ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Students’ Skill In Judging Argument Validity

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Within the context of a national assessment study into argumentation skills a large number of paper-and-pencil tests were administered for the measurement of receptive and productive argumentation skills. This study revealed large individual differences. Students vary considerably in their skills in identifying and analysing argumentation (cf. Oostdam 1990; Oostdam & Eiting 1991; Van Eemeren, De Glopper, Grootendorst & Oostdam 1995) as well in their skills in producing argumentation (cf. Oostdam, De Glopper & Eiting 1994; Oostdam 1996). Obviously the cognitive field of argumentation skills is as heterogeneous as the cognitive fields of other language skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening (cf. Oostdam & De Glopper 1995). In oral and written arguments language users make an appeal to diverging knowledge and skills.
In this article we will focus on the paper-and-pencil test for the measurement of students’ skill in judging argument validity. The test has been constructed according to a facet design in which the different facets define a specific form of valid and invalid arguments. Representative samples of students in secondary education were tested: grade nine students in junior vocational and lower general secondary education, grade ten students in higher general secondary education and grade eleven students in academic secondary education. The following research questions will be addressed: ‘To which degree are individual differences in skill in judging argument validity substantial and correlated with grade and school type?’, ‘To which degree are arguments correctly identified as valid or invalid?’ and ‘Do different types of valid and invalid arguments invoke different cognitive components or processes?’.

2. Research questions
In the pencil-and-paper test for judging argument validity we were concentrated on the students’ skills in evaluating the argument validity of four types of argumentation: a syllogistic argumentation based on all-premises (e.g. ‘All A are B. All B are C. So: all A are C’), a syllogistic argumentation based on some-premises (e.g. ‘All A are B. Some C are A. So: Some C are B’), the modus ponens (‘If P than Q. P. So: Q’) and the modus tollens (‘If P than not Q. Not Q. So: not P’).
In former empirical research into argumentation skills we revealed considerable evidence for individual differences in students’ performance in identifying and analysing argumentation. Therefore we would like to know whether individual differences also exist with regard to the judging of argument validity. Moreover we were interested in the correlation between the school type students visit and their ability of judging argument validity. After primary school students are referred to the different school types in Dutch secondary education on the basis of their general cognitive skills. It may be expected that occurring differences in argumentation skills correlate with differences in the general cognitive abilities of students. This assumption leads to the following research questions:
1. How substantial are the individual differences in judging argument validity?
2. To which degree are the individual differences in judging argument validity correlated with the type of school attended by the students?

Furthermore we were interested in effects on task difficulty of the different factors, type of argumentation and validity of argumentation, which are systematically manipulated by means of the facet design. This addresses the following research question:
3. What are the effects on task difficulty of the factors type of argumentation (syllogistic argumentation/modus argumentation) and validity of argumentation (valid/invalid)?

Finally we want to address the question whether the judging of different types of argumentation measure one single underlying skill or different cognitive skills or components. This leads to the question:
4. Do different types of valid and invalid argumentation invoke different cognitive skills or components? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Must Arguments Be Explicit And Violent? A Study Of Naïve Social Actors’ Understandings

ISSAlogo1998Argumentation is one way of settling differences, and it is often prized by theorists as an alternative to violence and other less intellectual ways of managing conflicts (e.g., Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca 1969; Ehninger & Brockriede 1963). We academics have no difficulty at all in seeing that arguing is a dramatically different sort of thing than physical fighting. The clarity with which we see this, however, may not match the perceptions of our students, or the public at large. This paper explores the possibility of perceptual connections between arguing and violence among ordinary people.

1. Literature Review
At the 1997 Alta meeting, we reported some intriguing results about naive social actors’ understandings of argument (Benoit & Hample 1997). We had asked them to keep diaries about conflicts that they had avoided or cut short. But in reading the diary accounts, we frequently found ourselves wondering what could possibly have been avoided or cut off, because the narratives seemed very complete to us. After a number of re-readings, we decided that, unlike argumentation scholars, our respondents assume that there is a “violence slot” in the development of face to face arguments, and if nothing physically aggressive happened, the argument had not moved through all its potential phases. We also realized that they seemed not to count something as an argument at all if the central claim-and-disagreement were not explicit. That is, if no one had gotten around to announcing the disagreement, they thought the interaction was unfinished.
We followed that study up with a larger one, still using data from conflict diaries, but undertaking systematic coding of the accounts instead of a qualitative reading of them (Hample, Benoit, Houston, Purifoy, VanHyfte, & Wardwell 1998). We found that explicitness and destructiveness of the arguments in the diaries were correlated at r = .80, which is extraordinarily high. In other words, the more explicit (i.e., argument-like) a conflict was, the more destructive it was. For our respondents, arguments seem not to be alternatives to violence; instead, they appear to be companions to fights, or causes of them, or parts of them, or perhaps even essential to their nature.

That we were surprised by this is surely due more to our own perceptual blinders than anything else. Earlier work has shown that people are definitely fearful that their arguments will get out of hand, in spite of their earnestly cooperative intentions (Benoit 1982). Trapp (1990) documented a tendency for arguments to escalate into verbal aggression, and Infante, Chandler, and Rudd (1989) suggest that these out-of-control arguments may trigger spouse abuse. When naïve actors are asked to list the specific actions that may take place in a face to face argument, many of them specify one or more slots for threats and physical violence (Hample, Dean, Johnson, Kopp, & Ngoitz 1997). Gilbert (1997) explores the idea that both the standard practices and standard theories of argument are competitive, agonistic, and masculine. Somehow, though, our own commitments to argumentation as an alternative to violence, as a rational path to conflict management, as an interactive ideal in the face of conflicting wants, made us see all these negative indications about the nature of argument as being nothing but minor perceptual distortions, failures to understand the real nature of arguing. We continue to hold our original commitments, but we now feel a greater need to acknowledge, understand, and respect what non-specialists think about all this. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Ad Baculum Is Not A Fallacy!

ISSAlogo19981. Practical Arguments
Our point of departure is the practical syllogism. The invention is Aristotle’s and the interpretation we give it is Anscombe’s (Anscombe, 1957). As is well-known, the standard syllogism is a discursive entity, an n-tuple of declarative sentences, of which the terminal member is the conclusion and the rest are premisses. In contrast, a practical syllogism is a mixed structure, part discursive and part non-discursive. The difference shows up in the conclusions of the two structures. In a standard syllogism, the conclusion is a sentence; in a practical syllogism the conclusion is an action. It is useful to compare practical syllogisms with deontic or prudential arguments. A simple example of such is:
1. If you are late home from the movies, you’ll irritate and worry your mother
2. So, you shouldn’t be late.

It is easy to construct what we could call the practical syllogisation of this argument. It is the ordered pair in which the first member is the premiss of the deontic argument

1* If you are late home from the movies, you’ll irritate and worry your mother.

and in which the second member, the conclusion, is not the sentence which bids the addressee not to be late, but is simply the addressee’s not being late.Thus the conclusion of our practical syllogism is the action advocated by the conclusion of the preceding deontic argument.

The distinction between deontic-prudential arguments and practical syllogisms calls to mind the old maxim that talk is cheap. `Cheap’ in turn suggests `suboptimal’, and, in some respects, this is precisely what can be claimed by deontic-prudential arguments in contrast with their practical syllogisations. It is one thing to get an addressee to concede that he should do such-and-such; it is another, and often better thing, that he actually do it. Better the cheque in the mail than `The cheque is in the mail’. We may say in a quite general way that a practical syllogism is the consummation of a deontic arguer’s intent.

In this note we propose to expand the concept of practical syllogism in a slight but natural way. We shall attempt to show that modest though the extension might be, it produces results of genuine consequence for the theory of argument. In our proposal, a second way of being a practical syllogism is one in which one or more of the premisses is an action rather than a sentence. It is a point worth emphasising that the conclusions and, as we now may say, the premisses that make for practical syllogisms are role-specific. Any action by any agent at any time, make for a true proposition, namely the proposition ascribing that action to that agent at that time. Any of these truths is available in principle as the conclusion or as a premiss of some or other bit of argument that may chance at a time to bubble out of the dialectical soup of the human community. Such arguments are not made into practical syllogisms in consequence of this fact; for it is the actions themselves, not the sentences they make true, that are the irreducible components of practical syllogisms. In Aristotle’s conception of it, the action that is the conclusion must be the action of the party to whom the argument is addressed. In our extension of it, the action that is the premiss of a practical syllogism must be the action of the maker of the argument, not his addressee. So there is an agent-specific asymmetry between, as we shall now say, conclusionally practical syllogisms and premissorily practical syllogisms. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Dialectic Of Quasi-Logical Arguments

ISSAlogo1998To the memory of Theodoor Jan Krabbe (1941-1996) [i]

1. Introduction: The Self-Gratulatory Argument
There can be no doubt that this is a perfect morning for the study of quasi-logical arguments. Otherwise, to say it bluntly, our hosts wouldn’t have put it on the program. Or would it be quasi-logical to say so? Anyhow, quasi-logical arguments are what’s up, and I’m much honored that you have all come to join me in this enterprise.
Of lectures on the quasi-logical there are exactly two types, either they are long or else they are short. Fortunately, I hate long lectures. This is fortunate for you, but also for me. Why may I rejoice in my own abhorrence of lengthy lectures? Well, that can be argued thus: suppose I liked long lectures, then I would certainly give one right now and be bound to hearing it out; but to hear my own long lecture would be a bad thing, since I happen to hate long lectures. So am I ever happy to hate long lectures!
That was an argument. Was that a quasi-logical argument? Yes, it was. It was meant to give you a taste of the quasi-logical, that is, to put it briefly, of a style of reasoning that unwarrantedly takes on the trappings of logical or mathematical rigor.[ii]

So, if this was a quasi-logical argument, what is its dialectic? Now wait. Give me a break. We’ll get to that later. It is certainly my intention in this lecture to show some of the dialectic of this argument; that is to expound in a profile of dialogue some of the moves and countermoves available to its discussants. But first I want to turn logic against quasi-logic and offer a logical analysis of this quasi-logical argument. Later on, I hope to show that such a logical analysis provides part of a profile of dialogue; that it constitutes part of the dialectic, but not all of it.

What would a logical analysis of the long lecture argument amount to? Generally, a logical analysis of an argument consists of two parts: a reconstruction and a critical evaluation. To reconstruct the argument, we notice that the argument gives the impression of being tightly reasoned and logical. We therefore try to reconstruct it as a logical derivation.[iii] One thing we need to attend to is the occurrence of a suppositional subargument that needs to be put into a more explicit format. As a first line of proof one may enter:

(1) I hate to hear long lectures.

(This may, in context, be taken to constitute a fact.)
As an unexpressed (and unproblematic) premise we may add:

(2) For all X, if I hate X, X is a bad thing for me. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Arguing From Clichés: Communication And Miscommunication

ISSAlogo1998You should always try to avoid the use of clichés. (anonymous)

1. Clichés Don’t Grow on Trees – Introducing Clichés
Following the unprecedented growth and dissemination of information and the widespread access to it through the media, we are increasingly experiencing the use of clichés, old and new, unchanged and altered, famous and anonymous: ‘Life imitates art’, ‘All the world’s a stage’, ‘It’s a small world’, ‘Money talks’, ‘Time is money’, ‘Money does not grow on trees’, ‘Traduttore, traditore’, ‘Cherchez la femme’, ‘the man in the street’, ‘political correctness’, ‘I promise to love you until death do us part’, ‘Men and women are different: Vive la différence!’, ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’, and so on. These frequently recycled expressions are looked upon as unquestionable truths or at least as ‘le mot juste’ by many people.  Some, however, dismiss them as “clichés”.
This paper is devoted to clichés. Not to discard them, but to make some observations about their relevance to argumentation and their potential for miscommunication. Actually, we claim that certain clichés are crucial to argumentative discourse, and that their capacity for building arguments is closely linked to their liability to trigger divergent interpretations.
We propose a pragmatic and rhetorical approach to the concept of cliché and its functions in argumentation. This approach takes into consideration three major elements in the dynamics of clichés, the disregard of which may lead to misinterpretations:
1. there is no complete overlap between the form and the function of the lexical entitities that underlie clichés
2. many clichés exhibit a balance between a general scope and a specific focus on certain topoï for which a particular audience is expected to have a particular preference at a particular time in a particular context
3. there is an inherent tension between the explicit and the implicit functioning of a cliché in argumentation

Cliché is a word with a negative ring to it. When you say “This is a cliché” about an opinion voiced by a partner in conversation, you usually imply that s/he is yielding to popular unreflected opinion, that s/he is just repeating something constantly circulating in the mental marketplace of a certain discourse community. A cliché is then seen as a commonplace, the collective consensus speaking through the mouth of an individual without involving his/her own critical thinking (Lerner: 1956, Ricks: 1980). Maybe what a cliché stands for is not blatantly untrue to a rational observer, as a prejudice usually is. But it is still likely to be seen as a crude and simplified way of looking at things that deserve a deeper and less biased consideration.
It is not easy to come to grips with clichés because their form does not display any regular patterns, their structure is difficult to capture and their occurrences impossible to predict. Whether the coinage of clichés is ascribed to well-known or to anonymous sources, it is their distribution and frequency that eventually decides their subsequent evolution.
Generally speaking, cliché seems to be a rather elitist word. Popular wisdom is not likely to come as close to the truth as a well-educated, highly trained and critical mind, such as the typical academic intellectual. Cliché, with its derogatory value load, is a word that Plato, that outspoken critic of the masses, could have used. It would have come less natural to Aristotle with his respect for ‘doxa’, for tradition and general opinion. We will side with Aristotle on this issue and try to show that clichés fulfil no negligible role even in informed discourse, rational argumentation and creative problem-solving dialogue. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Argument Mediation For Lawyers: The Presentation Of Arguments

ISSAlogo19981. The logic of law
Most lawyers have some awareness of logic, although the awareness is normally limited. The logical connectives ‘… and …’ and ‘ … or …’ are known, and maybe even the ambiguous interpretation of a composite sentence of the form ‘a and b or c’ is familiar. Some might regard the connective ‘if …, then …’ as the abstract form of a legal rule and the rule of inference Modus Ponens as the general template of legal reasoning.
Why do lawyers pay so little attention to logic? The main problem is that logic in its classical appearances (such as propositional or predicate logic) is not sufficiently satisfying as a model of legal argument: it is too far from the argument forms that lawyers use in practice. In recent years, there has been a large amount of research on the development of logical tools for legal argument (see, e.g., the work of Gordon [1993, 1995], Hage [1997], Lodder [1998], Prakken [1993, 1997] and Verheij [1996]). Argument forms that have been studied include arguments concerning exceptions to rules, conflicts of reasons and rule applicability.
The logical tools that have recently been developed can be categorized under three headings: defeasibility, integration of logical levels, and the process character of argument [Verheij et al., 1997]. Defeasibility is a characteristic of arguments and, in a derived sense, of conclusions. A conclusion is defeasible if it is the conclusion of a defeasible argument. Defeat occurs if a conclusion is no longer justified by an argument because of new information. For instance, the conclusion that a thief should be punished is no longer justified if it turns out that there was a legal justification for the theft, such as an authorized command.

The integration of logical levels is for instance required if reasons are weighed. If arguments lead to incompatible conclusions, weighing of reasons is necessary to determine which conclusion follows. Additional information is necessary to determine the outcome of the weighing process. In some views, this information is on a higher logical level than the facts of cases, and the rules of law. However, since there can also be arguments about the weighing of reasons, the integration of levels is required.
The process character of argument also led to the development of new logical tools. For instance, the defeasibility of arguments cannot be separated from the process of taking new information into account. During the process of argumentation conclusions are drawn, reasons are adduced, counterarguments are raised, and new premises are introduced. In traditional models, only the end products of the process are modeled.

The focus has been primarily on the technical development of the logical tools, and only in the second place on their practical adequacy for modeling legal argument. Presently a convergence of opinions on the necessary logical tools takes shape, and a systematic practical assessment of the logical tools becomes essential.  In the research reported on in this paper, a step towards the practical assessment is made by the development of two experimental computer systems for argument mediation for lawyers. In computer-supported argument mediation, one or more users of the system engage in an argument that is mediated by the system: the system administers the argument moves and safeguards that the rules of argument are observed. It can, if appropriate, give advice to the user.
A new problem for argument researchers, as posed by the development of systems for argument mediation is how arguments should be presented to the users of the system. In this paper, we describe two experimental computer systems, the Argue!-system and the Argumentation Mediator, each using a different way of argument presentation. The two systems are based on a simplified version of Verheij’s [1996] CumulA-model, which is a procedural model of argumentation with arguments and counterarguments.

Section 2 briefly discusses argument mediation and the two experimental systems of the present paper. In section 3, an example case of Dutch tort law is summarized, that will be used to illustrate the two systems of argument mediation. Section 4 contains an introduction of CumulA, the procedural model of argumentation with arguments and counterarguments, that underlies the two experimental systems. Section 5 and 6 contain sample sessions of the two systems. In section 7, the two systems are compared with each other and selected related systems, especially with regards to their underlying argumentation theories and user interfaces. Section 8 suggests a shift from argument mediation systems as theoretical to practical tools.[i] Read more

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