ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Science And Rationalism In Warranting Assent: Examination Of Congressional Environmental Arguments

ISSAlogo1998In 1994, the new Republican majority in Congress began an effort to shift America’s environmental policy. The Republicans offered Americans a “Contract With America” (CWA), a list of legislation the Republican’s vowed to pass. The “Contract” offered among other things, promises of a balanced budget, a scaling down of bureaucratic regulations and most important to this project, an alteration in environmental policy (Gosselin, 1995; Phillips, 1995). Republicans argued that rollbacks in environmental legislation were made in order to offset the waste of governmental over-regulation (Byrne & Rebuffoni, 1995, p. 1A). It was proposed “that local people are better stewards of the land, that environmentalists care more about nonhumans than humans and that cutbacks would help balance the budget” (Byrne & Rebuffoni, 1995, p. 1A). Regulatory reform was argued as a way to loosen environmental regulations and cut cleanup aid, in order to stimulate economic growth and control governmental spending (Rebovich, 1995).
The purpose of this essay is to analyze the argumentative strategies of the environmental debate in the 104th Congress. It will examine how the Republicans used the concept of “Sound Science,” as a catalyst for environmental reform. Specifically, two questions are posed:
(1) What role does “Sound Science” serve in altering environmental legislation. Specific attention will be paid to how “science” as a rational enterprise serves to justify environmental rollbacks and decenter environmentalists’ claims.
(2) What role does “definition” play in public argument.
In making these arguments, this project examines Republican’s rhetoric in the Congressional Record from November 1, 1995 to 1996 – the beginning of the use of “Sound Science” to the end of the 104th session of Congress. This study will first discuss the role of definition in argument. It will then turn to a detailed examination of how the term “Sound Science” was rhetorically constructed and employed in environmental debate during the 104th Congress. It will be argued that “Sound Science” was a justification for repealing environmental legislation. Finally, some important theoretical explanations for argumentation scholars will be suggested.

1. The role of definition in public argument
The purpose of this section is to reveal how definitions are used and their implications in public argument. The intent is to focus on how definitions become epistemological, creating and maintaining public knowledges. Additionally, this section will evaluate how definitions serve to legitimate and marginalize particular perspectives.
There are several implications to the study of definition in public argument. Initially, definition provides a way of knowing. Herrick (1995) posited that: “To define is to advance a meaning or classification for a word, person, object or act” (p. 143). However, the complexity of symbolic meanings extends beyond the act of individuals attributing meaning. Edelman (1964) explained that: The meanings, however, are not in the symbols. They are in society and therefore in men [sic]. Political symbols bring out in concentrated form those particular meanings and emotions which the members of a group create and reinforce in each other. There is nothing about any symbol that requires that it stand for only one thing. (p. 11) Our knowledges become integrally intertwined with the terminology that we use. Insofar as we can shift our term usage, we would correspondingly shift our orientation and knowledge toward an object or action. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Denying The Argument Of Indifference: Reclaiming The Possibility Of Intimacy In Discourse

ISSAlogo1998Contrary to the cliche, technology has been successful in making the world a much larger place. Technology has opened up places and interfaces where, literally and figuratively, no person has gone before. From collaboration within multi-cultural task forces, to empowering the oppressed through education, to debating the succession of the next Dali Lama, we are inundated with intriguing information and we have relatively informed opinions about what we know. In turn, the way we “read” each other, our skills in relationship and our competence in conflict become more and more crucial to productive, if not always peaceful progress. We are, individually and as social groups, involved in more and various critical situations than we have ever been before.
As the future promises more opportunity for diverse interaction and as technology falsely promises to bring us closer together simply because we have greater access to one another, it is up to us as social and political beings to work out how that access will transfer (or not) to intimacy, and conflict to productivity. The task that obviously follows such opportunities and challenges is one of argument: How do we communicate what we believe is best and respond productively, in turn, to the conflicts that such beliefs engender? One branch of argument theory has tended to overlook the quality of relationship between interlocutors in its attempt to reduce such relationships to formal logic – overlaying a mathematical function on the face of humanity. Another branch of argument theory (following the lead of other academic scholarship) has given itself over to a postmodern ethic where any notion of objectivity is simply the fool of subjectivity’s reigning court and competing ideals and truths are no more than socially constructed opinion.
Relying upon formal logic, conflict is simply an error; using the postmodern ethic to inform argument studies, conflict is all that’s possible. The problem here is that our theory often leaves us unwittingly empty handed. Argument theory that attempts to allow real solutions to real problems emerge, must do more than figure or tolerate; it must, by definition, be discontent with passive disagreement.
I would like to make a case for the possibility of intimacy in argument – one that affirms the possibility of knowing the other in meaningful, if imperfect ways. I suggest that we adopt an epistemological model that rejects the false dichotomy which characterizes knowing the other as either impossible or inevitable. We might embrace, instead, intimacy, or a willingness to fully engage the other, even (or especially) in conflict. This model of knowing would recognize the other as an integral, autonomous member of a community of fellow truth seekers, willing and capable of the intercourse of productive dialogue. Intimacy requires that we recognize that we are in relation, and yet also in relationship.
At the time I began to study argument in earnest I also began an intensive study of Paulo Freire’s theories of education. Freire devised a method of teaching illiterates in the North East of Brazil based upon his philosophy that, in learning to read and write, students and teachers could become active participants in their education by thinking and acting as subjects of their own existence, not objects of someone else’s. Freire describes a “culture of silence” of the dispossessed, and he challenges students to think critically about their selfhood and the social situation in which they find those selves. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Argumentational Integrity: A Training Program For Dealing With Unfair Argumentational Contributions

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
In this contribution we look at the topic of ‘argumentation’ from an ethical perspective. In our research project ‘argumentational integrity in everyday communication’ (funded by the German Research Association since 1988) we are concerned with the conditions, under which people evaluate argumentative speech acts as ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ as well as with the cognitive, emotional and behavioral reactions to unfair contributions in argumentative discussions. After 10 years of basic research we are now working on a training program based on the results of this research. In our contribution we would like to sketch the main problem dimensions of argumentational (un-)fairness and present the basic concept of the training program.
To start with, let us first illustrate the main problem dimensions by presenting an authentic argumentational episode, which has been recorded and transcribed from a TV-Talkshow. Mr. Krause is a member of the nonsmoker-association, Dr. Troschke is a physician and author. Dr. Troschke and Mr. Krause are discussing, whether smoking is an addiction or not.

Troschke: I try to differentiate the problems in so far, as they can be reasonably discussed. There is a part of smokers who are dependent on the effect of nicotine and who can be labeled as addicted in a very broad sense. This is a relatively small part of smokers who need help to deal with this dependent behavior. The majority of smokers, however, cannot be regarded as addicted, what is simply demonstrable by the fact that, the worldwide most successful method to quit smoking is to decide from one day to the next: I quit smoking.
Krause: For the fifth, tenth, twentieth time!
Troschke: Well, I think, it is extremely difficult to discuss matters on a level where people have different levels of competence and one claims to be able to talk about things one does not know anything about. I do not know, what you really know about addiction problems, about drug addiction or anything else.
Krause: I’m sure, you understand more than I do.

2. Elaboration of problem dimensions
By means of this example we want to illustrate six problem dimensions, which we take up in our training concept.
(1) Is this conversation an argumention? What are the defining characteristics of an argumentative exchange? What is meant by fair or unfair contributions to argumentative discussions?
(2) We assume that participants in argumentative discussions have to consider certain rules of fair argumentation. In our example one of these rules is violated by Dr. Troschke’s contribution: ‘Well, I think it is extremely difficult to discuss matters on a level where people have different levels of competence and one claims to be able to talk about things one does not know anything about.’ We reconstruct this rule violation as a specific form of discrediting of others, that is the denial of competence. Which rules of fair argumentation have to be considered in general, and what type of rule violations have to be distinguished in natural argumentative discussions? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Emotional Appeals In The Film ‘12 Angry Men’

ISSAlogo1998What is the legitimate role of emotion in argument? Surely something as fundamental as human emotion has an important part to play. Would we bother to argue at all if we did not have some feelings about things and events? Could we be critical thinkers at all if we didn’t care deeply about clarity, precision, fairness, accuracy and other intellectual standards? It’s not that emotions have no legitimate part to play, but that all alone they cannot be the sole basis for an argument. Their roles must be either a supportive one or make a positive contribution to the goal of critical dialogue. Some critical thinking textbook authors view the emotions as lacking truth value, arguing that they are neither true nor false even when they are sincerely or intensely felt. Sincerity and intensity, they hold, are aspects of only the personal dimension of an argument; evidence and truth alone belong to the objective, public dimension. But this presents an oversimplified view; it assumes that arguments are only about facts rather than sentiment, or that the two can always be clearly distinguished. While emotions, considered by themselves, may be thought of as having no truth value, in the context of certain types of dialogues, appeals to emotion can play legitimate and important roles. To support this view, a brief discussion of current argument theory is needed to form the theoretical foundation for the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate emotional appeals that this paper defends.
According to argumentation theorists van Eemeren and his academic colleague Grootendorst (1984), as well as Walton (1992), who follow the pragma-dialectic framework, an argument is seen as a dynamic exchange, a sequence of pairs of speech acts carried out by the participants in a dialogue. A dialogue is an exchange of speech acts between two or more arguers in turn-taking sequence aimed at a collective goal. A type of dialogue discussed by Walton that is particularly applicable to the film “12 Angry Men” is the “critical discussion” dialogue. This is a type of persuasion dialogue, in which the goal of each party is to persuade the other party to accept some designated proposition, using as premises only propositions that the other party has accepted as commitments. The goal of a critical discussion is to resolve a conflict of opinions by means of rational argumentation. A legitimate appeal to emotion, then, is one that contributes to the proper goals of a dialogue. Contrary to the common assumption that arguments based on emotion are not rational, the view advocated here is that an emotional appeal can be reasonable and appropriate if it furthers the legitimate goals of the discussion. This can be accomplished, for example, by its revealing an arguer’s unanalyzed presumptions or by its opening up a new and valuable line of argumentation that prompts critical questioning that steers the argument in a constructive way. On the negative side, in an illegitimate appeal to emotion, there is typically an attempt to arouse, say, fear or pity, and then to use these emotions to obscure or short-circuit reason.

When an illegitimate use of emotions occurs in argumentation it is commonly called an “emotional appeal”, and given a traditional label, such as the bandwagon argument, appeal to pity, ad baculum, or the ad hominem. While there are many other types of emotional appeals, we shall limit our consideration of illegitimate emotional appeals to the four just mentioned and give some examples of these from the film. When a legitimate use of emotions occurs, as we said above, it plays a supportive role or furthers the goal of the dialogue. We shall point out some examples of these in the film as well.
“12 Angry Men” is an exciting, suspenseful drama of 12 jurors trying to reach a verdict in a murder trial. Henry Fonda heads the all-star cast of actors which includes Lee J. Cobb as his main opposition, Ed Begley as a hateful bigot, E.G. Marshall as a somewhat cold, logical stockbroker, Jack Warden as a baseball fanatic, and Jack Klugman as a sympathetic former slum dweller. What makes the film suspenseful and intriguing is the wonderful intertwining of outbursts of emotion and key moments of insight derived in part from logical analysis and in part from keen observation. These critical elements are provided primarily by the architect, played by Fonda, and the retired old man, played by Joseph Sweeney. As we shall argue, sometimes the display of emotion helps the deliberative process and sometimes it gets in the way. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Most Powerful Engine Of Cold War Argument: The Munich Analogy

ISSAlogo1998The ubiquity of the Munich Analogy in Cold War argument is easily demonstrated. It is used by commentators of all political persuasions except perhaps Communists, and the conventional wisdom is that it swept all before it. In this paper I want to inspect a rare occurrence: an event where the analogy was effectively attacked, and the attackers won a significant engagement, even though they lost the war.
The event to which I refer was the construction by the Truman Administration of a so-called blueprint for the Cold War, NSC 68, which was not just a single document but a series of constantly-revised documents best known for the version delivered to Truman in April 1950, not declassified until 1975.
The conventional wisdom has it that NSC 68 was a consensus product adopted with no great opposition. My contention is that it was not only bitterly disputed, but that the dispute was not fully resolved, so that the final document in the NSC 68 series, delivered to the Eisenhower Administration in January 1953, was a confused amalgam incorporating watered-down versions of both adversaries.The principals in the long-drawn-out drama of the NSC 68 series were: (1) for the alarmist position, depending on the Munich Analogy (that the Soviet Union was programmed to destroy the United States) Dean Acheson and Paul Nitze. (2) For the moderate position (that Stalin was not Hitler, that the Soviet Union did not want  war but would expand wherever it found a soft spot) George Kennan and Charles ‘Chip’ Bohlen.
To those who boggle at my classification of Dean Acheson as an alarmist, or of Kennan as a moderate, let me assure you that these depictions are warranted. Acheson was pilloried by McCarthyites, hence many casual observers assume him to have been at least somewhat lukewarm about the Cold War. This is an error. As for Kennan, those who know him only as the anti-Soviet author of the “X” article, be assured that in the trenches of State Department warfare, Kennan fought against militarization of containment and did not believe the USSR was programmed to take over the world.

Use of analogies in public affairs argument is often attacked as irrational. Ernest May, in Lessons of the Past, believes use of some analogies causes many bad decisions. (May 1973). Since there is no scientific way of determining parallelism in two situations being analogized, the critic is dependent upon narrative/descriptive judgment, which judgment can never achieve the mechanical certainty of the syllogism.
One must begin an analysis of the application of the Munich analogy to Cold War argument by inspecting what happened at Munich, and why it was significant. Mine of course will be a bare-bones explanation; Telford Taylor’s landmark book of 1,084 pages is definitive enough, but Taylor qualifies everything. (Taylor 1975). I can only hope that my simplifications are not misleading.

At the Munich Conference of 29 September 1938, Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier settled the fate of the Czechoslovak Republic. Hitler had been agitating for cession of the Sudetenland, a border area at that time in Czechoslovakia but largely inhabited by ethnic Germans. It appeared to the British and French, who were guarantors of Czech independence, that if Hitler did not get the Sudetenland by agreement with the Western powers he would go to war. The British and French gave in, and Chamberlain returned to London claiming that he had gotten “peace in our time.” Since all the Czech defenses were in the Sudeten area, Hitler simply moved in when he was ready and absorbed all of Czechoslovakia. The falsity of Hitler’s promise that the Sudetenland would satisfy Germany’s territorial ambitions soon proved false; the partition of Poland and World War II soon followed.
Most historians dealing with Munich believe that “giving in” to Hitler, or appeasement as it is called, was wrong. The well-armed Czechs had been ready and willing to fight; had they done so, they would have taken many a German Wehrmacht division out of action, making Hitler’s conquest of the rest of Europe more difficult. This is a controversial judgment, but Hitler’s plan for world conquest is not denied by anyone, and giving Hitler the Sudetenland did not appease his appetite one bit. A fair statement of the lesson of Munich might be “Appeasing aggressive dictators is useless; it only postpones the inevitable.” Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Neutrality As Advocacy: The Argumentative Dynamics In A State-Sponsored, ‘Neutral,’ Educational Abortion Video

ISSAlogo1998The abortion controversy in the United States seems to be one of those enduring areas of public argument that both confound and intrigue the argument scholar. As the nature of the debate has shifted across time (see Condit 1990 and Condit Railsback 1984), so too have the sites of contest. While two apparently diametrically opposed groups have long dominated the abortion controversy (those favoring “choice” and those favoring “life”), areas for agreement seem to be opening up. While the elevation of the two ideographs of life and choice has truncated debate so that the ultimate question has been whether women’s choice to have an abortion, as narrowly conceived, outweighs the potential risk that a fetus is a human being (Condit 1990: 159), locations of argument are emerging that bypass this narrow debate. One example is found in the need for people from differing positions to work together on the development of state-sponsored informational videos.
As a result of the Iowa State Legislature’s action during the 1996 legislative session, the Iowa Code was revised so that notification of the intent of a minor to obtain an abortion must be made to a parent or grandparent. In addition to such notification, the licensed physician performing an abortion is required to offer the viewing of a state produced video to the minor during the initial appointment relating to those services. As a result of this legislation, a committee was appointed by conservative Republican Governor Terry E. Branstad to develop the video. The end result of the committee’s work is the video “You Are Not Alone,” which is accompanied by a workbook and a physician’s manual.

The interesting outcome of the video production process is that while the committee was disproportionately filled with those from the anti-abortion end of the spectrum, the video has been well-received by abortion providers and roundly critiqued by those who oppose abortion (Des Moines Register, November 26, 1996). Having viewed the video as a member of my local Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa community council, I decided to analyze the argumentative and visual structure of the video. I conclude that the video is an example of an attempt at neutrality that unintentionally functions as an argument for choice. Ultimately, I hypothesize that the need for consensus in the production of the video removed the grounds for anti-abortion arguments.[i] The rhetorical patterns, both metaethical and visual, of anti-abortion argument structure, as detailed by Randall Lake in “The Metaethical Framework of Anti-Abortion Rhetoric” (1986), would preclude any compromise, yet compromise was legislatively mandated. Additionally, because the video focuses on the decision-making process of the girl, it decenters the baby/fetus, again violating the basic structure (linguistically and visually) of anti-abortion rhetoric. At the point that compromise was legislatively mandated and agreed to by the committee, as it was in the case of the video, the entire argument structure of pro-life advocacy collapses.
This presentation offers an analysis of one of the most recent examples of attempts to place limits on abortion: notification and informed consent. While many of those in the pro-choice movement see those actions as attempts to further limit abortion access, the experience with the State of Iowa’s video offers an alternative interpretation – that the need for neutrality limits the persuasive power of anti-abortion arguments. Read more

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