ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Pretending And Port-Royal Logic (Bad Reasoning And Pretend Reasoning)

ISSAlogo1998The standard and approved ways of looking at fallacies start us off with a list of “tidy-looking dichotomies” (Austin 1964: 3). Reasoning is either good or bad, cogent or non-cogent, correct or incorrect, sound or unsound, valid or invalid. Sets like convincing or unconvincing can be found in some versions of the approved ways but not in all. And there are some versions that will include things like misleading, deceptive, and blighted, but their partner-words hardly ever show up.
It’s easy to see that one side of this division is positive and the other, negative. Cases of reasoning put on the positive side are cases of ‘good reasoning’. Cases put on the negative side are cases of ‘bad reasoning.’ Good reasoning is just good reasoning. Bad reasoning gets a special label. It is fallacious reasoning. It is easy to turn this all around and call a fallacy a case of bad reasoning. Sometimes it indisputably is. But sometimes it may not be. Or, anyhow, it may not be just a case of bad reasoning. Getting clear about the times when it is not and why it is not is what this paper is about. It’s a matter of being fair to fallacies.
First a word about some long standing complaints concerning the standard, approved ways. In the early 1980’s Woods and Walton complained that standard treatments of fallacies failed to provide a non-arbitrary way for sorting out cases of correct reasoning from fallacious ones. The standard treatments were mostly happy to take up the inherited list of names, usually in Latin but sometimes very colloquial – remember Flew’s “No-true-Scotsman” (1977: 47) – and give supposedly illustrative examples. Most of these examples were contrived or made up to suit the names and many were so obviously bad that they provided more fun than instruction. And some turned out to be not bad at all.
More importantly, however, clear guidelines and explanations for sorting, for putting this case on one side and another case on the opposite side, were said to be remarkably absent from the standard treatments. For Woods and Walton, this absence came, in large part, from the lack of an adequate model of correct reasoning or argument. They saw their job to be that of providing such a model. This would involve setting out precisely formulated rules, procedures, requirements, and the like for correct (good) reasoning. With such a model firmly in place, it should be a bit of snap to get non-arbitrary guidelines and explanations for sorting the cases of correct (good) reasoning from incorrect (bad, fallacious) reasoning (1982: v).
So we now have a sure-fire, fail-safe way for detecting cases of bad reasoning and for sorting them out into two piles. Moreover, we can give reasons for putting this case in one pile and that case in the other. Clearly, this is much better than what we are said to get in the standard treatments where it was mostly a matter of matching cases or samples with patterns. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Making A difference Or Not: Utterances And Argumentation

ISSAlogo1998As a linguist, I am limited, in the study of argumentation, to the linguistic traces of the argumentative process. Fortunately, they are numerous, and exactly like the relation between fossils and life forms, they present the advantage to be testable and that one can be sure that, even if some aspects of the argumentative process do not leave fossilized traces, most do.
Arguments are utterances and therefore they share certain characteristics of utterances (as opposed to propositions or phrases). To highlight what is probably the most important feature of utterances as far as understanding the relation between an argument and conclusion, is the aim of this paper.
I had the opportunity (Nemo, 1995) to present here a description and account of argumentative relevance, which I will quickly summarize, before introducing new evidence for my main hypothesis.

1. Utterances and argumentation
First of all, the distinction between proposition and utterance must be justified. If we consider the difference between proposition 1 and utterance (1):
1. Bill Clinton is alive.
(1) Bill Clinton is alive.
i.e. the difference between an unsaid proposition and an uttered proposition (the utterance), it must be remarked that 1 represents only the fact that Bill Clinton, is alive, whereas (1) represents both the fact that he is alive and the fact that this might (indexicaly and not theoreticaly) not have been the case. Consequently, the utterance (1) can represent only a moment when something has happened (an accident, an heart attack, an assasination attempt, etc…) whereas the proposition represents any moment in which 1 is true. In other words, the sentence is (only) an image of the reality whereas an utterance is the association of an image of the possible and an image of the reality: an utterance consists, minimally, of the association of a proposition with a modal frame, and hence receives the following description:
(1)
Bill Clinton may be alive – Bill Clinton is alive.
– may not be alive

The mere use of language implying a modal framing of reality. From this general standpoint a description of the argumentative value of utterances may be proposed. The constraints which have to be described in order to account for it are at least four, one accounting for the argumentative value itself, as opposed to informative value for example, another accouting for the argumentative orientation, and the others for the argumentative strength of utterances. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Phenomenological Argumentative Structure

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction[i]
What is the proper representation of phenomenological argumentative structure? By ‘phenomenological argumentative structure’ I mean the logical structure that an argument is perceived to have by mature reasoners – yet ones who are untrained in logic. Except for a few remarks, this paper will not be concerned with whether this informal ability to identify or match argumentative structure is an important reasoning skill; rather, it will be primarily concerned with judging or attempting to measure this skill. Instruments that have questions designed to do this include major standardized tests for graduate school admission, e.g., the United States-Canadian Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Writers and reviewers of such tests need an appropriate foundation for developing such questions – they need a proper representation of phenomenological argumentative structure – for legitimacy, and because these tests affect people’s lives.
A further motivation is cost. A single question on these tests probably averages about $2,000 to develop, so it is not a trivial matter when a test item is miscast and fails psychometric statistical review. Even given this, however, it may be that an attempt to represent phenomenological argumentative structure through (probably expensive) empirical studies would not be advisable. The results could be bewildering and not generalizable (one study found that the diagramatic aids examinees drew when taking like tests tended to be quite idiosyncratic – Cox & Brna 1995). Instead, the approach that this paper will take will be mainly philosophical rather than empirical.
It would certainly appear that the informal or nontechnical ability to identify or match argumentative structure is fundamental to reasoning well. With only one putatively clear kind of exception, the validity (for deduction), or more broadly, cogency (for both deduction and nondeduction), of an argument is entirely (for deduction) or largely (for nondeduction) a function of its logical structure or form (cf., e.g., Sainsbury 1991: Ch. 1; also Walton 1995: Ch. 5 for a distinction of 25 nondeductive argument structures or “schemes”). The same applies to the invalidity or lack of cogency of an argument. The only arguments that supposedly constitute an exception are those that proceed through conceptual analysis, that is, those that are termed ‘materially’ valid or invalid; a classic example is ‘this is red all over, so it is not blue all over’ (e.g., Read 1994). So apart from such arguments, and apart from conversational and rhetorical matters and matters related to the actual truth values of premises and conclusions, to perceive the logical structure of an argument is to perceive that in virtue of which the argument is good or bad (deduction) or is to perceive much of what makes the argument good or bad (nondeduction). Naturally, then, a principal way of assessing the cogency of a given argument is to  match its structure with that of an argument whose cogency is known or obvious. In the case of showing lack of cogency, this tactic is called ‘refutation by logical analogy’. (Some of the presuppositions of these remarks will be defended in §3.) Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Evaluating Tests For Reconstructing The Structure Of Legal Argumentation

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
In legal argumentation, as well as in everyday argumentation, it is often difficult to distinguish between multiple (also called convergent) and coordinatively compound argumentation (also called linked). In legal argumentation the importance of the distinction between these two kinds of complex argumentations becomes clear in  complaints about the justification of judicial decisions. Since the interpretation of the relation between arguments can be of influence on the decision, (one of) the parties to the proceedings may criticise the way the judge interprets this relation. Disagreement about the argumentation being multiple or coordinative compound will then be submitted to a higher court.
This was, for example, the case in HR 5 juni 1992, NJ 1992, 539. Mr Van der Vlies, the proprietor of a number of pleasure boats, bought a plot on the Spanish Water. The original owner of the plot, Spanish Water Resort, has, at some time in the past, announced an allotment plan. It was according to this plan that a yacht-basin would be constructed. This yacht-basin has in actual fact never been built. Now Van der Vlies demands that the yacht-basin be built as was agreed. One of the questions that need to be answered by the Court in this case is whether or not there is an actual agreement between the two parties. In order to be able to address this question the Court assesses the six arguments (a through f) with which Van der Vlies justifies his claim. The Court of Appeal concludes that there has never been an agreement between the parties. In his appeal to the Supreme Court Van der Vlies argues that:
(…) in answering the central question the Court of Appeal has, unjustly, limited itself to the assessment of the separate arguments, thereby ignoring their mutual correlation and connection, or so it seems judging by the Court’s decision. Moreover, it is, in the absence of any justification whatsoever, unclear why arguments a, c and e do not play any part at all in the relationship between Spanish Water Resort and Van der Vlies, but that, moreover, even if one or more of these arguments did not play any part when judged on their own merit, it is unclear whether they may play such a part when considered in mutual correlation or connection.
In other words, Van der Vlies is of the opinion that the Court of Appeal has wrongfully reconstructed his argumentation as being multiple which influenced the evaluation of his argumentation negatively. Now the Supreme Court has to decide as to whether the argumentation of Van der Vlies was multiple or coordinatively compound.

Sometimes the text or the context may provide clues that give evidence to interpreting the structure of argumentation. Studies on this type of clues in the fields of argumentation and informal logic often provide useful insights into the reconstruction of legal argumentation. Textbooks in these fields also provide tests that can be of use when textual and contextual clues are not available. A classification of these tests is proposed by Walton in his book Argument Structure: A pragmatic Theory (1996). It is not surprising that Walton concludes that the tests are not to be overestimated, for several authors of the tests are already very modest about the use of the tests. Since legal argumentation does not always provide textual or contextual clues that can be of help, it seems appropriate to find out if and when these tests can be of use to decide on the structure of argumentation.
First I will give a short overview of Walton’s classification of the tests that are proposed in textbooks. Then I will take a closer look at some of the problems to which Walton draws attention when it comes to implementing these tests as well as to the test which he himself regards as superior to the others. Finally I will look at the way(s) in which judges arrive at decisions in actual practice when there are no textual or contextual clues on the basis of which a decision can be made as to whether the argumentation of a party is multiple or coordinative compound.
The context in which legal complex argumentation is presented, is that of a judge or a party to the proceedings who tries to remove doubts that the other party or a higher judge may have with regard to the standpoint. To contest this standpoint successfully, the other party needs to know whether it is necessary to refute only one of the arguments or all of them. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Arguing About Dying

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
That each of us will die is a given, and thus there is no argument to be made about dying. But we do argue about some aspects of the dying process: how we die, whether we ought to or can have some control over the time and manner of our death, who (if anyone) should be allowed to help us die, even what counts as “help” – questions like these are being more openly debated than ever.
The most basic questions are thrust before us with increasing frequency, in the United States, thanks among other things to the repeated headlines generated by Dr. Jack Kevorkian (whose invention of a “suicide machine” several years ago helped “set the stage for a national debate on physician-assisted suicide” (Brunelli 1998: B3). Though he is an extreme example of someone who thinks matters of life and death are for individuals to decide, Jack Kevorkian has dramatically and undeniably done much to force the issue of a putative “right to die” onto the public agenda (Tye 1998: A1; Editorial 1998: A14).
On the other hand, although hospice care continues to receive largely very favorable press in the United States (“Hospices are Best . . .” 1998: A28), as recently as early in 1998, the New York Times had a major article entitled “As Life Ebbs, So Does Time To Elect Comforts of Hospice” (Stolberg 1998: A1), highlighting some of the ways that even dying patients who do (eventually) have access to hospice care may end up with precisely what they and their families were trying to avoid: a death burdened with procedures and machines, discomfort and distress of several kinds.

The issue I wish to consider here is this: To what extent do the hospice movement and the right-to-die movement – separately or together – adequately reflect values held to be central in contemporary United States society, and do these movements (again, separately or together) give appropriate room for physicians to exercise the compassion towards the dying that the dying desire? Since it is clearly impossible in the time available to explore all the ramifications of this matter, I wish to concentrate on one salient feature of the debate. I will focus on the opposing views of two dominant movements, broadly defined: the Hospice movement (under which umbrella I include such institutions as the Center for Care of the Dying at George Washington University), and the Right-to-Die movement, to which I shall give the umbrella term “Hemlock” – borrowed from the classically allusive Hemlock Society (and exemplified by such organizations as Compassion in Dying and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society); my emphasis today will be on the differences in the kinds of arguments the two movements rely on to bolster their positions. By making those differences explicit – more specifically, by making the underlying claims (the hidden premises) explicit – I hope it will be possible to reduce the confusion and tension that arise for casual observers. The confusion stems largely from the fact that the two movements – though ostensibly concerned with the same issue – generally seem to be at loggerheads. Their respective approaches to the dying process appear incompatible; my aim is to see whether and how a passable bridge between the two can be built. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Wilson On Circular Arguments

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
In his paper “Circular Arguments” Kent Wilson (1988) argues that any account of the fallacy of begging the question based on epistemic conditions is inadequate and suggests grounds on which a more satisfactory analysis can be provided. He does this by criticizing the epistemic attitude in the fallacy analysis and showing how this has led to an unacceptable analysis of the fallacy of begging the question. I will concentrate on Wilson’s two main points. First of them is Wilson’s argument against the epistemic condition:  that we should not overemphasize the assumption that an argument should prove its conclusion. Wilson admits that it is an important function of the argument, but thinks that we should recognize other purposes as well, such as refuting a proposition or undermining confidence in it. Understanding these other purposes would then contribute to the study of the fallacy and point us to a better analysis. I will try to show that Wilson’s ideas on argument’s functions are compatible with the epistemic analysis and that they do not therefore improve our understanding of the fallacy.
The second point I wish to comment on is Wilson’s argument against the division of the fallacy of begging the question into two types: the equivalence and the dependency type. According the equivalence type, a fallacy is committed when the conclusion is equivalent with some premise. In the dependency type some premise is dependent on the conclusion: its acceptability somehow depends on the conclusion’s acceptability. This dependency is often analysed in doxastic or epistemic terms, as for example Sanford and Biro have done. Wilson argues that the dependency view of the fallacy of begging the question is not adequate for several reasons and assumes the equivalence view. I will argue for the dependency view of the fallacy. I do not believe we can subsume it to the equivalence type. Wilson’s critique in fact coincides with Biro’s views on some points. In conclusion, I argue that the epistemic version of dependency can adequately analyse the fallacy of begging the question.

2. On the functions of the argument
Wilson argues that to understand the fallacy of begging the question better, we must widen our view of the functions of the argument from the epistemic emphasis. This epistemic approach has assumed the status of background assumption. It shows in the fallacy theory as an attitude that the primary purpose of an argument is to prove some proposition. He quotes two writers that he thinks have especially emphasized this function, David Sanford and John Biro. Sanford’s formulation of this idea is that an argument should increase the degree of reasonable confidence which one has in the truth of the conclusion (Sanford 1981: 150). According to Biro, an argument should make us know that something, which we did not know to be true, is true, because of something which we do know to be true (Biro 1977: 264). Wilson points out that Biro even seems to go as far as to say that knowledge is the sole aim of the argument when he writes that “Someone that has seen Socrates die would not need an argument for the proposition that Socrates is mortal.”(Biro 1984: fn. 5, 243). Wilson criticizes these views. He thinks that we must recognize other purposes as well:
“For example, arguments are offered on occasion to refute some proposition, or to undermine confidence in it by giving a counter argument against it or by showing that an argument that has been given for it is not valid. Arguments are also given in contexts where one wants to understand better a passage of a text or a discourse – perhaps even a novel or other fiction – to unfold the implications of a plot or of a theory, for example. Somewhat further removed from proving paradigm of argumentation as the marshalling of evidence, arguments are sometimes given in order to explain, to understand, and to predict … arguments may be given in order to answer correctly a puzzle or a problem, where “real knowledge” or even belief need not be involved.” (Wilson 1988: 39.) Read more

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