ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Criteria For Winning And Losing A Political Debate

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
I am concerned about the quality of the public political debate. I am concerned about reducing it to a game, where opposing political parties play their roles, obey the game’s rules and confirm the genre.
In this paper the aim is to answer the following questions: What are the relevant criteria for the analysis of winning and losing a political debate? What are the theoretical and methodological implications of applying a normative argumentation theory (pragma-dialectics) and a descriptive interaction theory (conversation analysis) to the same data?
To give an answer to these questions I have first tried to investigate the general and specific character of the modern political debate and from these I have drawn the relevant evaluation criteria. To justify why these are relevant, I have decided to look at the debate genre in a broad diacrone perspective. By doing this I believe that a cearnel of genre constituting features can be revealed besides a set of more context-sensitive ones. In other words I try to describe the genre in terms of constant and relative/flexible elements. Thereafter, I will argue that a winning and losing enterprise forces the investigator to build a normative framework.
My claim throughout this paper is that there is a close relationship between genre development and the development of evaluation criteria. Consequently I will also claim that while genres change and develop over time, also evaluation criteria will have to change.

2. The development of the political debate genre
Broadly speaking “genre” can be understood as either relative or stable, or as a combination (Ventola 1989). In this perspective I will understand the pragma-dialectical ideal context as a predefined, idealized and stable genre. However, I will argue that a context description has to consider both stable and variable features in order to provide relevant evaluation criteria.
My point is not to give an outline of the ancient roots of the political debate, but rather to point at the fact that electronic debates, and especially televised debates, represent a shift in debate style from a more discussion-like format to a more quarrelsome one. This shift has implications for what kind of criteria that create the winner and the loser of a public political debate.
My claim is that the debate tradition experiences an important shift with “The Great Debates” between Nixon and Kennedy in the 1960 campaign. At this time the political debate genre as we know it today was in its infacy. Five specific elements of debate can be isolated as it has developed in the American tradition, a debate is:
1. a confrontation,
2. in equal and adequate time,
3. of matched contestants,
4. on a stated proposition,
5. to gain an audience decision (Auer 1962). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Duties Beyond Borders? Appeals To Moral Necessity In Statecraft

ISSAlogo1998Speaking at the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum a few years ago, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel called for the Clinton Administration to take action to stop the carnage in Bosnia. “Something, anything, must be done,” he implored (Time, May 3, 1993: 48). Shocked by atrocities, the horror of systematic rape, and waves of panic-stricken refugees fleeing in the wake of “ethnic cleansing,” many other people joined Wiesel in urging the nations of the world to intervene for humanitarian reasons. “All humanity should be outraged,” asserted Thomas Buergenthal, former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and a survivor of Auschwitz (cited in Lillich 1993: 574). “We cannot just let things go on like this,” insisted former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “It is evil” (Time, April 26, 1993: 35).
Whether prompted by genocide in the former Yugoslavia or political mass murder in such places as Cambodia or Rwanda, the issue of what should be done about human rights violations in other countries highlights an old debate over whether ethical considerations ought to influence foreign policy. Do political leaders have a moral obligation to alleviate human suffering no matter where it is located? Must they protect foreign nationals even at the expense of their countrymen? If so, should it be done through a quick rescue operation? Or should it include an effort to eradicate the underlying cause of the suffering? These questions have received renewed attention with the establishment of a United Nations’ War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, charged with conducting the first international war crimes trials since those undertaken in Nuremberg and Tokyo at the end of Second World War.
The purpose of this essay is to analyze appeals to moral necessity in persuasive dialogue on foreign policy issues. I begin by differentiating between two types of appeal: one based on duty; the other, on right. After comparing the deontological assumptions of duty-based appeals with the consequentialism of rights-based appeals, I discuss how metaphors are sometimes used in the latter to conflate legal right with moral obligation. Next, using a series of speeches that attempted to justify the 1989 intervention by the United States into Panama, I illustrate the rhetorical strategy employed by statesmen who mask legal permissibility as moral obligation. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the problems inherent in moral appeals that blur the distinction between the permissible and the obligatory.

1. Arguments From Moral Necessity
Throughout the ages, political leaders have justified the use of military force against neighboring states with a form of argument that stresses how foreign policy is driven by unavoidable necessities. In general, these necessities are portrayed in strategic terms; they are actions that supposedly must be carried out to advance national security interests regardless of whether they contravene prevailing ethical standards (Raymond 1995).
Recently a different conception of necessity has entered into debates about the use of military force. Rather than defending the resort to arms on the grounds of strategic necessity, it is often justified nowadays as a “categorical moral imperative” to stop a brutal government from violating the human rights of its citizens (Reisman 1973: 168; Schermers 1991: 592; Rodley 1992: 35). As one advocate of this view has put it, the military defeat of rulers who initiate massacres “is morally necessary” (Walzer 1977: 105). It is an absolute duty, one that holds at all times and in all places, and regardless of whether it advances the strategic interests of the intervening state. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Problematizing Standards Of Argumentation To Students

ISSAlogo19981. The Problem
I teach undergraduate courses in Speech Communication in the United States in which I’m presumed to be able to grade students on their papers and on their classroom presentations based on how well they argue rather than what they argue. Yet I also live in a so-called postmodern age in which virtually all standards of rational argumentation have been called into question, particularly those emanating from white, heterosexual, Eurocentric males like myself.
Moreover, I’ve discovered that even those among my colleagues who’ve been trained as I have in principles of argumentation, informal logic, critical thinking and the like tend to apply those principles unevenly, inconsistently, particularly as regards the sorts of highly sensitive, highly controversial topics my students find most interesting. One potential source of inconsistency is bias. There is little reason to believe that we teachers of controversial subject matter are immune from the well documented influences of prejudices and wish-fulfillment beliefs on judgments of the validity of arguments (e.g., Hample, D., 1979; McGuire, 1960).
But another likely culprit is the principles themselves. What exactly is a false dichotomy or an inappropriate appeal to authority? When do circumstances mitigate what might otherwise be considered illogical? Does the press of time ever justify my decision to follow the crowd or be swayed by an ad hominem?
Designed as they are to apply to an array of context-sensitive situations, the various informal fallacies are inherently imprecise. These problems in judging the quality of students’ arguments bear also on what we as teachers say and do in the classroom. At a recent conference on faculty advocacy in the classroom, a number of academics used the occasion to defend against charges that they had been using the classroom to promote one or another version of political correctness. To the contrary, said one Women’s Studies professor, … some, perhaps much, of what my students take to be advocacy in the classroom in fact consists of critical questions about the empirical foundations of their political and social beliefs, or critical evaluation of the logical structure of their beliefs…. As evidence for my ‘advocacy’, students point out that most of the corrections I make as to fact or logic tend to be in a more liberal or ‘politically correct’ direction. [H]owever, it is not at all surprising that I might encounter more poorly founded opinions of the conservative sort. When the opportunity arises, I do try to point out similar errors made by the ‘politically (not quite) correct’, but they tend to be fewer in number….” (Holland, 1996).
But are what Holland calls “errors” in the logic of her conservative students really a reflection of her own biases, thus providing unwitting evidence of the limits of objectivity? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Reasons To Buy: Teaching Reasoning Through Television

ISSAlogo1998Ads purport to give us reasons to buy. What sorts of reasons are they? When Nike asked us to ‘Just do it’, they were not – or not simply – with a sort of primitive practical syllogism, telling us to just buy. The phrase has layers of meaning. It could mean do what you were going to do, or what you were not going to. It has overtones of the coach, or the irritated mother, of the inner voice urging you on. It is a cryptic and ambiguous phrase, accompanied by a stylish logo, and it is universally known. What is more, people buy Nikes. But their purchase is not simply falling in with the order to buy: it is a complex and highly social event.
To think of ads as practical syllogisms is to think of them as arguments from the content of the ad to an act of buying, or an intention to buy. But it is too simple to claim that an ad is properly taken only if the appropriate action issues. Ads are complex and highly sophisticated components of modern life, embedded deeply in a variety of cultural practices, but at the same time, communicating across the global village with almost unprecedented effectiveness My project is to look more closely at the reasoning structure of advertisements.
George Steiner’s claim that advertising is the poetry of the modern age is correct in the sense that the pure condensation of meaning which was once the province of purely poetic or religious discourse is now found in the ad industry. Highly intelligent (and well paid) executives spend hours searching for the one pithy phrase, a phrase that will capture the imaginations and heart, which will resonate and be sung, whispered or held – often for life. The jingles of my childhood seem inexpugnable. One, of very limited poetic worth, went
‘Menz makes biscuits a treat
Because Menz makes biscuits that are good to eat’

It will, I am sure, remain with me when all else has gone. In the days of music videos and startlingly high production values of visual television, the qualities of ads are legion. The sheer effectiveness of ads as memorable images, as semiotic signifiers, as music videos or film clips is itself a matter of academic study. We are familiar with the intertextuality of ads, both in the sense that the one theme will appear in print, television and billboards, but also in the sense that ads refer to the genres, particularly of television, with enormous subtlety. Puns proliferate, both visual and verbal and across the media. I do not attempt here to cover all aspects of advertising paper seeks out the structures of argumentation in ads. I concentrate on the verbal messages of ads as the central focus of argumentation. This is not to deny the importance of the visual and musical components of the force of advertisements, but rather to focus on one element of ads which has received relatively little attention.
I begin with an example of a print advertisement, to indicate the possibilities of argumentation, but also to sharpen issue of differences between print and other media. In this context, I explain my general project of analysing the reasoning on the media as a way of both teaching kids philosophy and of teaching them about the impact of the media. Kids are all too familiar with denunciations of the capitalist forces behind advertising -yet they adore ads. If we wish to have kids react critically to ads, the best method is to have them draw out their own understanding of advertisements as a starting point.
The second section draws on materials I have developed for talking about reasoning in television ads, and their billboard counterparts. The final section deals with the obvious problem with ads – are they true? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Reasonableness Rather Than Rationality

ISSAlogo1998The idea that logic alone can determine the distinction between good and bad arguments is rapidly being replaced by a broader dialectical theory of argumentation. Yet, to preserve a suitable notion of normativity, dialecticians appeal to a notion of rationality that shows much the same features as the disreputed logic is sought to replace. In this contribution, I will diagnose the problem and present an alternative: dialogical rhetoric.
The idea that bad arguments are logically interesting is rather young. For ages, logic was primarily interested in good arguments. Bad ones were negatively defined as not-good, and, as distinguishing instrument, logic could be limited to answering the question what accounts for the goodness of arguments. Modern formal logic, in this fashion, sought after sound arguments that yield conclusions by necessity. Starting with true premises, a truth-preserving method of valid inference warrants conclusions that cannot be wrong. The truth of the premises, although essential for soundness, is left to the relevant fields of investigation. Logic proper concerns the method of inference and deals only with validity. Logically speaking, a good argument is a valid one, and a bad argument is invalid. This type of logic observes what we may call the deductive demand. A good argument is one of which the conclusion follows necessarily, under the condition that its premises are true.
Hamblin’s Fallacies (1970) cracked the ice. He showed that the notion of invalidity was not adequate in accounting for bad arguments, and that consequently the deductive demand did not serve the distinction between good and bad arguments. In a nutshell: invalidity was neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for fallaciousness. Some fallacies are not invalid at all (e.g. the notorious begging the question), and many arguments are invalid but not fallacious (all inductive arguments are deductively invalid). Many thinkers have followed Hamblin, and added doubts on the suitability of the deductive demand. I will mention three problems in particular.

1. The deductive demand is an all-or-nothing matter: only necessary conclusions are allowed and anything less is rejected. To every problem there is only one solution: the best one. Curiously enough, however, no account can be given for a notion of `better’. This makes argumentation, in any substantial sense, impossible. Argumentation, after all, consists of arguments pro and arguments contra, and the balance of those two factors constitute the strength of an argument. The deductive account cannot acknowledge positive and negative forces in this way because a deductive argument `knocks down’ either way.

2. The deductive demand cannot acknowledge alternatives, and is in that sense monological. The point is that as a truth-preserving method it should yield necessary conclusions and it cannot allow a different logic arriving somewhere else. But if so, any deviation of the monologic is impossible, including unlogicality. Indeed, as the early Wittgenstein said: `we can think nothing unlogical, since if we could, we would have to think unlogically’(Tractatus: 3.03). The idea is that thinking as such presupposes logic. This feature gives monologic a transcendental flavor: it provides for the very condition of the possiblity for thinking and cannot be questioned, nor sustained by argumentation. Monologic must be `seen’, and can only be `shown’. The problem, obviously, is that bad arguments do exist and that we must presume that the persons who advance them in fact thought badly.

3. Perhaps the most serious problem for the deductive demand is that it is not hard at all to meet it. Many arguments are sloppy in the sense that not all premises are explicitly mentioned. This is not a problem, because most people will tacitly add the missing premise. To determine the deductive validity, however, we must add the hidden premise. This can do no harm because it cannot make a valid argument invalid, but it can do much good by explicitizing an implicit premise. The problem, however, is that any argument can be made valid by adding the right premise. The associated conditional, or even the conclusion itself, and perhaps even the negation of one of the other premises[i], will do. This simply means that either an argument is valid, or can be made valid. Deductively, no bad arguments exist. Deductive logic, far from providing a suitable instrument, has no powers to perform its distinguishing task. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Falsification And Fieldwork In Recent American Anthropology: Argument Before And After The Mead/Freeman Controversy

ISSAlogo1998Ethnographic fieldwork – going into the bush, into the unknown – to study some ‘tribe’ has arguably been the central feature of cultural or social anthropology in this century.[i] “Ethnography has been, and is, the sine qua non of cultural anthropology. It accounts for our initial status and networks within our profession, legitimizes us as ”real” anthropologists. . . and provides us with the means to survive the publishing dictates of the academy.” (Farrer 1996: 170). It has been taken as primarily the product of the individual researcher and as relatively unproblematic. It then provides the evidential foundation for anthropological theory, which is where controversy enters. Debates are about the implications of the ‘research findings’, not typically the findings themselves. In the last decade and a half, there has been increased attention paid to just how ethnographies are rhetorically constructed by an anthropologist.
This is a valuable emphasis, but I am adding another – looking at how fieldwork is criticized and accepted as reliable after publication. I explore this process as a social activity by the discipline in light of its various audiences. To do this I focus on what led up to and followed Derek Freeman’s attack on Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa. My concern is not with argument by Mead or Freeman per se – that has been done (Weimer 1990, Marshall 1993).

A bit of quick history. In 1925 Margaret Mead went to American Samoa to test G. Stanley Hall’s then current account of adolescence as inevitably stressful.. Her subsequent book refuting Hall and giving a compelling portrait of South Sea life, Coming of Age in Samoa, became a bestseller, and its view of adolescent development, particularly in sexual relations, had a great influence on American culture. Mead became the best-known anthropologist in America, a veritable cultural icon (Lutkehaus 1996).
In 1983, five years after Mead’s death, the first notice of the Australian anthropologist Derek Freeman’s critique of Mead was published on the front-page of the New York Times; a media event ensued, complete with television appearances. Freeman, who dedicated his book to Karl Popper, the philosopher who championed the importance of falsification in science, claimed to have definitely falsified Mead, as well as offered a more adequate account of the interaction of biology and culture. A multitude of reviews and rejoinders followed; Freeman replied vigorously to many of these.
The American Anthropological Association even took a vote deploring the recommendation of the book by the magazine Science 83. In 1989 a documentary film, Margaret Mead and Samoa (Heimans 1989), apparently supported Freeman with an interview with one of Mead’s informants who stated that she and other Samoan girls had “pulled Mead’s leg in response to probing questions about their personal lives, and that Mead, then 24 years old, believed their tall tales” (Monaghan 1989: A6).
Why was the Mead-Freeman controversy such an event? For some anthropologists, there has been a certain befuddlement – why won’t it go away? One reason is the sheer number of issues involved – ranging from particular questions such as the degree of Mead’s facility with the Samoan language, to the personalities involved, to larger issues such as the nature-nurture debate and social responsibility of scientists. It is a mistake to say, as some have, that “it was really about” one thing and not another. Nonetheless I focus in this paper primarily on the relation of an epistemic matter to a standard rhetorical one, on how anthropological fieldwork claims are taken to constitute reliable evidence or knowledge for the audiences of anthropology. Following Lyne, I distinguish anthropology’s intra-field audience – other anthropologists, its inter-field audience – other scholars and scientists outside the discipline, and its extra-field audience – the general or educated public (Lyne 1983). My issue involves how, as Lyne puts it, epistemic expertise is projected to these various audiences. Read more

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