ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Problem Of Truth For Theories Of Argument

ISSAlogo1998I. Introduction[i]
A. The historical background
In the beginning, as I like to tell the story, there is Aristotle. His Prior and Posterior Analytics present what might be thought of as the original theory of argument. According to it, a good argument must satisfy two conditions. First, the argument must be valid; that  is, the conclusion must follow logically from the premises. Second, the premises must be true.[ii] In modern logic, much the same story is told by combining truth and validity in the ideal of soundness which becomes enshrined in the logic doctrine of the 20th century. (In (1986), I baptized this theory as FDL, an abbreviation for “formal deductive logic” and shall continue to so refer to it.) There are those who object that the idea of soundness was never intended to be the whole story of what counts as a good argument. That may be true. Yet the fact remains that many logicians and philosophers have presented it as such (Lambert & Ulrich 1980) and continue to do so (Solomon 1989).
For centuries, FDL reigned supreme as the theory of argument, until it was challenged by theorists like Toulmin and later Hamblin and later still informal logicians, and others who take the view that FDL does not provide an adequate theory of argument. Some, like Toulmin (1958), challenged the architecture of FDL; others like Hamblin (1970) challenged the truth-requirement; still others (Barth 1985) and Govier 1987) have challenged the deductivism they believe is implicit in FDL.
A kind of standard critique of FDL has emerged which goes as follows. Soundness is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for goodness in argumentation. It is not necessary because there are good arguments which do not satisfy this requirement, such a good inductive arguments. It is not sufficient because there are argument which satisfy this but are not good arguments. An example would be an argument which begs the question yet has true premises. I am sympathetic to the first line of argument though not to the second, the reason being that the example used to make the point (typically “p p”) strikes me as an implication rather than an argument.
In this paper, I am interested only in the issue of what has come to be called premise-adequacy: What requirements must the premises of a good argument satisfy?[iii] Must they be true, as FDL theorists have insisted? Or is something “less” – acceptability – adequate, as some informal logicians have held (Govier, 1996)? Or should we embrace both sorts of requirement, as both Allen (1997) and I (1996) have argued?
B. The significance of the issue
The issue is an important one. For one thing, the old ideal promoted the notion that the only really good arguments are conclusive arguments – a dangerous doctrine tending toward skepticism and so well worth challenging. My concern it that the alternative suggestion – that the premises of an argument must be acceptable – is some ways so problematic and weak that it may promote an unhealthy relativism and so well worth challenging.
C. My position
The position I defend in this paper is that logicians and argumentation theorists should include truth as a requirement for premise-adequacy. I begin by examining the arguments for including it. I then examine the arguments against. I then put forth what I believe is a decisive line of reasoning for including it. Then I review the dialectical situation, draw some conclusions, and end. Read more

Bookmark and Share

ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Figures Of Speech: Definition, Description And Critical Evaluation

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
What are ‘figures of speech’ (henceforth: ‘FSP’)? How can they be classified? And how can we evaluate their use in keeping with the standards for rational discussions? These three general questions will be discussed in this paper.
As far as the first question is concerned, I wish to review a few attempts to define and characterize FSP. More particularly, I would like to criticize views which mainly characterize FSP as ornamental devices or as a means to make everyday language more persuasive. This way, the existence of a ‘neutral’, non-figurative language, which supposedly presents the bare facts, is taken for granted. These views were already formulated in ancient rhetoric, but still find their successors in recent theories of style which characterize FSP as a deviation from a kind of ‘zero-variety’ of language.

I would like to defend a radically different point of view, which has been developed over the last few decades by linguists, philosophers and psychologists like for example Ivor Armstrong Richards, Eugenio Coseriu, Max Black, Paul Ricoeur, Umberto Eco, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. They suggest that FSP like metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole and irony 1) are an integral part of our ability to use language and 2) play an eminent role in our cognitive system. This role cannot be reduced to ornamental and persuasive functions, because according to this view, FSP partake in the definition of language as a creative communicative activity. Therefore, they cannot be seen as secondary phenomena which always have to be derived from a zero-variety of language via certain linguistic operations, contextual clues or conversational implicatures.
The second question will be approached by taking a critical look at various traditional and modern typologies of FSP. Several recent attempts have tried to overcome the traditional division of FSP into tropes, figures of diction, and figures of thought. There is no doubt that these new typologies provide important insights and improvements as far as modern linguistic standards of classification are concerned. However, there remain many empirical and theoretical problems which I would like to discuss briefly, using examples from various types of texts and from different languages (all examples from languages other than English will be translated; unless indicated otherwise, these translations are mine).
The third question concerns the problem of distinguishing between rational and fallacious uses of particular FSP. Most of the traditional types of fallacies are connected with problems of formulation, including those fallacies which Aristotle classified as ‘extra-linguistic’ (cf. Aristotle, soph.el. 165b). Therefore, it very often depends on how a particular line of reasoning is verbally presented with the help of FSP whether it can be considered as rational or irrational. Of course, any attempt to distinguish between rational and fallacious uses of FSP presupposes a definition of rationality. Therefore, I will first briefly deal with some problems of defining rationality and then proceed with an analysis of some examples, again taken from authentic texts in different languages.
One final remark before I begin: given the fact that there is an overwhelming amount of literature about FSP, it has become virtually impossible to deal with all the major contributions, let alone consider most or everything that has been written about FSP. So let me put it this way: I have tried to take into account as much as possible without drowning… Read more

Bookmark and Share

ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Dialogical Argumentation: Statement-Based, Argument-Based And Mixed Models

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
The dialectical style of studying argumentation is old, very old. Already Aristotle and Protagoras did recognize the dialectical nature of argumentation. A few millennia later, from the beginning of the 1990s onwards to be exact, researchers involved in the field of Artificial Intelligence & Law (AI & Law) became interested in dialogical models of argumentation [e.g., Gordon, 1993; Loui et al., 1993; Farley & Freeman, 1995; Lodder & Herczog, 1995; Prakken, 1995; Kowalski & Toni, 1996]. By approaching argumentation dialogically the research on AI & Law followed in the footsteps of prominent researchers from various fields, like philosophy [e.g., Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1971; Habermas, 1973; Rescher, 1977], logic [e.g., Lorenz, 1961; Barth & Krabbe, 1982], legal theory [e.g., Aarnio, Alexy & Peczenik et al., 1981], and argumentation [e.g., Hamblin, 1970; Van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1982; Woods & Walton, 1982].

There is a difference between the product and process of argumentation. If the product of argumentation is studied, general structures of support between sets of premises and a conclusion are defined. In a product-approach of argumentation a statement is justified:
– if the premises are justified, and
– if by valid inference,
– the conclusion can be derived from the premises.

The product of argumentation is static. Conversely, the process of argumentation is dynamic. If the process of argumentation is studied procedural rules are defined that determine for each stage of the process whether a statement is justified. In a process approach of justification a statement is justified:
– if after a sequence of one or more steps, the statement is justified according to the rules of the procedure.

If the procedural model of argumentation is defined as a dialog game, statements are justified if they are successfully defended in a dialog, that is, if a player (the proponent of the statement) succeeded in convincing his opponent. A commonly accepted starting point in dialogical models is that a player who claims a sentence must be willing to defend it, or, in other words, on the claiming players rests the burden of proof. This paper elaborates on the various ways this defense can be modeled. Therefore, three dialogical models of argumentation are discussed. One, probably the best known dialogical model of argumentation, stems from the field of argumentation: MacKenzie’s DC. The other two are AI & Law models: Gordon’s Pleadings Game and my own DiaLaw. Especially by concentrating on the possible moves of the game and the way in which commitment is used, these models will be characterized. Moreover, by showing a representation of the same sample dialog in the three models differences are illustrated. The reason to discuss these three models is that they are examples of what I like to call statement-based models (DC), argument-based models

(Pleadings Game), and mixed models (DiaLaw). Besides introducing this taxonomy of models, the different model types are related to the possible purposes of argumentation models, viz. empirical purposes, theoretical purposes and normative purposes.

The paper is structured as follows. First, definitions are given of both arguments and statements. Subsequently, the legal sample dialog is introduced and the three models are discussed. Finally, the possible purposes of argumentation models are briefly introduced, and it is suggested that a statement-based model is best suited as an empirical model, that a mixed-model is best-suited as a theoretical model, and that an argument-based model is best suited as normative model. Read more

Bookmark and Share

ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Democratic Justice, Argumentative Dialogue, And Political Legitimacy

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
My aim in this paper is to address some links between argumentation theory and political theory. Practitioners in both areas share an important element of common concern, namely, identifying the conditions of rational argumentative dialogue. On the one hand, argumentation theorists have offered models idealizing a preferred structure of discussion aimed at reaching a reasonably well-defended position on some subject, while on the other hand, some political theorists have been concerned, over the past decade or so, to think about social deliberation as part of a defense of democratic legitimacy and social justice. In the present context, the interest of the latter idea, for both sorts of theorists, is that an appealing conception of legitimacy or justice for modern democratic societies might be developed by focusing on the idea of a rational democratic discussion.
My more specific aims are as follows: first, to explain the immediate background in political philosophy to the current concern with the links between dialogue and justice (i.e., John Rawls’s approach and its problems); secondly, to clarify the reasons for thinking that democratic legitimacy is best understood by reference to a model of social discussion; thirdly, to register a general claim about the material preconditions for meaningful participation in democratic discussion aimed at reaching decisions about the terms of political association; and finally, to address several objections to the idea that a model of “deliberative democracy” is at all relevant to our self-understanding as citizens in modern democratic societies.

2. Rawls’s Contractarian Argument and Beyond
In 1971, John Rawls’s book, A Theory of Justice , was published, immediately reinvigorating political philosophy and initiating a series of debates about justice and political justification that have continued to this day. Rawls’s achievement consists in two different variations on some old themes: first, he offers substantive principles of justice, attempting to show that liberty and equality are compatible moral and political values, and secondly, he defends those principles, in part, by means of a social contract argument. For our purposes, it is this argument – rather than Rawls’s specific conclusions – that is the jumping-off point for my discussion.
Rawls’s argument appeals to a hypothetical contractual situation in which individuals choose principles from behind a ‘veil of ignorance’, a device designed to rule out bias and therefore ensure impartiality in the resulting principles. The problem is to choose principles of justice to underpin the main social, economic, and political institutions for a given society, and Rawls’s argument is that we should imagine what principles individuals would choose if they did not know anything about themselves that would enable them to tailor the chosen principles to their own advantage. The principles that would be chosen in this hypothetical so-called ‘original position’ are the principles we should accept because the choosing situation is designed to cohere with our considered judgements about the requirements of justice. One such judgement is that justice is closely linked to impartiality , another is that a person’s life prospects should not be determined by their good or bad luck in respect of natural abilities or social circumstances (Rawls 1971: 18-19). Read more

Bookmark and Share

ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Use Of Ambiguous Expressions In Discussions

ISSAlogo1998The fallacy of misusing lexical ambiguity in argumentation is called the fallacy of equivocation. I will explain what the fallacy consists of by sketching a dialectical situation. Starting from the notion of a precization, I will explore some possible moves of the opponent and proponent in that situation.
My main conclusions will be that it is polysemy rather than ambiguity in a narrow sense that is at the bottom of the fallacy of equivocation and that, partly in consequence of this, the proponent has some interesting possibilities after the opponent has detected the ambiguity. Before one accuses someone of the fallacy of equivocation one should not only check if a distinction is apt, but also whether there is any reasonable defence for the proponent.

1. The fallacy of equivocation
Equivocation is the fallacy of the misuse of the multiple meanings of an expression in argumentation. Two examples are:
(1) The money is in the bank, the bank is by the river, so you should go to the river. (Walton 1996: 72)
(2) All acts prescribed by law are obligatory. Nonperformance of an obligatory act is to be disapproved. Therefore, nonperformance of an act prescribed by law is to be disapproved. (Hamblin 1970: 292)

What’s wrong with these arguments? I will focus on the second, more realistic example. We can best understand the function of the elements of the argument from the perspective of a persuasion dialogue or critical discussion (Walton & Krabbe 1995: 68, Van Eemeren & Grootendorst 1992: 34). A proponent tries to persuade an opponent of his thesis. To achieve this end he needs a strategy.
The proponent should offer reasons that are plausible to the opponent. If the opponent does not object to these reasons, they count as commitments that cannot be withdrawn without explanation. The proponent will then have to show that the opponent is inconsistent when she is committed to the reasons that form part of his argument, but still maintains her critical attitude towards the thesis.
That means that when we are confronted with an argument for a thesis, we can evaluate the argument by (1) examining the plausibility of the reasons relative to the opponent and (2) checking if the position in which one is committed to the reasons but criticizes the thesis is inconsistent. So the evaluation is partly dependent upon the choice of the opponent. This choice is dependent upon the end of the evaluation. One can be interested in the tenability of the argumentation relative to oneself or relative to another actual or imagined group or individual.

When we imagine some reasonable and charitable opponent and look at the second example, we see an argument that could be successful. Both reasons have a certain plausibility. Acts prescribed by law are obligatory in a sense, because nonperformance of an act prescribed by law is often followed by sanctions of some sort. And nonperformance of an obligatory act is to be disapproved in a sense, because we should disapprove of the nonperformance of an act that one should perform. So, there is some ground to expect that this reasonable and charitable opponent will commit herself to the reasons.
We can picture the relevant fragment of dialogue as follows. Moves one and two form the confrontation stage, moves three and four are part of the argumentation stage (van Eemeren & Grootendorst 1992: 35). Read more

Bookmark and Share

ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Modelling Contractual Arguments

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
One influential approach to assessing the “goodness” of arguments is offered by the Pragma-Dialectical school (p-d) (Eemeren & Grootendorst 1992). This can be compared with Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) (Mann & Thompson 1988), an approach that originates in discourse analysis. In p-d terms an argument is good if it avoids committing a fallacy, whereas in RST terms an argument is good if it is coherent. RST has been criticised (Snoeck Henkemans 1997) for providing only a partially functional account of argument, and similar criticisms have been raised in the Natural Language Generation (NLG) community – particularly by Moore & Pollack (1992) – with regards to its account of intentionality in text in general.
Mann and Thompson themselves note that although RST can be successfully applied to a wide range of texts from diverse domains, it fails to characterise some types of text, most notably legal contracts. There is ongoing research in the Artificial Intelligence and Law community exploring the potential for providing electronic support to contract negotiators, focusing on long-term, complex engineering agreements (see for example Daskalopulu & Sergot 1997). The negotiation process, which is a lengthy cycle of proposal and counter-proposal, can be seen as inherently argumentative in nature with each party involved trying to influence the agreement in a way that best serves their own interests. The negotiation process is conducted by parties exchanging proposed drafts of the contract, where each draft represents an argument put forward by one party to persuade the other. Furthermore the internal structure of any given contractual document can be analysed as an implicit discussion where an implicit opponent makes requests for clarification and specification (particularly of contingencies that might arise). Supporting these aspects of contracts depends upon a rich model of the argumentative structure of the complex pre-contractual documents, and it is therefore disappointing that RST fails to account for such text.
It has also become clear (Reed 1998) that RST is fundamentally inappropriate for representing argument structure in three important respects: RST admits multiple analyses of a given piece of text and this is in direct contrast to the argumentation theoretic approach; particular structures that are frequently encountered in arguments are not catered for by RST; and finally, patterns of reasoning that underlie an argument (such as modus ponens, inductive generalisation and so on) can neither be represented by, nor inferred from an RST analysis (and even more so where multiple analyses exist).
This paper provides a brief introduction to RST and illustrates its shortcomings with respect to contractual text. An alternative approach for modelling argument structure is presented (extending Reed & Long 1997a) which not only caters for contractual text, but also overcomes the aforementioned limitations of RST. Finally it is shown that this approach meets the criticisms expressed by both Snoeck Henkemans (1997) and Moore and Pollack (1992) by offering a truly functional account of illocutionary purpose.

2. An overview of rhetorical structure theory
2.1 RST assumptions, methodology and basic concepts
Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) developed by Mann and Thompson (1987; 1988) purports to evaluate text (including arguments) in terms of its coherence. The characteristics of RST as a descriptive framework for natural text are:
(i) It describes relations between parts of text in functional terms, whether such relations are grammatically signalled or otherwise.
(ii) It identifies hierarchical structure in text.
(iii) Its scope is written monologue and it is insensitive to text size. Read more

Bookmark and Share
  • About

    Rozenberg Quarterly aims to be a platform for academics, scientists, journalists, authors and artists, in order to offer background information and scholarly reflections that contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue in a seemingly divided world. By offering this platform, the Quarterly wants to be part of the public debate because we believe mutual understanding and the acceptance of diversity are vital conditions for universal progress. Read more...
  • Support

    Rozenberg Quarterly does not receive subsidies or grants of any kind, which is why your financial support in maintaining, expanding and keeping the site running is always welcome. You may donate any amount you wish and all donations go toward maintaining and expanding this website.

    10 euro donation:

    20 euro donation:

    Or donate any amount you like:

    ABN AMRO Bank
    Rozenberg Publishers
    IBAN NL65 ABNA 0566 4783 23
    reference: Rozenberg Quarterly

    If you have any questions or would like more information, please see our About page or contact us:
  • Like us on Facebook

  • Follow us on Twitter

  • Archives