ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Walton’s Argumentation Schemes For Presumptive Reasoning: A Critique And Development

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction: Walton’s account
In this paper I first sketch Douglas Walton’s account of argument schemes for presumptive reasoning (Walton, 1996). Then I outline some of what I think is missing from the account as presented by Walton. Last, I propose ways of filling in some (not all) of those missing pieces. The sketch of Walton’s account will occupy the rest of this introductory section. I should make it clear at the outset that what inspires this paper is admiration for Walton’s project. Although I think his account is incomplete, and I disagree with some details, I believe that the study of argumentation schemes is important, and that Walton’s approach is fruitful and suggestive. In the book under examination (Walton, 1996), Walton restricts his discussion to argument schemes found in presumptive reasoning. He takes presumptive reasoning to be typified by the pragmatic, “rough and ready generalizations,” of practical reasoning (reasoning about what to do); it is the “plausible reasoning” for which Rescher provided a calculus in his Plausible Reasoning (1976). A model for presumptive reasoning is default or non-monotonic reasoning discussed in computer science.

Central to Walton’s account is his analysis of presumption. He presents presumption as related to, but distinct from, burden of proof. On his analysis, it is that move in a dialogue which lies between assertion (which incurs the burden of proof) and assumption (which carries no burden whatever). A presumption so conceived has practical value by way of advancing the argumentation, and, in accepting something as a presumption, the interlocutor assumes the burden of rebutting it. Thus a presumption shifts the burden of proof, and this function is at the heart of Walton’s analysis. Presumptions come into play in the absence of firm evidence or knowledge, which is why they are typically found in practical reasoning. Presumptive reasoning, in sum, “is neither deductive nor inductive in nature, but represents a third distinct type . . ., an inherently tentative kind of reasoning subject to defeat by the special circumstances (not defined inductively or statistically) of a particular case” (Walton 1996, 43).
For Walton, argument schemes are structures or “forms” of argument which are “normatively binding kinds of reasoning” and are “best seen as moves, or speech acts” in dialogues (Walton 1996, 28). They are normatively binding in the sense that in accepting premises organized in a “genuine” scheme “appropriate” to the type of dialogue in process, one is bound (in some way) to accept the conclusion drawn from them, provided the “critical questions” that are “appropriate to” that scheme are answered satisfactorily (Walton 1996, 10).
Walton postulates that the validity of an argument scheme is contextual: a function of the context of dialogue in which it is used in a given case. Remember that the aim of argument in presumptive or plausible reasoning is to shift the burden of proof in a dialogue (not to prove a proposition with a given degree of probability or plausibility). Whether a scheme succeeds in shifting the burden of proof depends on whether the scheme is valid (for the occasion of its use) and on whether the members of a set of “critical questions” associated with it either have been answered affirmatively earlier in the dialogue or can be later if they are raised. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – What’s Wrong With God?

ISSAlogo1998Philosophy of Religion texts are often constructed by setting out the arguments for and then the arguments against the existence of the object of theistic belief. When presented thus, the writer’s final position, if there is one, is likely to be a balancing of pro and con, an inconclusive, provisional preferring of one side to the other.
Theism is not conclusively refutable – a consistent story can be told in its terms. But neither can it be established by pure reason or by any weaker source. J.L. Mackie (1982) thought theism consistent though utterly incredible, but had to make room for it as a miraculous possibility. Some writers may even conclude with something like the position Penelhum (1971) once argued for: that both positions (theism and atheism) were internally coherent, and that there is no common ground (to use a phrase of Nagel’s) on which their conflicting claims can be rationally adjudicated: “the theoretical assumptions that they may share are not sufficient, it seems, to allow useful debate between them on the basis of agreed standards. Each must see the world differently, one as God’s world and the other as not…. No community of standards exists which would enable the kind of agreement we have argued to be possible about imagined cases, to be arrived at for the experience that the world in fact does offer. The deadlock is deepened by the fact that the believer and the unbeliever each has at his disposal, if he wishes to use them, explanatory devices for accounting for the alleged blindness or gullibility of the other” (89-90).
In this paper I want to explore a more radical approach which is not I believe frequently defended, though it might well be embra-ced by many thinkers if they were forced to choose among a variety of epistemological positions. The view is a slight extension of one expressed a good time ago by N.R. Hanson in a paper published in a memorial volume in 1967. But it seems not to have provoked much discussion.

The position I am concerned with says that theism is simply not a contender in the epistemological stakes. There are any number of utterly groundless hypotheses that no one in their right mind would consider taking seriously in giving an account of the nature of things, and that are only entertained, if ever, in philosophical discussions of the possibility of our being brains in a vat or living in a 5-minute old universe. Theism, the view suggests, is no better than any of these. Intellectually, the Thomist God is in the same boat with the fantasies of debased “popular” belief, leprechauns or fairies.
Let me offer one example of the contrast. After hurricane Gilbert had wrecked a good part of the village I lived in, I was asked whether I thought it had been sent by God or by the Devil. Not wishing to open up the whole issue, I merely mumbled something about not thinking of either of these as responsible for the weather. For some believers, supernatural agents are among the causes that may be invoked for particular events or for explaining how things work; for the position I am examining, they simply do not arise. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Abolitionist Reconstructions Of July Fourth

ISSAlogo1998The Fourth of July, writes Howard Martin, was “the most important national ceremonial during the last century” in the United States (1958: 393). July Fourth occasioned the largest gatherings of the year in many communities, and was celebrated with picnics, ceremonies, fireworks, songs and speeches, which typically reveled in the mythic past and glorious prospects of the nation. But “the nation” was variously imagined by Americans on July Fourth (Anderson 1983: 13-15). Americans held divergent attitudes toward the holiday and used the occasion of the Fourth to contest ideas about national character, principles, and policies.
The United States prior to the Civil War bore few institutional expressions of its (increasingly fragile) unity. There was no official flag or anthem, and holidays were largely local or state, rather than national, observances. The Fourth of July was a unique national ritual, publicly enacted in local communities. During the American Revolution, July Fourth celebrations supplanted colonial celebrations of the monarchy (such as the King’s birthday), through which the colonists had declared their loyalty and identity as British subjects.

The Fourth of July expressed new national identities rooted in independence (Branham, in press). In 1778, Congress gave its official sanction to the Fourth, and the following year ordered that “the chaplains of Congress be requested to prepare sermons suitable to the occasion” (Journals 1779: 204). These sermons typically celebrated the revolution as the crucible of the republic, the shared and defining heritage of an otherwise heterogenous people. “It was the Revolution, and only the Revolution,” Gordon Wood writes, “that made them one people. Therefore Americans’ interpetation of the Revolution could never cease; it was integral to the very existence of the nation” (1992: 336). July Fourth was the principal occasion for the public contemplation of the revolution and the country it had produced. By the War of 1812, organized Fourth of July celebrations had spread from urban areas to settlements across the United States.
But American observances of the holiday were far from uniform. “What, to the American slave,” Frederick Douglass asked, “is your Fourth of July?” On the same date when communities across the country gathered to sing patriotic songs and listen to speakers laud national achievements, abolitionists and other reformers met to consider the failure of the American Revolution to secure liberty for all Americans. By the mid-1830s, the Fourth of July had become the most important annual occasion for abolitionist meetings. Abolitionists sought to subvert conventional celebrations of the Fourth. They adopted many of its rituals, but converted its symbols and themes to support the abolitionist cause. The result was what Stuart Hall has termed a “negotiated version of the dominant ideology” that was “shot through with contradictions” (1980: 137-138). The Fourth of July presented the best recurring opportunity to reveal these contradictions, to contest American policies by reference to national principles. Abolitionists reconstructed the Fourth of July, using the accepted premises and symbolic resources of the occasion to “argue the nation.” Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Bad Reasoning, Good Humor

ISSAlogo1998This paper focuses on the rhetorical-hermeneutical aspects of production and understanding of a text containing fallacies generating humor. My emphasis is on deceptive or misleading discourses as a means of creating witty remarks. Humor certainly involves a mistake or deviation, a vice or a flaw; but the error involved is not censurable or damaging, but harmless and good.
In working on the theme of that which is comical in rhetoric and about rhetoric, I noticed how the possible classifications of fallacies, that is to say forms of reasoning which despite being logically unacceptable appear to be persuasive and efficient, are similar or can be juxtaposed with the possible taxonomies of those mechanisms which generate humor. There are at least as many types of humor as there are bad arguments, that is fallacies. And perhaps it is no coincidence that for this very reason there is no satisfactory theory of fallacies, not even a satisfactory theory of humor.
The first sketches of a theory of humor used in conversation and of humor understood as wit (humor as it is used by an orator and humor as it is studied by a rhetorician) can be found in Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian.

Hilarity that sparks off a fallacy is not something to be ignored; the jibe, the jest, the comical element all have their use in disputes, because, as Gorgia rightly advised, “we should kill [or confound] our opponent’s seriousness with our ridicule and his ridicule with our seriousness” (Aristotle 1924: 1419b 3-5). In this same context Aristotle observes that “the majority of jests arise from metaphors and from being able to surprise through the use trickery” (Aristotle 1924: 1412a, 18-19). Such trickery can come about in three ways:
– with single words (words used with a different meaning from that which is expected, as in play on words, double meaning);
– with unexpected actions (surprising developments);
– with speeches which create an illusion which induces the belief in the reality of something which in fact does not exist (as in the case of what we call fallacies). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Wittgenstein And Cognitive Psychology

ISSAlogo1998Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology has often been characterized to be behavioristic. On the other hand, the rise of cognitive psychology partly resulted from a critique of behaviorism. It seems that there is an incompatibility between Wittgenstein and cognitive psychology. The thesis that they have only hostile relationship seems to be supported by the work of Rom Harre.[i] According to Harre, Wittgenstein’s philosophical-psychological doctrine would refute the possibility of artificial intelligence. In this article, however, I will argue that such a thesis that there is a-zero-sum game relationship between Wittgenstein and cognitive psychology has to be modified. Certainly, Harre’s thesis is correct insofar as the “strong AI” is concerned. But this does not exclude a positive cooperation between Wittgenstein and cognitive psychology, if one just maintains the “weak AI.” Namely, in terms of John Searle’s distinction of the strong AI and the Weak AI, one can well develop a different picture of the relationship between Wittgenstein and cognitive psychology. In order to support my thesis, I will mainly focus on the clarification of the connection between Wittgenstein’s conception of logical compulsion and P. N. Johnson-Laird’s mental-models theory of inference. Since “thinking” is a key concept for Wittgenstein’s philosophical psychology as well as for cognitive psychology, my clarification should concretely demonstrate in what way a positive dialogue between them can be possible. In particular, this should also provide a concrete example for showing how the weak AI approach can contribute to the development of philosophical psychology.

In Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics Wittgenstein writes, “In what sense is logical argument a compulsion? –’After all you grant this and this; so you must also grant this!’ This is the way of compelling someone. That is to say, one can in fact compel people to admit something in the way – Just as one can e.g. compel some to go over there by pointing over there with a bidding gesture of the hand.” (§ 117) It is well known that here Wittgenstein tries to show that inference is basically a kind of skill or practice. But one can also clearly see that Wittgenstein approaches the phenomenon of logical inference from a “third person” standpoint. Namely, he construes the “logical must” in terms of “order-giving.” Even in speaking of “order-obeying,” Wittgenstein does not dig out its internal structure from a “first person” standpoint. In addition, Wittgenstein is satified with his explanation to leave out the account of the way how these orders operate. To be sure, in terms of speech act theory, one might say that Wittgenstein traces the source of logical compulsion back to the illocutionary force. In this sense, his account of the “inexorability” of logic is purely “linguistic” in character. For Wittgenstein, a logical compulsion is in reality not merely psychological. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Satisfying The Argumentative Requirements For Self Advocacy

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Recent advances in treatments for individuals with a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have generated hope for renewed life for many who believed they would die prematurely from the disease, but have also created much confusion and uncertainty for those individuals and their physicians (Brashers, Neidig, Cardillo, Dobbs, Russell, & Haas, in press). Treatments are not equally effective for all individuals, the long-term efficacy and safety of many drugs are unknown, antiviral drugs and treatments can be used in many different combinations, and the selection of some drugs can lead to difficult lifestyle accommodations (e.g., drug regimens with large numbers of pills taken each day, rigid eating schedules, and uncontrollable patterns of diarrhea and nausea). These and many other factors must be considered when making decisions about treatment options.

Many individuals with HIV or AIDS have taken to educating themselves about treatments, reading scientific reports and engaging in activities such as journal clubs and discussion groups, so that they may make informed treatment decisions (Brashers, Haas, Klingle, & Neidig, 1998). These activities provide the basis for patients to argue for preferred treatments in discussions with their physicians. Yet, despite their increased knowledge about treatment options, many patients have difficulties in the process of advocating for themselves.

Why is advocating for oneself problematic? Argumentation often is seen as a circumstance which calls for objective reasoning. Individuals who need to promote their own interests (i.e., self-advocacy) in what might be taken as an argumentative context (e.g., requests for medications or treatments from a physician, letters of application for employment, or other requests for actions that benefit the advocate) often appear too interested in the outcome to remain sufficiently objective. Self-advocacy is a form of argumentation which can create unique requirements, including how to promote one’s self-interest while providing evidence and reasoning will be free from personal biases.

The requirements for self-advocacy argumentation are a function of norms and circumstances that vary across situations. In this paper, we explore the argumentative requirements of self-advocacy in the context of individuals with a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and their interactions with health care providers. Literature on activism and self-advocacy will be reviewed as background. Data from a larger project on AIDS activism and self-advocacy is used to examine specific argumentative strategies reported by individuals to promote their interests in interactions with health care workers. The analysis will be used to explore claims about the unique argumentative burdens of self-advocacy, as well as to demonstrate how supporting self-advocacy claims may lead to perceptions of fallacious moves in the discussion (e.g., playing on the opponent’s compassion or providing a personal guarantee of the correctness of the claim, see van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992). Read more

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