ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Role Of Arguer Credibility In Argument Evaluation

ISSAlogo1998The history of applied logic in the English-speaking countries in the twentieth century can be discerned in the curriculum students have been exposed to in logic courses. That curriculum is manifested most explicitly in the text books that have been used, primarily in logic courses offered by philosophy departments. One of the more interesting aspects of the evolution of the applied logic curriculum is the gradual expansion of interest of logicians in creating techniques for more and more kinds of arguments.
The first half of the century reflected an interest in techniques that could establish whether or not an argument was deductively valid as a consequence of its logical form. Until the thirties, syllogistic dominated as the technique of choice, as it had for centuries before. But the creation of the propositional and predicate calculi around the turn of the century, followed by Gentzen’s development of “natural deduction” versions of these, led to these systems superceding the syllogistic as the preferred tools for inference evaluation. This is reflected in the introductory logic texts that appeared in the late forties and early fifties. Among them was Irving Copi’s Introduction To Logic, which appeared in 1951 and ultimately became the template for many such texts.

An examination of even the latest edition of Copi’s text will show the deductivist orientation of these texts. By their tests, only a small subset of everyday arguments could qualify as having logically good inferences. This fact should have bothered logic teachers, since it was recognized even then that people, including themselves, were often persuaded to believe the conclusions of arguments whose inferences were not formally valid. But the formal techniques continued to hold sway, partly because of a lingering Cartesianism. It was difficult to let go of formal validity as a logical paradigm of good inference. Some of this reluctance has been due to the dubious conviction that logicians ought to have better logical standards than anyone else.
Some people did shake off the spell of formalism, however. I am thinking here of Max Black and Monroe Beardsley, who produced texts around 1950 that look surprisingly contemporary in terms of curriculum. But it was not until around 1970 that texts of this kind began to become popular. Names such as Howard Kahane, Stephen Thomas, and Michael Scriven come to mind. These texts have come to be considered texts in Informal Logic, a “movement” that became visible as a result of the conference organized by Anthony Blair and Ralph Johnson in 1978 at the University of Windsor.

In its narrower version, Informal Logic has focused on the evaluation of inferences made in everyday argumentation, using whatever criteria seem to be appropriate. These could be deductive or inductive tests. Expressed one way, the goal could be seen as that of arriving at a probability value for a conclusion, given the truth of the premisses (Of course, this judgment was not expressed numerically. The preference has been to use evaluative terms found in language).
In a broader version, one that not all logicians are comfortable with, Informal Logic is about argument evaluation. This involves arriving at an evaluative judgment of how likely the conclusion is, given the argument per se, rather given than the truth of the premisses. This broader concept takes account of the logical fact that the probability of a conclusion depends on the probability of premisses as well as inference quality. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Fantasy Themes And Rhetorical Visions In The ‘BRENT SPAR’ Crisis: An Analysis Of Articles Appearing In German And French Newspapers

ISSAlogo19981. Nature and Consequences of the ‘Brent Spar’ Crisis
In June 1995, the giant oil corporation Shell attempted to sink its obsolete oil platform, ‘Brent Spar’, in the North Sea, 190 kilometers north-east of the Shetland Islands. Their plans were approved by the British government and by the signatories of the Oslo Convention for the protection of the marine environment (Shell ‘Brent Spar’ calendar of events: 1). Shortly before the scheduled deepwater disposal, the environmental organization Greenpeace began a ”high-profile campaign” (Thompson 7.3.96) in opposition to Shell’s plan. The ‘Brent Spar’ crisis started on the 30th of April when Greenpeace activists occupied the platform and held it for three months.
The ‘Brent Spar’ crisis was extremely complex because what Shell had considered to be a British domestic issue actually turned out to be an international ”fracas” involving the countries surrounding the North Sea (Seaman 1996: 4). Greenpeace’s and Shell’s actions caused a three month long conflict over the seas, disagreement among the European governments, public demonstrations and boycotts, fifty fire-bombed fifty Shell service stations, and a war of words in the European media. On the 20th of July 1995, Shell aborted its operation and towed the oil platform to the Norwegian Erfjord, where it was and is still moored and decaying. Up to the present, no clear answer has emerged as to whether an offshore or onshore solution is best. That the platform’s fate is still uncertain reveals the complexity of the issue and further, proves little about who (Shell or Greenpeace) is right or wrong.
The ‘Brent Spar’ crisis has long lasting consequences for the financial situation and the reputation of both parties. Greenpeace has spent a total of $1.4 million on their campaign in opposition to sinking the oil platform. Although Greenpeace was forced to apologize to Shell in September 1995 and admitted that ”their sampling on board of the ‘Brent Spar’ was flawed” (Shell press release 9.5.95), Greenpeace’s enhanced reputation, a result of the ‘Brent Spar’ crisis, remains unchanged. Shell’s position on ‘Brent Spar’ has led to long-term financial consequences as well as damage to their public reputation. Shell gas stations have experienced losses due to a ‘Brent Spar’ boycott (European Energy Report 3.29.95). Further, Shell pays $54,000.00 a month to ‘park’ its obsolete platform in the Norwegian fjord (Thompson 8.14.96). Shell has also spent enormous amounts of money in responding to the crisis, and public trust building, not to mention the new form of disposal.

2. Purpose of the Study
One question that arises when reflecting on the ‘Brent Spar’ crisis is how the newspapers’ communication created symbolic realities that motivated masses of people in different European countries to take sides for or against Greenpeace and a giant like the Shell oil corporation. My study provides an answer to this question by analyzing all press articles that appeared from April 30 to July 20, 1995 in two major German newspapers, ‘Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’ (FAZ) and ‘Die Süddeutsche Zeitung’ (SZ), and in three major French newspaper, ‘Le Figaro’ (LF), ‘Le Monde’ (LM), and ‘La Libération’ (LB). Germany and France, which represent the core power group of the European Union, border the Northsea. Furthermore, the two nations are the subjects of my study because they reflect different national reactions to the crisis. Ultimately, the text analysis explains the persuasive appeal of the press and provides an understanding of the development of the crisis. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – A Few Remarks On The Individuation Of Arguments

“An argument,” Irving Copi tells us in a much-quoted passage, “is any group of propositions of which one is claimed to follow from the others, which are regarded as providing support or grounds for the truth of that one.”[i] Copi’s usual elegance may have temporarily deserted him in the remark quoted, and his definition may be less explanatory than might be desired, but the general idea is clear enough – or at least clear enough for the great majority of people in this room to reject it. Where the Amstel flows and all pragmas are dialectical, propositional definitions of argument, such as Copi’s, have about as much purchasing power as the Indonesian rupiah. Not that that’s necessarily a mark – or even a guilder – against them, and not that that means that propositional views in general, or Copi’s in particular, aren’t worth exploring. Indeed, I think that examining what this Snidely Whiplash of argumentation theory – for so he’s many times considered – says almost always repays attention, and though my focus won’t be his definition of an argument so much as the related issue of the individuation of arguments, I think his views help to clarify both issues.

But let me introduce character number two in this little drama before getting back to Copi, character number one.
A more discourse-oriented definition of argument has been advanced by another arch-villain of argumentation theory, but one not nearly as often targeted for attack and refutation. According to Monroe Beardsley, “an argument is a discourse that not only makes assertions but also asserts that some of the assertions are reasons for others.”[ii] From the pragma-dialectical perspective, Beardsley’s definition may lack the shelter and clothing of the pragma and the dialectical, but at least it partakes of that staff of argumentative life, discourse. More striking than that single but pervasive difference between the two, however, that single but pervasive difference between Copi and Beardsley, are the similarities of their views. Substitute ‘set of propositions’ for ‘discourse,’ ‘propositions’ for ‘assertions,’ and ‘claims’ for ‘asserts,’ and Beardsley’s definition coincides almost precisely with Copi’s. If we bracket the discourse – or rhetorically- oriented elements of Beardsley’s definition, in other words, there is little difference between their views.

Which only goes to show that two people can basically agree on one fundamental issue – what an argument is – but profoundly disagree on other fundamental issues, such as what the identity of an argument consists in, and how to individuate arguments. To be clear about what I’m referring to here: the identity of an argument I take to be its self-sameness, the fact, in a sense, that it is what it is – namely, an argument, and, moreover, that argument — and not another thing, not even another argument. I know that’s not very enlightening, but it’s hard to say much more, on a general level, about what the philosophical issue of identity is than that it’s a metaphysical issue and concerns what constitutes, in the most important sense, the fact that a thing is what it is and not some other thing. Bishop Butler would no doubt be proud of me and give me his blessing for my remarks about identity, even if they’d win no awards for advancing the educated public’s understanding of philosophy. Anyway, when discussing the identity of a thing, philosophers generally speak of identity conditions for that thing, and many times the kind of a thing whose identity is being specified is built right into the statement of those conditions. In the case at hand, a typical statement of identity conditions would go something like this: x is the (numerically) same argument as y if and only if….. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Concept Of Resolving Differences Of Opinion And Its Practical Implications In Planning Theory

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
There is an anecdote of the famous philosopher G.E. Moore, who was once preparing a paper for a seminar and, being unsatisfied for the closing of his argument, complained about it to his wife over the breakfast table. “Don’t worry, darling, I’m sure they will like it,” said his wife. To which he responded boldly: “If they like it, they are wrong.”
This anecdote illustrates the once clear distinction between being right and succeeding in persuading your audience in thinking so. This attitude, self-evident at least in the analytic tradition in epistemology and philosophy of science, is perhaps in danger of fading away in the midst of rhetorical, discourse analytic, social constructionist, and even some argumentation theoretic studies. Should we miss it, or even defend it? Could be assume that a ’real’ solution can be defined, not only in science, philosophy, or formal logic, but also in practical contexts like moral and political debate and planning of the physical environment? This is a question I shall be addressing in this paper, although, like Moore, I am not at all satisfied with the closing of my argument. I would like to say much more about what a solution is, but I shall be saying much more about what it is not. The concept of solution is not only at the heart of argumentation theory and, as might be added, one of its unresolved problems, but it is also the concept through which the applicability of argumentation theory in practical reasoning is measured. It is not uncommon that argumentation theory is in practical contexts dismissed as an idealized, absolutist theory that has very little to offer to practitioners working in an “unclean” environment of power relations, hidden motives and conflicting interests. In this paper I shall discuss this issue by first analysing some classical texts and their ways of dealing with the subject and, secondly, demonstrate how the interpretation of this concept will appear essential in the practical context of spatial or physical land-use planning.

In recent decades, both planning theorists and practicioners have started discussing the so-called communicative or argumentative turn in planning. This is taken to mean a change in both the rationality conception of planning and in the actual planning practices: away from instrumental rationality and technical expertise that were earlier supposed to be able to define the way that common activities in space can be organized, and towards a communicative approach that will activate people as “stakeholders” to come together to define their priorities and common interests (Healey 1997, Forester 1989, Sager 1994, Fischer and Forester 1993). This entails that the communicative situation and process will get a more central role. If local participation in planning is supposed to provide not only local information and expressions of interests to be interpreted and evaluated by professionals and politicians, but really to provide a way of “making sense together”, then the quality of argumentation in the planning process will become central.
Defined in this way, communicative planning theory is a normative-practical theory (Healey 1997, 68), and it would thus seem to fit into the tradition in argumentation theory that will try to combine empirical and normative elements in communication, such as the pragma-dialectical theory (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1992). However, spatial or land-use planning is also a communicative practice that differs from the more paradigm cases referred to in argumentation theory, such as jurisprudence or science. It is an instance of political or policy discourse and, consequently, strongly dominated by rhetorical communication. But this is not by itself an obstacle. Supposing that the concept of resolving differences of opinion (instead of merely settling the disputes or negotiating between the parties with conflicting interests) is the dividing line between argumentation theory and rhetorics, then the communicative theory of planning as a normative theory should benefit from the theory of sound, non-fallacious argumentation. This would make it possible to evaluate and criticize argumentation in planning, and even to provide the practicing planner with a toolbox for making better arguments (Lapintie 1998). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Shifting Legitimation Strategies In The Public Sphere: The Case Of The National Endowment For The Arts

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Public discourse surrounding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is both perplexing and complex. This discourse is marked as argument and is further characterized by a principle of dissensus (Willard, 1986). The disagreement is increasingly debated publicly (most visibly in the American press and United States (US) congressional hearings) where differing parties oftentimes exchange vitriolic and polarized arguments concerning the legitimacy of the NEA. This battle is often demarcated along political, economic, cultural, and ideological lines, which address the interests of the US government in subsidizing non-profit art. Analysis demonstrates that these arguments address the most powerful and influential groups in the public sphere; accordingly, analysis also uncovers the characteristics of the particular public whose set of knowledge, symbols, and ideas are most legitimate. An understanding of these arguments is informed by Jurgen Habermas’s conception of the bourgeois public sphere (1962/1995), further elaborated to include differing and contending publics.
Yet, analysis of the public discourse concerning the NEA indicates that strategic arguments are employed in a manner less indicative the idea of a consensus building process: the idea resting on a “communicative practice…that rests on the intersubjective recognition of criticizable validity claims” (1981, p.17). Instead, the NEA employs a legitimation strategy that shifts its arguments towards the public who hold the most power in the public sphere. The strategy of the arguer to tailor a message to pre-conceived publics also points to a process wherein publics hold and loose legitimacy. In this respect, legitimation tends to mean the process whereby one public’s set of symbols, knowledge, and ideas, gains power and influence over another public or other publics. Also inherent in this process is the de-legitimation of the public losing power and influence in the public sphere. I will show that investigation of the NEA’s case is best informed by an emphasis upon such legitimation strategies.

The American Canvas report released by the NEA on 16 October 1997 is a policy proposal whose rhetorical nature employs strategic appeals to the most influential and powerful segments of the public sphere. The American Canvas is a document widely distributed, free of charge, and described as an “analysis and distillation of the major issues we face in the non-profit arts….[raising] red flags about the current state of the arts in America….[concluding] with challenges and opportunities for everyone in the arts to consider” (Larson, 1997, p.6). The American Canvas and other texts indicative of this public issue serve as the main data for this project.
The crux of the disagreement concerns the role of the United States’ government funding for the non-profit arts. Currently, for the Fiscal Year (FY) 1998, the NEA received the same budget ($99.5 million) as it did in the two previous fiscal years; however, appropriations have dramatically dropped from an all time high of $175,954,680 in 1992 (NEA Annual Report, 1996) [inflationary adjustments not factored in my account of appropriation figures from FY1966-1996]. NEA appropriation hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate for FY 1998 were marked by conflicting motions of re-authorization, phasing out, and termination, and the resulting budget was still 39% less then the amount  requested by President Clinton. And although the NEA’s total budget accounts for “less than one one hundredth of 1% of the federal budget” (, 6/10/1998),  these debates are quite impassioned and highly publicized. Many officials and constituents still adhere to the message of the NEA’s foundation in 1965; detailing that support for the arts and humanities are “appropriate matters of concern to the national government” (National Foundation of the Arts and the Humanities, 1965). Yet others see no place for the government in the funding of the arts, which represents yet another example of the over-reaching hand of government in a realm which would do fine if left to private sector funding. The issue most central to this paper concerns the NEA’s legitimacy among the conflicting artistic “elite” public and the “populist” public. This question will be addressed in detail below. But all these concerns contribute to a legitimation crisis for the NEA. Even if pending appropriation bills are passed reauthorizing the NEA, questioning the NEA’s legitimacy has become an annual drama that has pervaded many dimensions of discourse in the public sphere. Examining this public discourse is critical, for the outcome of these deliberations involve real decisions and real choices, arguably with major cultural and economic implications. Ultimately, they define the role of governmental support for the non-profit arts in American society.
This paper has two main parts. First, I will define and operationalize my inquiry of argument in the public sphere. Second, I will demonstrate how the American Canvas represents a strategic shift from an “elite” public towards a “populist” public as indicative of a process of legitimation. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – From Arguing Within To Arguing Across Boundaries: Globalization As A Challenge To Argumentation Studies

ISSAlogo1998Is it possible to argue across the boundaries of self-contained, ideologically or culturally incompatible formations (e.g., East and West, North and South, Islamic and Christian civilizations)? In other words, can controversies be discussed and resolved rationally without there being even a common, general intellectual or cultural tradition for disputants to fall back on as the final guarantee for an eventual agreement? The default answer to this question, for a number of reasons, is “No.”

Analytical and neo-pragmatist philosophers by and large have long expressed their doubt that a rational agreement can ever be reached argumentatively between radically different systems. W. V. Quine undercuts such a possibility with his influential doctrine of the “indeterminacy of translation.” For Quine, outsiders “cannot even say what native locutions to count as analogues of terms as we know them, much less equate them with ours term for term,” and the “native may achieve the same net effects through linguistic structures so different that any eventual construing of our devices in the native language and vice versa can prove unnatural and largely arbitrary” (1960:53). Richard Rorty believes that “there is no way to step outside the various vocabularies we have employed and find a metavocabulary which somehow takes account of all possible vocabularies, all possible ways of judging and feeling,” which has led him to reject argumentation as the mode of cross-“vocabulary” interactions (1989: xvi, 8).
Postmodern thinkers in general not only accept the premise of a radical incommensurability between different life-worlds, but also add an ethical dimension to the issue, making it even more difficult to contemplate the possibility of rational, non-coercive means of cross-cultural conflict resolution. Jean-François Leyotard, for instance, introduces the concept of a différend as “a case of conflict,  between (at least) two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments.” When “a universal rule of judgment between heterogeneous genres is lacking in general,” a “wrong” would necessarily result from the fact that “the rules of the genre of discourse by which one judges are not those of the judged genre or genres of discourse” (1988: xi). Even Jügen Habermas has acknowledged that his earlier formulation of a “discourse ethics,” based on the principle that “a norm can be considered objectively right if it would be consented to in free discussion by all concerned as consonant with their interests,” fails to take into proper account “the power of history over against the transcending claims and interests of reason,“ the “ideas of the ‘good life’” which “form an integrated component of the particular culture,” and “Sittlichkeit, the concrete customs of a community” (Dews 1986: 17-18).

And anthropologists lend further support to this general skepticism with vivid stories of their personal encounters with other cultures. Clifford Geertz, in an account of how, during a 1971 trip to Indonesia, he had a “debate” with a local religious master over the issue of whether American astronauts had indeed landed on the moon, shows what an impossible task it could be trying to argue with people locked in an acutely different cultural framework. The setting was a religious school in Sumatra. His opponent, the teacher-director of the institution, opened with the declaration that “no Muslim could believe [the moon-landing],” because the Prophet was “held to have said that an enormous ocean lies between the earth and the moon and this was the source of [Noah’s] flood.” If the Americans had indeed gone to the moon, then
1. they “would have put a hole in this ocean and a flood like Noah’s” would have ensued and would have drowned us all;
2. they would have proved that the Prophet was wrong, which was impossible;
3. what they did was most likely to be a trick played by God who “had constructed a fake moon off to the side somewhere for them to land on.” Read more

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