ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Encompassing And Enacting Dialectic: Kenneth Burke’s Theory Of Dramatism

ISSAlogo1998The work of American self-described “wordman”, Kenneth Burke, is having tremendous impact on rhetorical and literary theory and criticism, speech communication, sociology, and many other academic areas, including in some small ways argumentation.Despite this recent attention, particularly in the work of Arnie Madsen (1989, 1991, 1993) and James Klumpp (1993) as well as the recent special issue of Argumentation and Advocacy on “Dramatism and Argumentation” (1993) and occasional argument criticisms which invoke Burkean perspectives, Burke’s work still remains relatively unknown to many argumentation scholars, and potential contributions of Burkean theory to argumentation studies remain to be developed fully. Moreover, as Madsen (1993) observed, “the works of Kenneth Burke have gone relatively unnoticed in the field of argumentation theory” (164). And although it is certainly true that “Burke offers no systematic and complete theory of argument” (Parson, 1993, 145), it is also nonetheless equally the case that Burke’s work on human symbol systems and motives, summarized as his theory of “dramatism,” encompasses the traditional domains of rhetoric, poetic, and dialectic, thereby at least by most traditional accounts encompassing as well argumentation (See van Eemeren, Grootendorst, and Kruiger), subsuming, re-defining, and re-positioning “argument” within the orientation of “dramatism.”
The current study attempts to “locate” argumentation within Burke’s theoretical edifice, dramatism, and, more generally, to examine how “dramatism” transforms traditional approaches to “rationality.” As “rationality” is transformed, so too, necessarily, is argumentation. The specific objectives of this paper are per force more restricted. I will sketch, generally and broadly, dramatism’s encompassing argument move, with its attendent transformations of “rationality.” Second, and a bit more specifically, I will offer a description of Burke’s theory of dialectics, before concluding with some remarks suggesting how, via the agency of Burke’s “psychologized” rhetoric of identification, dialectic becomes enacted as what Burke calls the “great drama of human relations” (1955, 263).

Burke’s “Dramatism” is set forth broadly in his informal Motivorum Trilogy: A Grammar of Motives (1945), which treats generally of dialectics and transformational processes, A Rhetoric of Motives (1950), which treats of rhetoric as “consubstantial” with “identification,” and A Symbolic of Motives (unpublished), which treats of poetics and ethics variously (depending upon which design for the unfinished project is featured) from within the orientation of “dramatism.” A related manuscript, Poetics, Dramatistically Considered (unpublished), is a relatively complete treatment of precisely what the title promises; it may be a re-titled version of what began as A Symbolic.[i] Burke’s proposed “trilogy” of “a grammar,” which centered generally and paradoxically on dialectics, “a rhetoric,” and “a symbolic,” which subsumed both poetics and ethics, parallels in many ways classical formulations including the trivium,[ii] but Burke’s interests, lying at the intersection of language, psychology, and circumstance, focus concern on human motives rather than upon probable truth, “right” action, or divine telos. As such, “’finding’ a theory of argument, or positions that inform argument theory,” in Burke’s writings, Parson suggests, “will be an inferential process” (146; see also Madsen, 1993, 165). But given the sweeping nature of the Motivorum project, the process is not one of merely extending the domain of “dramatism,” a theory derived most explicitly from literary studies, to the domain of “argumentation,” for “dramatism” in subsuming and re-defining “dialectic” and “rhetoric” has already positioned itself atop much of the traditional “argument” domain. And in so-doing, it transformed the nature and function of argumentation itself. As Klumpp (1993) puts it, a “rapprochement” between mainstream argumentation studies and Burkean studies takes one more “toward adapting argumentation rather than dramatism” (149). One important reason for this is that frequently argumentation studies appears as a Phoenix arisen amid the detritus of formal logics, remaining under the sign of “Reason” and genuflecting instinctively toward Reason’s traditional consort, Truth. Burke’s orientation explicitly re-defines “rationality” and de-privileges, indeed de-stabilizes, truth. For a “rapprochement,” to borrow Klumpp’s terminology, to occur, “argumentation” needs to be approached from within the orientations of dramatism; that is, perhaps the most productive point of entry into a “conversation” between dramatism and argumentation is not “Where does dramatism ‘fit’ in argumentation?” but rather “Where does argumentation ‘fit’ in dramatism?” Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Presumptive Reasoning And The Pragmatics Of Assent: The Case Of Argument Ad Ignorantiam

ISSAlogo19981. Three Theses
This paper focusses on three traditional distinctions commonly made by argumentation theorists. The distinctions generally correlate with one another and work together in picturing argumentation and framing puzzles about it. Not everyone holds all or any of them – maybe not even most. But the distinctions are invoked and alluded to often enough that we think it useful to challenge them directly.
First, there is a distinction to be drawn between justifying the truth or falsity of a proposition or claim and justifying acceptance or rejection of a proposition or claim. The truth or falsity of a proposition is a matter of independent reality. Acceptance or rejection of a proposition is a voluntary decision. Rational justification of acceptance or rejection is a matter of choice, a weighing of costs and benefits. Rational justification of truth or falsity is a matter of evidence, a balancing of facts. Justifying truth or falsity is a matter of proof; justifying acceptance or rejection is a matter of persuasion.
Second, a distinction should be maintained between arguments over propositions of fact and arguments about propositions of policy. It is a distinction closely related to the first in its rationale. It relies on such matters as the difference between description and evaluation, “is” and “ought”, reasons and motivations, epistemology and politics, epistemic reason and practical reason.
Third, a distinction should be maintained between demonstrative proof and plausible demonstration. The former kinds of arguments are associated with strong conclusions involving direct evidence, certainty, necessity, infallibility and the like. The latter kinds of arguments deal with a balance of considerations, presumptions, probabilities, and tentative conclusions.

One can, of course, maintain all these distinctions as conceptual distinctions, which is to say that these distinctions mean different things, they have different implications, and they participate in different systems of concepts and puzzles. But presumably these distinctions are more than just conceptual. Presumably they point to real differences in the way in which argumentation is conducted in different domains and help to explain real differences in our sense of the quality of those arguments.
Traditionally, at least, scientific research has been held up as a paragon of demonstrative proof concerning the truth and falsity of propositions of fact. Its procedures of inference are highly formalized through statistical analysis. Its research questions are answered on the basis of quantifiable facts that are scrupulously guarded from questions of value. Its empirical claims seem to be as directly demonstrated and as certain as one can get. If these distinctions hold up anywhere, they should hold up here. In fact, there are important ways in which these distinctions blur when we examine the logic of the statistical analysis upon which modern scientific research depends.

2. Statistical Reasoning as Plausible Reasoning
The core of statistical analysis in empirical research is the logic of hypothesis testing. Factual propositions that are derived from theory and predict empirical differences (research hypotheses) are tested against observed differences. The test occurs by setting the research hypothesis against a competing, default hypothesis – typically the null hypothesis that there are no real differences. Now, it isn’t news to anyone that the test of whether the observed differences best match the research or the null hypothesis is a matter of probabilistic inference. But it is worth noting that the logic of hypothesis testing is also a logic of presumptive reasoning. In fact, the statistical inference amounts to argumentum ad ignorantiam (cf. Walton, 1996a). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Slippery Slopes: The Reciprocal Of A Node On A Curve Or Surface

ISSAlogo1998The idea of slippery slopes is a commanding and attractive metaphor. Indeed, speaking in this way has become commonplace in contemporary work in biomedical ethics.[i] It would be interesting to know whether this metaphor has a load-bearing role in philosophical analysis; whether, that is, it is anything more than une façon de parler, a figure of speech.[ii] In work underway I pursue this question in three theoretical contexts:
1. analogical arguments,
2. sorites arguments, and
3. the analysis of taboos.
Unless I am mistaken, we shall hit paydirt in the third context, and this is the context I wish to explore in this paper.

Slippery slopes in relation to taboos
In one of its meanings, a taboo is a deep cultural protection of a value, underwritten by broad and largely tacit societal consensus. In my usage here, a taboo is always an ordered pair X in which P is a principle protecting a value – usually a prohibition – and X is an exclusion, an embedded practice which excludes P itself from free enquiry, from the rough-and-tumble of dialectical probing. Sometimes the X-factor also precludes the mention in polite society of the practice prohibited by P; but its more general implication is averting discussion of P’s merits, of whether it is a justified principle and if so by virtue of what. If, for example, P is the principle that prohibits cannibalism then X is the determination not to expose P to critical reflection or scrutiny. Indeed if X is the present-day taboo against Holocaust revisionism, the X-factor operates so tenaciously as to make of the mere raising of the revisionist possibility, no matter how tentatively, an immediate self-disqualification.[iii] In the absence of the X-factor, P cannot be a taboo. In societies such as ours there is a principle which strenuously disenjoins urinating in public, but it is no taboo. Except in the most delicate of circles, there is no corresponding bar against explanation and justification, or meeting arguments which might be marshaled against the prohibition (e.g., that there is no such prohibition for males in Japan). Taboos, then, are special cases of principles or points of view attended by dialectically weak – or even non-existent – track records. Of course, there are whole classes of dialectically impotent statements, whose lack of justificatory vigour is a reflection of the fact that they are seen as not needing defence or justification. They are “self-evident”, or “common knowledge”, or some such thing. With taboos, however, dialectical impotence is less a matter of judging that a defence is not needed than that it should not even be attempted. (I return to this point.)
Many taboos were once religious proscriptions. This helps in understanding both the X-factor and the dialectical impotence that attaches to taboos even after they have lost their religious sanctions. Though shorn of this expressly religious backing, we seem to retain them out of culturally transmitted habit. When they were religious laws, they required no justification by us; indeed to raise the question of whether something commanded by God might require our justification is to risk the sin of hubris. These features are retained as the X-factor and, relatedly, a pallid dialectical track record. Other taboos such as the one against the eating of pork may be seen as risk averse generalizations from genuinely factual data, a stong induction from an occassional upset tummy.[iv] Epistemically, the generalizations are hasty; prudentially they are safe. Risk averse behaviour is tailor-made for taboos. In fact, a good deal of risk averse behaviour involves the holding of generalizations that we don’t know how to justify, or which we subconsciously see as having no inductive justification. (Of course, it doesn’t follow that risk averse behaviour is likewise without strategic justification). Thus our disinclination to raise the question of how these generalizations are justified, and the consequent lightness of the dialectical track record. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Effects Of Dialectical Fallacies In Interpersonal And Small Group Discussions: Empirical Evidence For The Pragma-Dialectical Approach

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Since Brockriede (1975) and O’Keefe (1977) publicly recognized the importance of studying arguments as they are made in the context of everyday discourse (O’Keefe’s argument2), argumentation scholars have been increasingly interested in studying the phenomenon in terms of its value as a communication activity rather than a logical exercise. Rhetoricians have long been interested in the function of argumentation in persuading an audience but it has only been recently that argumentation scholars have taken up the task of examining how patterns of reason giving are created and used by those involved in everyday conversation. Scholars such as Jackson & Jacobs (1980), Trapp (1983), Walton (1992), and van Eemeren and his colleagues (e.g., van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992; van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson, & Jacobs, 1993) have extended the study of  argumentation from the study of formal and informal logic structures to the study of the ways in which arguments function in resolving disputational communication.
One of the first and most productive lines of inquiry regarding the study of argumentation as it occurs in discourse has been the pragma-dialectical approach originating with van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992). The pragma-dialectical (PD) perspective extends the traditional normative logical approach of evaluating arguments by creating standards for reasonableness that have a functional rather than a structural focus. An argument is evaluated in terms of its usefulness in moving a critical discussion toward a well reasoned resolution rather than concentrating exclusively on the relationship of premises to conclusions. The PD approach recognizes the importance of normative standards for judging the strength or cogency of single argumentative acts but in addition recognizes that arguments are constructed in order to achieve a communicative goal.
As evaluative criteria for the quality of arguments, the PD posits several normative guidelines for how communication in resolving or managing a dispute should proceed. While several argumentation scholars have elaborated, extended, or some way adopted portions of PD (e.g., Walton, 1992; Weger & Jacobs, 1995), there has been little direct empirical research seeking to verify that the violation of the kinds of discussion rules identified by van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992) indeed causes problems in the management of disagreements. The purpose of this essay is to examine empirical research in interpersonal and small group argument in order to discover what harms, if any, result from the violation of rules for critical discussion. The essay will begin by examining the effects of following and violating discussions rules on the ability to resolve disputes and the quality of the decisions that result. The next section of the essay will examine the interpersonal and relational outcomes that are associated with following or violating discussion rules as articulated by van Eemeren and his associates.

In Argumentation, Communication and Fallacies, van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992) lay the foundation for the pragmadialectical approach to argumentation study. They begin by arguing that the standard treatment of argumentation and fallacies either ignores the communicative functions in favor of examining reason/claim relationships or abandon entirely normative standards of evaluation in favor of examining whether the argument achieves the goal of gaining the acceptance of an audience. The traditional logical approach evaluates arguments based on decontextualized, abstract structural features of arguments that are applied across situations. The rhetorical perspective, on the other hand, tends to evaluates the quality of an argument in terms of its persuasiveness. PD provides an advance on these perspectives by suggesting that normative guidelines for evaluating the quality of an argument requires attention to the communicative functions served by arguing as well as the logical structure of the lines of reasoning used in the dialogue.
The functional perspective on argument is based first on the belief that argumentation is a communicative activity. And second, it is based on a functional view of communication in which messages are studied in terms of the purposes they serve and the goals they achieve. At its most fundamental level, the purpose of argumentative dialogue is the resolution and management of real or potential disputes. Therefore, it is a mistake to evaluate arguments out of the context in which they are used or in a way that looks only at the logical structure without a description of the way certain argumentative moves effect the ability to manage or resolve a dispute based on good reasons. A functional perspective requires that arguments be studied, in part, by how they contribute to the communicative goals of resolving or managing a dispute. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – On The Role Of Ethical And Axiological Arguments In The Modern Science

ISSAlogo1998Can the modern science remain “neutral” with respect to ethics and values? The last decades have shown this question to become an object of intent discussions. The involvement of a man in understanding such complex objects as atomic energy, unique objects of ecology, gene engineering, microelectronics, informatics, cybernetics and computer technology which a man himself is involved into as well as wide introduction of robots and computers in manufacturing and various life spheres of a man and society make the thesis of “ethic neutrality” of modern science questionable. The natural scientific knowledge nowadays is much more closer to humanitarian sciences in terms of investigation strategy than in the previous periods of the history development. The fabric of the modern natural scientific knowledge search‘ is enriched with categories of duty, moral, good, values, etc. unusual to traditional approach.
The mechanisms transforming the ideals of the scientific knowledge argumentation enter the science more intensively in the second half of the XXth century by developing the noosphere concept and ideas of non-linear “highly unbalanced” thermodynamics, synergetics, modern cosmology and by expanding the system and cybernetic approaches, ideas of global evolutionism and the so called “antropic cosmological principle”. Some of these concepts are considered hereafter in order to highlight the modern science specific features.

The application of “man-centered” arguments and parameters is distinctly observed first of all in the noosphere concept of a well known Russian scientist Vernadsky that is based on the integrity idea of a man with the outer space as well as on the modern science integrity where the borders among its individual branches are obliterated and the specialisation takes part rather by problems than by certain sciences. Vernadsky wrote in 1926 in its work “Thoughts of the modern meaning of the history knowledge” that “the XXth century brings increasing radical changes in the understanding of a new time”, that it is a time of “an intensive reconstruction of our understanding of the World, ourselves, our environment, search for the sense of being”. These processes connected to the revolutionary changes and developments in physics, chemistry and astronomy change not only our notions of the matter, energy, space and time, but they represent also a specific turn of the scientific creative work in the other area – in the area of “place understanding of a man within the World order created on the scientific basis”. What consequences and regulation means which go beyond the scientific notions are formed within the noosphere concept and form new ideals of World understanding and search for the sense of being. Firs of all, the task to build a world by renouncing a man himself and attempting to find any world understanding independent on the man nature is above the man’s power, it is illusion. An observer himself, a subject, is obviously incorporated in the picture of the reality under study, in the Nature itself. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Final Days: The Development Of Argumentative Discourse In The Soviet Union

ISSAlogo1998The value of argument in the public sphere and its relation to social change is a concept that is shared by most communication scholars: the idea that argument in some form is an intrinsic part of democracy or at least that it is a necessary concomitant to democracy. In Johnstone’s words, “[d]emocracy rests upon the use of discourse as an instrument of political change” (1974:320). Indeed, the very attempt “to marshal public opinion or public support for some policy” implies acceptance of “forms of political action that prevail in a democratic society” (Johnstone, 1974:318). Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969:55) take this position a step further: “[t]he use of argument implies . . . that value is attached to gaining the adherence of one’s interlocutor by means of reasoned persuasion.” We suggest that the Western tradition of democracy entails the notion of doing the public’s business in public. This is an important concept, one that marks a fundamental distinction among societies. While recognizing that even in the most stable democracies little of what is considered the public business actually is conducted in the open, one must nevertheless keep in mind the fact that in many authoritarian or totalitarian states there has existed no concept of the public’s business apart from the government’s affairs, so there is no thought of addressing concerns in the open.
This notion [i] that some essential portion of civic business should be played out in public is the concept that provides the philosophical ground upon which policy argument may occur: in a real sense it creates space for policy argument to exist. Argument, then, may be seen as a necessary part of the process of doing the public’s business; where the ground for that argument does not exist, it must somehow be created.[ii] But where there is no history of such a process, how does the concept develop, how does the tradition take root?

Many of the observations made in reference to Western pluralist societies assume even greater significance when applied to the role argument has played in the socio-political changes that have in  recent years transformed the former Soviet Union. In this paper we intend to explore some of the ways in which social change and argumentation interact: in particular, we will consider the way governmental information policies, accepted argumentative structures, and the whole notion of public discourse develop as society undergoes fundamental transition.
By way of background we shall review the beginnings of pluralist public policy argumentation in a specific society where none had existed previously: the Soviet Union of the pre-disintegration period. Before turning to more contemporary events, we will concentrate on two critical media incidents: the 1983 downing of the Korean airliner and the 1986 Chernobyl explosion. One must keep in mind that, all other differences notwithstanding, most political communication in the former USSR, as in the USA, was and is a mediated phenomenon that relies on mass dissemination. For that reason we will focus on the media as the purveyor of the readily available accounts of the transmission of information and opinion formation. Our methodology is historical/critical, and our corpus is drawn primarily from official print media during the period 1983 through 1991.
Of particular relevance to this discussion is the process whereby public argumentative space comes to be created. In this presentation, we explore at least one of the ways this may happen: in the movement from an authoritarian to a pluralist form of government, the space for public argument arises from the citizens’ loss of faith in the existing governmental structure.[iii] As this loss of faith intensifies, the ground for argument begins to expand and continues expanding until the process becomes self-sustaining. At this point, every incremental change in the amount of public argument intensifies the loss of faith that initiated the process, because groups and individuals begin seriously questioning the ability of their government to secure the welfare of the people. The process is recursive: opposition becomes more influential as it becomes more frequent, providing ever greater opportunities for the continued extension of argumentative ground. Read more

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