epicheirematic argumentation in Paul.

Formal argumentation was taught in the rhetorical schools scattered across the Mediterranean basin, particularly in Paul’s hometown of Tarsus (see Du Toit, 2000), but also in Palestine itself (Kinneavy, 1987). Within these Mediterranean rhetorical cultures (Robbins, 1994, 82-88), Paul would have had ready access to examples of popular moralists, exercises in the progymnasmata, and/or theoretical rhetorical textbooks for suitable or appropriate styles and modes of argumentation. The Rhetorica ad Herennium (2.2), Cicero’s De Inventione (I.61), and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria (V.xiv.32; cf. V.x.1, 8) give extensive testimony to the vitality and interest in argumentation specifically among the Greeks. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Interaction Between Critical Discussion Principles And The Development Of A Pluralistic Society

logo  2002-1In this paper we intend to draw some consequences for the development of a pluralistic society from the principles that should regulate a critical discussion as described in the pragma-dialectical approach (PDA) (Eemeren, F.H. van & Grootendorst, R. 1992). We intend to unveil some presuppositions underlying Chilean public debate and to show some contributions that can be made to the development of a more alert civic consciousness in Chile. The most recurrent public controversies in Chile since the restoration of democracy in 1989, after seventeen years of military dictatorship, are controversies over moral values which reflect a social tension between those who want to develop into a modern pluralistic society and those who want to arrest all changes and to maintain traditional values.
As the analysis show, in most cases these controversies and the discussions involved are not really “resolved” but “settled” in the sense in which the PDA contrasts to “settle” a discussion and to “resolve” a difference of opinion (Eemeren, F.H., van & Grootendorst, R. 1992, 32). This is usually achieved by the intervention of what we should term “factual powers”, meaning groups or organizations that have the power to impose decisions upon society without having to enter into debate.

From the numerous public controversies that have taken place since 1989 in Chile, we have selected a few that seem to us to reflect best the issues related to moral values and to reveal the core of the disagreement: the death penalty, the divorce law, the so called “pill for the day after”, and the controversy between the Catholic Church and the Freemasonry.
The controversy between the Catholic Church and the Freemasonry seems to us to be the most representative of the issues that are at stake in Chilean public debate, while at the same time enables us to hint at some general conclusions regarding what a critical discussion about values and moral principles entails.
In what follows, we shall present some of the controversies that have been the object of interest in public debate in Chile such as they appeared in the press, that is to say, as they were available to every citizen and not as they may have been treated in specialized literature. Next, we shall introduce some necessary distinctions in order to clear the way towards a possible solution of the conflicts presented, and we shall reflect on the ideal of reasonableness underlying the PDA critical discussion principles and on Ernst Tugendhat’s ethical ideal of a moral community of universal mutual respect and their application to the building of a pluralistic society in Chile. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Giving And Asking For Reasons: The Impact Of Inferentialism On Argumentation Theory

logo  2002-1Introduction
In Making It Explicit (1994) and Articulating Reasons (2001), Robert Brandom has introduced a semantic conception called Inferentialism. Inferentialist semantics determines the meanings of terms and actions by describing their inferential use in the language-game of giving and asking for reasons. Brandom’s domain is primarily the philosophy of language and not argumenta­tion theory. I will just give a rough sketch of the inferentialist idea and draw some consequences for our field: argumentation theory.

1. The idea of Inferentialism
Following Wittgenstein, Brandom characterizes his inferentialist approach as “an attempt to explain the meanings of linguistic expressions in terms of their use.” (Brandom 1997, 153) However, this slogan is not specific. More specific for Inferen­tialism is the idea that it is a particular kind of use that is crucial for the meanings of linguistic expressions: it is the inferential use of these expressions in the language game of giving and asking for reasons, i.e. the use of these expres­sions in contexts of argumentative reasoning.
It may be confusing that Brandoms speaks of “inferential use” and “inference”, since these terms are sometimes identified with “deduction” or “formal entail­ment”. Brandom, however, does not follow deductivism, but pragmatism. Formal inference is only one case of inferring. Brandom also speaks of con­cep­tual, material and practical inferences. His concept of “inference” includes all kinds of regular connections and relations between linguistic expressions – and between linguistic expressions and practical conse­quences, i.e. actions. This concept of inference is open for many types of argument and could even be applied to regular connections between “meaning­ful” non-linguistic activi­ties, as long as these connections and relations can be judged in a normative dimension of correctness. Actions, linguistic and non-linguistic, are significant insofar as they follow from and are followed by other actions in a way that it can be understood as correct or incorrect rule-following.
Instead of being too tight, Brandoms conception of inference may now appear as too broad for the purpose of explaining meaning and argument. This would be the case if Brandom had not restricted his focus to the inferential use in a particular language game, the game of giving and asking for reasons. In every kind of practice, language game or communication there are regularily connected, significant moves. Infe­rence is everywhere. But, according to Brandom, it is only the language game of giving and asking for reasons that discloses what the meanings of these moves are. The reason is that in this language game we do not only perform, understand and practice inferential moves, but also explicitly judge and mutually control the correctness of these moves. Whatever practice we perform, whatever game we play: as soon as the correctness of some move is called into question this game may shift to the game of giving and asking for reasons. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Interpreting Arguments

logo  2002-1Abstract
The aim of this paper is to develop and justify a specific methodology of interpreting arguments for judging their argumentative validity and adequacy, i.e. the aim is to provide a useful tool which may be used for a specific purpose. This does not exclude that there are or may be other useful methodologies for interpreting arguments which could serve for different purposes. The methodology exposed in the paper will not only be theoretically justified but also specified up to detailed rules which can be used in classroom for analyzing found scientific arguments.

1. What Is an Interpretation of a Text in General?
Arguments in the sense of argumentative acts (as opposed to the content of an argument) are speech acts or – if one takes speech acts to be smaller units confining them to the level of sentences – consist of speech acts. In the analytical tradition there exist two major approaches to the interpretation of speech acts. The first may be called the “rationality presupposition approach“, is fostered e.g. by Davidson and Dennett (Davidson, 1963; 1974; 1980; Dennett, 1987), and claims that speech acts can be understood only if we presuppose that they are rational themselves or the expression of the agent’s rationality. The second approach may be called the “intention reconstruction approach“, is fostered e.g. by Grice and Meggle (e.g. Grice, 1957; 1968; 1969; 1989; Meggle, 1981) and states that understanding texts and speech acts consists in recognizing certain parts of the agent’s communicative intentions.
Here I cannot dwell on a substantial discussion of the merits of these approaches. But some short arguments against the rationality approach and in favour of the intention reconstruction approach shall help to motivate the general guidelines (exposed below) for interpreting arguments.

A first big shortfall of the rationality presupposition approach is that there are many theories about what being rational amounts to. Some authors think of epistemic rationality only, others think of practical rationality in particular decision theory; but in both of these areas a wide variety of concurring or only supplementing standards are discussed: from logical coherence (defined in various ways) over respecting the probability calculus etc. up to the many definitions of ‘knowledge’ or from simple decision theoretic optimizing fulfilling the axioms of von Neumann and Morgenstern or various other axiom systems over nonlinear utility theory to philosophically more substantial criteria of prudential rationality. Firstly, until the followers of the rationality presupposition approach have not determined which of these many standards is essential for understanding speech acts their approach remains too vague. Secondly, even if one of these many rivaling conceptions will have been established to express in the best way what it means to be “rational” it is highly improbable that we already now are able to understand each other without knowing about the result of this discussion.
A second and even bigger shortfall of the rationality presupposition approach is that rationality is an ideal (and rationality theory in a wide sense is a normative theory) which often is not realized in practice; if it were always fulfilled the theory would be pointless as rationality theory[i]. This implies that if the rationality presupposition approach asks us to regard speech acts to be the result of rationality, firstly, the outcome of the interpretation cannot always be an understanding of this particular utterance and, secondly, it must be systematically leading astray: We are encouraged to see something which does not exist. One may take the occasion to construct something rational from the given utterance; but this is already creative and no understanding of something given and the aim of such an operation is unclear. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Arguing In Organizations: The Struggle Concerning Rules And Meaning

logo  2002-1In modern types of organizations individuals do not simply fulfil roles. They are neither independent and autonomous individuals. In the daily functioning of organizations many types of discussions can be found, some of which are of an explorative nature, others are rather negotiations and in still other cases proper argumentation takes place. The aim of this paper is to develop a model of the place of argumentation within the different types of verbal interactions taking place in organizations. In this model, which takes into account the variables of identity of the participants, of the hierarchical power relations between the participants, the urgency of a decision to be taken and the general mission of the organization, I will show that in all cases some aspects of argumentation are present, combined and interlinked with forms of negotiations, fights and other interaction games. However, the rules of argumentation used will be adapted to the power differential of the participants, the urgency of finding a solution and the general mission of the organization.
To begin with I will present a case study in some detail and based on this case study and other references I will outline the general model of arguing in organizations.

1. A case study from a multicultural school
A research project in which I participate aims to collect data over two years of verbal and non-verbal interactions in the classrooms and in grading meetings of two multicultural schools with an important percentage of Moroccan students. In one of the schools two thirds of students are migrant children, with a large percentage of Moroccan origin, in the other it is one third. With the help of several video recordings a number of mathematics lessons are recorded and also some other lessons in the same school. Parts of these recordings are discussed immediately after the lesson with the teacher and with some students, with questions such as: ‘what did happen here?’ This is the so-called ‘stimulated recall’ interview method. It was also possible to record some of the discussions in meetings of the teachers in the schools, and in particular some grading meetings where all the teachers of a class discuss the results of each student, and decide what kind of measures should be taken.
The recordings where made in the so-called ‘orientation’-year, which is situated between primary and secondary education, in principle at age twelve. This year is very important, because at the end of this year students will go separate ways, according to the school career which they are judged to be able to pursue.

The central question of this large research project was rather modest. With the help of a variety of methods of (micro)analysis a large inventory of the characteristics of the various interactions should be established with the aim to identify specific types of interactions or specific characteristics of interactions which are connected with school success or which are connected with school failure.
In the Netherlands state schools are obliged to publish every year a self-presentation with a standard format, called ‘schoolgids’. This information is sent to all parents with children in the school and also to all others who might be interested in the school for their children. Here follows a translation of one specific point from the self-presentation of one of the schools where the research data have been collected. Read more

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