ISSA Proceedings 1998 – On Conversational Constraint

ISSAlogo1998In this paper I discuss what I believe to be a serious problem in our understanding of conductive arguments. This is the problem of deep disagreement. I then consider, only to reject, the proposal that we handle deep disagreement by means of Conversational Constraint. A better title for my paper would have been “Against Conversational Constraint”.
Conductive argument is now recognised as a separate kind of argument, distinct from deductive, inductive and analogical arguments. We have a good account of the structure of conductive arguments and helpful suggestions as to how they should be evaluated. Anyone who has tried to teach the analysis and evaluation of arguments to students will admit that this is progress. We can now actually say something about a simple argument like the following: “Hume is not a sceptic, for although he argues that our basic beliefs are not rationally justified, he rails against classical sceptics, and he maintains that we are as much determined to believe as we are to think and feel.” This example of a conductive argument is due to Trudy Govier, who has done a splendid job of rescuing Carl Wellman’s “unreceived view” on conductive argument. Wellman gave his account of conductive argument in the early 1970s. (Wellman 1971). Somehow, it never caught on. In her 1985 paper “Two Unreceived Views About Reasoning And Argument” Govier introduced conductive argument to informal logicians. (Govier 1987). Subsequently she developed and refined our understanding of conductive argument well beyond Wellman’s original efforts. Obviously, Wellman and Govier – and some others – did not discover or invent a new kind of argument: conductive arguments have always been around, in the guise of “good reasons arguments” or “pros and cons arguments”, but they were just not given the attention they deserved.
What, then, is a conductive argument? My brief sketch is based on Govier’s discussion in her A Practical Study of Argument. (Govier 1996: 388-408) The salient points are:
Firstly, a conductive argument has a convergent – as opposed to a linked – support pattern. This means that each premise supports the conclusion on its own and independently of any other premises. Removal of a supporting premise, however, weakens the argument; addition of supporting premises strengthens the argument. The question may be raised why we should regard a convergent argument as a single argument rather than as two separate arguments for the same conclusion. One answer is that in fact the two premises are offered jointly. A better answer, though, is to point out that when we want to decide whether the premises indeed support the conclusion we cannot but consider them jointly. Although independent, the premises somehow add up.
Secondly, the premises of a conductive argument do not entail the conclusion. This should be apparent from my Hume example. The premises could be true and the conclusion unacceptable or false. However, the premises are relevant to the conclusion; and the premises certainly make the conclusion plausible. A good conductive argument is not – this should be stressed – a valid argument in disguise. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Rational Comprehension Of Argumentative Texts

ISSAlogo1998The goal of this paper is to sketch a new method of analytical comprehension of theoretical texts in humanitarian sciences. The proposed method of research is based on semiological principles of text comprehension. Both content and form are essential for comprehending argumentative texts. A text recipient is viewed as a rational subject trying to detect all the components of the argument he/she considers and thus to see if the argument is logically consistent. Elementary and higher level argumentative units of the text are discovered by applying a modified S.Toulmin’s model of argumentative functions (Toulmin, 1958).
Studying the problem of understanding depends on a method accepted, on a researcher’s background, and on a field of research. Thus, approaches in psycholinguistics can differ from those in hermeneutics, literary criticism or philosophy. Scientific method is not the only one to be applied in solving the problem of the essence and mechanisms of understanding; it can be supplemented by other methods. All that means that both the topic and the object of research matter in studying understanding. By the topic I mean a particular kind of message for understanding. By the object I mean a chosen method and particular aspects of the message to be studied.
The topic of my study is a research text in humanitarian sciences. The object of my study is a problem of understanding a research monologue text. By text I mean the written form of discourse, as opposed to speech as its oral form. A research text is organically argumentative, i.e. constructed on the basis of certain principles of reasoning (irrespective of the field it belongs to). That is why research text understanding is essentially understanding of the text argumentation. By argumentation I mean reasoning, both in its formal-logical and informal-logical aspects (rhetoric is thus excluded from argumentation, which is conditioned by the specific topic under consideration). Argumentation is viewed here as a social symbolic sub-system, with the system being a language – natural or artificial, depending on which version of argumentation is chosen for consideration. Like any human knowledge, argumentation as a symbolic sub-system is generated by the power of human mind. Constructive sign-forming abilities of cogitant individuals are unitary. This, however, does not mean that all cogitant individuals create identical cognitive structures: variety of constructs at an abstract level reflects specific categories managing the process; these categories can be purely logical or argumentative.

An important factor in producing or changing symbolic systems is acceptance or refutation of a knowledge structure, respectively. If an old system of knowledge is refuted or is found inapplicable for describing or explaining an object, it is substituted by a new or a modified one. Being social (inter-personal), such competitive cognitive systems are applicable for describing and explaining phenomena. Therefore it is possible to postulate coexistence of competitive cognitive structures/systems, none of which, as a product of human mind and interaction, can be absolutely true. Consequently, argumentation theories can be object-oriented and object-specific; they can also be competitive and differently plausible/valid for a specific object (some of them can be better, others worse).
A modification of rationalism is taken as a basis of method here. The modification states that though there is truth, it is practically unattainable. The theories can and must be discussed and refuted since any of them is only a further step to attaining the truth. Falsifiability of theories leads to falsifiability of particular claims and judgments. Taking into account the unique character of personal experience, we can state the uniqueness of scholars’ theories. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Improvement Of Teacher Training In Philosophy For Children Through The Pragma Dialectic Approach

ISSAlogo1998In this paper I intend to argue that teacher training in the Philosophy for Children Program can be significantly improved through the Pragma Dialectical Approach. For that purpose, I will first make a brief and necessarily sketchy presentation of the fundamentals of the Philosophy for Children Program. Then I will make a few comments on its potential for an education for democracy, making specific reference to the Chilean experience. Next I intend to discuss the concept of a “Community of Inquiry”, central to the Philosophy for Children Program , in order to show 1) how the building of such a community can contribute to the development of reasoning skills and democratic attitudes in the participants and 2) what is expected from the Philosophy for Children teacher.
Based on this discussion, I intend to reflect on what I see as some shortcomings, as far as helping teachers meet those expectations, in the presentation of the formal and informal logic contents of the novels and teacher manuals, which are the standard materials used for teacher training in the Program. I shall also comment on the bearing that the usual structure and length of the Workshops may have on the results of that training.
Finally, I intend to show how the Pragma Dialectical Approach can help overcome the difficulties and contribute to improve the teachers’ training. For this purpose, I shall discuss some features of the Pragma Dialectical Approach such as the formulation of a code of conduct for rational discussants and the analysis and evaluation of various types of argument attempting to show how these can help the teachers in training become the kind of model of reasonableness that the Philosophy for Children Program expects them to be.

1. The Philosophy for Children Program
The Philosophy for Children Program is deservedly renown and appreciated worldwide for its merits in helping to develop reasoning skills and reasonableness in children through philosophical dialogue. Using philosophical novels for children, the teachers trained in the Program are able to organize lively discussions in the classroom about things that matter to the students, thus breaking the monotony and lack of meaning of which traditional education, through the imposition of an “Adult Agenda”, is usually accused.
As Matthew Lipman, creator of the Philosophy for Children Program explains, the main purpose of the Program is “to help children learn how to think for themselves” (Lipman, Sharp & Oscanyan,198O: 53). Rather than aiming at teaching philosophical topics to children, the Program aims at helping them “to think philosophically” (Bosch,1992:18).
According to Lipman (Lipman, Sharp & Oscanyan,1980: 22), the most adequate means for stimulating thinking is dialogue. When we are intensely engaged in dialogue about things that matter to us vitally, says Lipman, we perform a number of mental activities such as listening attentively, considering carefully, rehearsing what we might say next, establishing connections with what others have said or written on the topic earlier or somewhere else, trying to figure out what the speaker is aiming at and what the assumptions are from which he or she is starting, etc. In other words, although we may not be aware of that, we are exercising our reasoning skills and thus stimulating their development. The same applies to children. Therefore, if we manage to engage them in dialogues that are meaningful for them, Lipman argues, we will contribute to develop their reasoning skills. If we help them, in this process, to become  more sensitive to the variety of perspectives and the complexity of the problems involved, we will contribute to develop their reasonableness. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Do Advertisers Argue In Their Campains?

ISSAlogo1998Advertisers are often creating a certain kind of argument called sales argument. Sales arguments are published in numerous media. Some are directly adressed to custumers, others to sales persons, who can use them to motivate their customers to buy. In common these arguments are ‘good arguments’ if they are persuasive.
But if one asks whether they are valide, this question turns back to the theory of argumentative valitiy one is using. In pragmatic theories of argumentation, sales arguments can be reconstructed as argumentative moves with at least some charity by means of adding premises, reformulating theses and giving usage declarations. Arguments put forward as speech acts do also deserve some charity. But the question is in general: Are we right in reconstructing sales arguments as related to validity?
Before returning to this question I want to sketch out the positions of a virtual theorist and an advertiser who is willing to use argumentative rules. It is a narrative fiction about possible interactions of positions. The concept of position will then link up to a validity-related ‘dynamic’ approach to Argumentation Theory. The central issue of this paper will be a case-based discussion of the validity of sales arguments as analogies. Before I will mention briefly how sales arguments are missing the requirements of some other approaches to Argumentation Theory.

1. The positions of the advertiser and the argumentation-scholar
Do Advertisers Argue in their Campains?
It depends. This is the answer of a scholar. It depends on the concept of argumentation which is preferred and on the corresponding analysis of advertising.
Of course. This is the answer of an advertiser. Argumentation is one of the strongest instruments to force rational adressees to accept an opinion and to act accordingly.
Each position includes aspects of the other: From the scholar’s vievpoint the advertiser will be successful in applying a practical theory of argumentation that stresses the rational aspect of Argumentation. Argumentation is perceived as a rule-guided practice.[i]
From the advertiser’s perspective the scholar’s efforts maybe regarded as support in advance of the advertiser. The scholar seems to be engaged in strenthening the rational believes of the adressees so that they will understand themselves more and more as being committed to accept any thesis that can be arrived at by correctly applying the scholar’s rational rules of argumentation.
This position may be regarded as a rethorical or even sophisticated[ii] standpoint that describes rationality as a means of persuasion.[iii] It is an “enlightend” position as far as it delegates any ethical questions to the Indiviual. Relativistic consequenses seem to be inevitable.
Nevertheless it provides the impression of usefulness towards the scholar who is not reflecting the values his work may be serving. The outcomes of his work are designed as unbiased scientific results.
Both viewpoints are strengthening each other, the one in applying the other’s results, the other in being esteemated by the first. None of them is independent. None is disinterested. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Narrative As An Argument Component

A narrative is an account typically consisting of a temporal sequence of events that is focused upon characters, their actions, and the outcomes of such actions. In recent decades the narrative has been the object of much analysis, study, and debate. Psychological research on narratives has involved the study of story grammars, syntactic-like structures that describe the generic elements of narratives (e.g., Stein & Glenn, 1979). Other psychological research of narratives has included the study of causal structure (e.g., Trabasso, van den Broek, & Suh, 1989), and inference generation (e.g., Graesser, Singer, & Trabasso, 1994). Narratives also have received considerable attention in relation to their role and importance in the study of history (e.g., White, 1987).
Narratives have also been examined with respect to the purposes they serve. According to Focault (1969, 1972), narrative is used by those in power as a means of maintaining power while the alternative narratives of those out of power are suppressed by those in power. Narrative is also used to delineate official and unofficial history (Wertsch & Rozin, 1998). In the Soviet Union the official history was a Marxian account of the 1917 Revolution and post-Revolution period. Unofficial history, however, embraced a narrative that was historically Russian, extending farther into the post than the 1917 Revolution. Similarly, Epstein (1996) has shown that European American eleventh graders provide a narrative of U.S. history that follows the traditional colonization, French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, Civil War, and into the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries format, while Afro-American students provide a narrative emphasizing racial inequality. Narratives held thus relate to belief and experience, and indeed, the historian Mink (1987) has indicated that narratives provide information about the past, and the background of the narrator needs to be taken into account to understand the narrative. Narratives also have been viewed as deceptive, as White (1987) has stated, “narrative discourse …. endows events with illusory coherence” (p. ix). In any event, the narrative is used to provide continuity to a series of linear events and is the subject of this paper, a topic, incidentally, which is not new.

Narrative and Argument
The present paper is concerned with narrative as argument. Relating narrative to argument is not new, as Aristotle spoke of it as one of two types of argument within rhetoric, the other being the enthymeme. Probably the two most obvious contexts for the use of narrative as argument are those of history and of law. The study discussed here is in the jurisprudence context, primarily because of the likely greater difficulty in conducting the equivalent experiment in the context of history. Consider the statement “Capital punishment should be abolished because it is cruel and inhumane treatment.” In the Toulmin (1958) model, “Capital punishment should be abolished” is the claim and “because it is cruel and inhumane punishment” is the datum or grounds. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Cultural Reflections In Argumentation: An Analysis Of Survey Interviews

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
For the analysis of corporate culture, researchers are in a habit to interview managers and employees, trying to find out how they experience, and relate to their work, and working conditions. Generally, researchers also use questionnaires in order to describe the organisation’s culture. These questionnaires are partly based on the results of the interviews.
In order to find out as much as possible about the employees’ and managers’ views, researchers do not take a simple ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘sometimes’ for an answer. They want to know what underlies opinions, and are in need of explanations, because culture usually is not self-evident. Thus they keep on asking questions like ‘Why is that?’, ‘How come?’, or ‘Can you give me an example?’. More often than not, interviewees are likely to explain their opinions, and to give arguments that support their points of view. Practical guides help researchers to prepare and conduct these kind of interviews.

What happens next? The researcher tries to assess the organisation’s culture using concepts like ‘formal versus informal hierarchy’, ‘pragmatic versus normative view of the work tasks’, and interpreting the actual replies by using a scale model of sorts, that makes it possible to evaluate the answers, and to compare groups of employees with respect to the concepts used. The question is, however, how do researchers interpret the answers, e.g. the arguments that support the evaluations put forward by the interviewees? Are they able to make a connection between the culture they try to describe and the evaluations and arguments put forward? One should expect the researcher’s interpretations to be presented in an explicit manner that allows others to find out how the researcher arrives at conclusions about the corporate’s culture. Unfortunately, such an underlying rationale is most of the time completely lacking most of the time.
In order to bridge the gap between the data and their interpretation, I develop a comprehensive model for the interpretation of the interview responses. Starting with evaluations (concerning work, working conditions, hierarchy, etcetera), I analyse the arguments interviewees put forward to support evaluations. I develop a taxonomy of arguments, based on the modal perspective of evaluative utterances. Finally, I try to relate this taxonomy of arguments to concepts of the organisational culture.

2. Organisational culture and evaluations
Researchers investigating the culture of an organisation, must have some idea about the concept of a corporate culture. It is hard to find a description of ‘corporate culture’ that is widely accepted by researchers, but usually the definitions contain elements like ‘behavioural regularities’, ‘commonly defined problems’, and ‘collective understandings’ (Schein 1986: 6; Frost 1985: 38). In the course of their investigation, researchers try to connect what they observe – the employees’ behaviour – with what the employees think -the employees’ cognitions. This connection is related to the theory of organisational culture that is used for the description, it describes and explains the relation and the organisational artefacts and the underlying cognitions (Schein (1986), Robberts and O’Reilly (1974), Sanders and Neuijen (1989) and Reezigt (1996)). For instance, who is communicating to whom and why to that employee, what is the frequency of their communication and why, how do they think they are able to the influence the organisation’s policy the way they prefer, are seen as indicators of one of the most important aspects of a corporate culture, ‘group relations’ and ‘group membership’. Read more

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