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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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Identity Crisis Of Informal Logic

ISSAlogo1998Informal logic is an area of serious scholarly study that has achieved a somewhat grudging acceptance in philosophy only recently, and is till not seen as a leading subject of research. It is not clear exactly where it belongs in the curriculum, or even whether it really a kind of logic, in the same sense as formal logic. It could fit in better as a branch of philosophy of language or epistemology, in some ways, because it is addressed to stuying argumentation in natural language texts of discourse, and it typically has the task of dealing with inconclusive arguments based on opinions that are subject to doubts. Nearly all philosophy departments teach informal logic, under some heading, at the introductory level, and these classes are often the biggest in the department. But offer courses in it beyond the introductory level.
But some would say that these large introductory courses are not courses in informal logic, and in fact, they tend to be called by other names, like “critical thinking” or “practical reasoning”. Informal logic seems to be in a kind of limbo. Some would say it is not the same subject as critical thinking, while others would see no difference between the two subjects. Informal logic seems, in some ways, more like an academic subject, or even a theory, with a particular point of view or agenda. It seems to represent a group that rose in opposition to formal logic, or at least to the dominance of formal logic in the philosophy curriculum. But on the other hand, informal logic has always had a strong pedagogical orientation and motivation, arising from a felt need about what students ought to be taught to deal with the kinds of arguments they will encounter in everyday thinking about matters of real importance. Perhaps because it has grown out of instructional needs at the introductory or elementary levels of the teaching curriculum, it has not got the academic respect accorded to the more established traditional fields of philosophy.
Perhaps for these reasons, there is considerable ambivalence and uncertainty, even within the exponents of informal logic themselves, on how the subject should be titled and defined, on how it ought to be presented, and where it should fit into the philosophy curriculum.

1. The Identity Crisis
The twelve slected papers from the Third International Symposium on Informal Logic held at the University of Windsor in 1989, published in Johnson and Blair (1994), pose some interesting, and so far unanswered, questions about the status of informal logic as a discipline. What exactly is informal logic? What are its central methods and fundamental assumptions? How is it different from formal logic, critical thinking and argumentation theory? Does it have place in the logic curriculum, and what exactly is that place? The last question is a puzzle, because although informal logic is widely taught at the introductory level, and there is a growing scholarly literature, there is no graduate level instruction in it – or very little, compared to other fields in philosophy. Johnson and Blair (1994, p. 3) write that they know of only one philosophy doctoral program where it is possible to take courses in informal logic or argumentation, while in contrast, it is widely possible to take graduate courses in argumentation in speech communication departments. Another problem is that the widely used introductory textbooks do not seem to be based on, or even very often to acknowledge, the scholarly literature in informal logic, to the degree that you think would be normal and healthy in a field. Read more

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