ISSA Procedings 1998 – Public Argument In The Post-Mass Media Age

ISSAlogo1998In recent years, the demise of the “public sphere” has been a frequent subject for discussion, among philosophers, political scientists, sociologists, cultural critics, and argumentation theorists (Goodnight 1982; 1987; Hauser 1998; Verstraeten 1996). The discussion has been provoked, at least in part, by Jurgen Habermas’ (1975; 1979; and 1989) declarations that the public sphere had been “colonized.” Habermas’ argued that we needed to emancipate public discourse and identify new communication practices that could both create and sustain a more democratic “lifeworld.”
Our own interest in this topic has resulted in a series of papers that examine both argumentation theory and pedagogy. In previous studies we explored the demise of the argumentative free marketplace for ideas, the importance of having students engaged in “real world” disputes, the poverty of conventional forms of argumentation in politics and democratic processes, and proposed alternative sites for a democratic lifeworld (Hollihan, Riley & Klumpp 1993; Klumpp, Riley & Hollihan 1995; and Riley, Klumpp & Hollihan 1995). This essay extends our project by considering how the changing media environment may impact the possibility for public argumentation and civic deliberation.
We argue that the era of the mass audience and mass media is ending. While an optimistic reading of the future might lead one to claim that the advent of new media technologies will enhance the possibilities for civic participation by increasing the opportunities for citizens to express themselves, the new technologies may serve only to further isolate citizens and decrease their political influence.

The paper proceeds by:
1.considering the origins and emergence of the notion of the public sphere and the liberal political philosophy it reflects;
2. discussing the development of mass society and the mass media as a modernist invention;
3. arguing that the era of mass media is coming to a close;
4. assessing the consequences of a post-mass media society on the abilty to form a democratically engaged citizenry; and
5) identifying some responses mandated for argumentation study and pedagogy by the new media world.

This essay raises many new questions as it offers insights on changing publics and arguments. It is only through such preliminary discussions and criticisms, that argumentation scholars can help ascertain the approaches available for public argument that can strengthen the citizenry’s voice in their own governance and place in the global milieux.

1. Origins of the Public Sphere Concept
The notion of an engaged, civic minded public capable of forming themselves through social interactions emerged as enlightenment thinkers contemplated the requirements for democratic civic engagement. This was an essentially bourgeois vision, conceptually described as a forum accessible to as many people as possible, where a wide variety of social experiences could be expressed. The public sphere, thus came to occupy a space between the state, and the private spheres of life where questions of individual beliefs or conduct remained autonomous (Habermas 1989; Balthrop 1989). This sphere was the salon, the coffeehouse, the pub, or in the early days of the American republic, the town meeting. Citizens engaged in the public sphere provided a rich storehouse of public opinion, defined as a body of discourse and arguments constituting public will and values, from which governmental officials and other societal leaders could draw rhetorical sustenance and legitimacy. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Conditional Reasoning

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction: logic and argumentation[i]
I would like to start with a pronouncement: I believe that logic is and must be a essential tool for the testing, classification and explication of arguments as well as reasonings. Specially, it’s the job of logic to distinguish between valid and unvalid arguments, as well as between good and bad reasonings. In this sense, the main role of logic in the theory of argumentation is not descriptive nor explanatory, but normative. I think this deontic dimension is necessary for drawing the boundaries between rhetoric and argumentation, which are the boundaries between proving and persuasion.
This solemn beginning is not just to release myself. From my point of view, it’s not a passing fancy to remind the normative character of logic. A logical entity may be used as a model for a physical or mental entity, but in any case it’s a ideal model. In the case of argumentations, this means that it has not the properties of the real entity, but the properties that we think the real entity ought to have.
The aim of this lecture is to provide a definition as well as a brief explanation of a special kind of reasonings which I will call “conditional reasoning”. This definition must be understood as the first step to a general theory of conditional reasoning which is not explained here, and whose main bricks are the logical theory of conditionals (see Vilanova 1995, Vilanova 1996). The term “conditional reasoning” is a new one in the literature, so some people will look to it in surprise. Nevertheless, a lot of authors have defined similar notions, and all of them have showed a big interest in the topic. Later on we will see some examples. For the moment it’s enough to note that the medieval logicians use a very similar notion when defining the “dubium proponitur” (I propose to doubt) arguments: arguments where something evident or firmly believed is negated, in order to know what theoretical consequences it would produce.

2. A “prima facie” definition
I will begin by explaining the two words included in the title. I would distinguish two senses of the word “reasoning”:
i. Cognitive or Psychological sense: a mental event consisting in a thinking process directed to the resolution of some problem. This is the customary sense of the word reasoning, the sense we mean when we talk about the reasonings that our neighbours make, or the reasonings that our politicians don’t make. In other words, this is the action to which we compel when we say “use your brain, reason!”
ii. Logical sense: a triad D,C where P is the set of premises, C is the conclusion, and D is a deduction of C from P. P, D and C are set of sentences. They may belong to a formal language (for example, the language of first order logic with some supplementary symbols as identity, modal symbols, conditional operators…). But they may belong to a natural language. Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as scientific books, are full of reasonings in this sense where the sentences belong to a natural language. The main difference between an argument and a reasoning is that in a argument the premises are supposed to be true. On the contrary, in a reasoning the premises don’t need to be true; they are just those propositions not proved in the deduction.

We may understand a reasoning in the logical sense as a model of a reasoning in the cognitive sense. In other words, we use linguistic entities (propositions) for modelling mental entities. Some philosophers and psychologists, as Fodor, think that mental entities are also linguistic entities belonging to a special language, the language of mind. If they are right, then we ought to speak about public linguistic reasonings (second sense) as models of private linguistic reasonings (first sense). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Conditions For Spontaneous Production Of Computer-Mediated Argumentative Dialogues Between Learners

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
This research aims to experiment the conditions for spontaneous production of argumentative dialogues between learners, in problem-solving situations. Since relatively little research has been carried out in this field of research, this paper proposes a restricted set of hypotheses, from both theoretical and practical points of view, on the conditions under which such discussions can be produced. A computer-based environment, involving synchronous typewritten communication, has been implemented in order to test these hypotheses, and to collect a corpus of argumentative interactions that is adapted for the validation of a cognitive model of this type of interaction. Preliminary analyses of the corpus gave quite encouraging results.
Up to the present date, some research in the field of cooperative learning has been carried out on the role of dialogic interactions in the processes of concept acquisition or comprehension (e.g. Thorley & Treagust 1987 ; Baker 1996). However, much less research relates to the study of the conditions under which argumentative interactions are produced between learners. Golder (1996) carried out research on young pupils’ criteria for obtaining argumentative texts (the task was to compose a coherent text, while arguing successively in favour of two conflicting points of view, with respect to a particular question). Other research has been carried out on the design of computer-based environments, using computer mediated communication (CMC) for promoting certain types of interaction, by a suitably structured dialogue interface (Baker & Lund 1997). All of this research shows, that the conditions for producing argumentative dialogues are very diverse, including for example cognitive, social aspects as well as the design of the interface itself. The approach described here is practical as well as theoretical, the main aim being to collect a corpus of argumentative dialogues within a cognitive modelling framework.
This paper presents a experimental situation, designed for the production of argumentative dialogues, by computer mediated communication (CMC), between learners, on a specific problem-solving task in physics : the elaboration of simple qualitative models of energy (“energy chains”, Tiberghien 1994). Once this work has been situated in the framework of research related to argumentation modelling, the hypotheses and modelling constraints that contribute to the elaboration of the experiment are exposed. Then a corpus sample is given, that includes a CMC discussion of one dyad and the individual attitudes of the two participants, just before and just after the interaction. In conclusion, some qualitative preliminary results are given, related to the evaluation of the situation with respect to its original aim : provoking spontaneous argumentative dialogues.

2. Research project
The work described here is situated within the research framework of a PhD thesis in cognitive science, the aim of which is to investigate the cognitive changes (specifically, changes in attitudes) of learners that result from engaging in argumentative dialogues. As part of this work, a computational model based on artificial intelligence techniques is currently under development (Quignard & Baker 1997). The model comprises two belief sets (Doyle 1979) imbedded in two artificial agents, whose dialogue is based on a dialectical model of argumentation (Barth & Krabbe 1982) using multifunctional communicative acts (Bunt 1989).
From a methodological point of view, this cognitive modelling approach requires collecting specific empirical data, for validation of the model. This data must include a dialogue corpus, containing modellable argumentative phases, and give access to the participants’ attitudes at the boundaries of these phases. Since that kind of corpus is not naturally available, a specific experimental situation has been designed and implemented for this purpose. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Changing Ethos Of Physicians And Implications For Their Ability To Persuade

ISSAlogo1998Physicians in the United States have enjoyed a particularly high social status during the 20th century. But increasing concern about patient autonomy and about noncompliance with prescribed regimens, as well as questions about whether doctors always act in the best interests of their patients, especially when health insurance companies are involved, have called into question the credibility and authority that physicians have enjoyed for so long. Large quantities of research about patient noncompliance have been produced in recent years (Donovan & Blake, 1992), accompanied by concerns about how patients may be persuaded to follow prescribed regimens. This concern about persuasion may be associated with changing perceptions about the character or authority of physicians in general.
Aristotle’s Rhetoric has been read as dividing artistic proofs or interior persuaders, for which the rhetorician constructs the material, into three forms of persuasive appeal: to reason (logos), to emotion (pathos), and to the speaker’s authority and character (ethos). In the Rhetoric, Book 1, Chapter 2, Aristotle states that character may be the most effective means of persuasion that speakers possess. Ethos involves presenting oneself so as to be believed, and plays a significant role in the success of a presentation (Welch, 1990: 139). In the context of practitioner-patient communication, it influences patients’ perceptions of their physicians and the likelihood that patients will be persuaded to follow medical instructions.
Until recently the medical profession has exercised dominant control over the markets and organisations in medicine that affect its interests, but the profession’s autonomy and dominance are now in jeopardy (Starr, 1982). Healers have not always been held in high regard. Ancient Roman physicians were primarily slaves, former slaves, or foreigners, and medicine was considered a low grade occupation; in eighteenth century England, physicians struggled for the patronage of the rich; even in the United States before 1900, many doctors found it difficult to make a living and had much less influence than they have enjoyed in the 20th century (Starr, 1982, pp. 6-7). The authority of physicians in the United States may now be eroding, following increased patient autonomy and the increasing use of physicians as administrators for health insurance companies. Starr (1982) has pointed out that: “The more administrative uses the state and other institutions find for professionals, the more they may simultaneously expand and undermine their authority” as patients wonder whether their welfare really comes first (p. 12). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Evaluating ‘Pros’ And ‘Cons’: More Or Less Polarised Opinions?

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
The experiment presented in this paper [i] was designed in order to examine whether providing subjects with arguments which supported each side of the case in a casual manner would lead the participants to revise their own point of view and to adopt a less polarised position. The findings from the study by Lord, Ross and Lepper (1979) run against this hypothesis. In their study, there were two groups of subjects who held opposing views on capital punishment. Each subject was asked to evaluate two invented studies, one claiming to demonstrate that capital punishment had a deterrent effect on the incidence of serious crimes and the other concluding that it did not. The studies assessed by the subjects used different methodologies. One was a comparison of crime rates in various states before and after the adoption of capital of punishment; the other compared the crime rates of neighbouring states with and without capital punishment. Subjects tended to be more critical about the study that disagreed with their position, whichever methodology it used. The results of Lord, Ross and Lepper’s (1979) study indicated that people’s beliefs became even more polarised in their original directions, following the evaluation of both supporting and contradicting evidence. It is hypothesised that, in the present experiment, the effect of asking people to evaluate evidence on their opinion may be associated with the type of topic they are dealing with and with the level of attachment to the issue in question. It was expected that the evidence evaluation procedure would have a greater effect on people’s opinions when the issue in question was not closely related to subjects’ basic values. By ‘basic values’ I mean those related to moral notions about life and human behaviour. In these cases, it is hypothesised that, contrary to the results of the previous studies, subjects’ opinion will be less polarised after the examination of the mixed evidence.
In order to investigate the hypotheses raised in this experiment, the participants were asked to give their opinion on two different issues: animal experimentation and the pros and cons of shopping at a supermarket or local shops. The former topic was regarded as having an ‘emotional’ content and being more likely to be related to subjects’ moral beliefs and the latter as being a less emotive topic. Subjects’ opinion on each topic was assessed before and after they had evaluated a list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ and written down their comments on the two issues.

2. Method
2.1. Subjects
Twenty four subjects recruited from the student population of the University of Sussex (UK) were paid to take part in this study. Fourteen of the participants were female and the remain ten subjects were male. Their age ranged from 18 to 29 with an average of 22 years old. The selection of the subjects took into account their opinion on animal experimentation. Half of them were in favour of it and the other half did not agree with the use of animals in scientific experimentation.

2.2. Material
The materials involved two lists of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ associated with animal experimentation and the idea of shopping at a supermarket or local shops. The list regarding the issue of animal experimentation included general supports for each side of the case based on arguments often used by subjects in previous experiments (Santos, 1996). The list for the ‘supermarket versus local shop’ issue was presented within the context of the hypothetical case of the construction of a new supermarket in the countryside. Each list contained six statements in favour and six against the subject in question. In both cases, the lists were introduced by a short comment on the associated subject. The introductory comment on each topic and its corresponding list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ were written on the same page and can be seen below: Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Evasion In Question-Answer Argumentation: An Empirical Extension

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
1.1. Rationale
Dialectical theories of argumentation feature question and answer sequences as one basic procedure for building and testing arguments (Hamblin, 1970; Walton, 1989a). In their simplest, ideal forms, questions call on respondents to refine an informational ground presupposed by the question and to commit to the truth of the refined proposition (cf. Bolinger, 1957; Carlson, 1985). Yes/no questions call on the respondent to provide assent (“Yes”) or dissent (“No”) with a questioned proposition. “Are these clothes dirty?” presupposes that either these clothes are dirty or these clothes are not dirty, and the respondent is called upon to commit to one or the other proposition. Alternative questions call on the respondent to select from among a set of exhaustive and mutually exclusive alternatives. “Is this theory a rhetorical, dialectical, or logical approach?” presupposes that this theory is one and only one of the following: this theory is a rhetorical approach, or this theory is a dialectical approach, or this theory is a logical approach. The respondent is called on to commit to one or another of those propositions. WH-questions presuppose some proposition containing a variable (the WH-word/phrase) with an open range of values. For example, “Where is Baluchistan?” presupposes that Baluchistan is somewhere. The respondent is called on to declare a proposition that further specifies the value of the WH-variable (who with someone, where with somewhere, how with somehow, what with something, and why with some reason).

And overlaid on these structural constraints on content are additional pragmatic constraints (see Grice, 1975). What counts as a proper and fitting answer to a question depends upon a mutual understanding of the information space carved out by a question and of the activity for which the information is used. What counts as a relevant, informative, and even truthful or straightforward answer depends upon the purpose of the question, and what is taken to be problematic and what is taken for granted. Thus, “Central Asia” may not be an informative answer to the question “Where is Baluchistan?” if the questioner wants to know where Pakistan exploded its nuclear test bomb but may be informationally sufficient if the questioner wants to know where the extinct giant mammal, the Baluchithere, once lived. Or again, the question “Are these clothes dirty?” may get a quite different truthful answer depending on whether the purpose of the question is to obtain information in deciding whether or not they should be drycleaned, added to the current load of laundry, worn for hanging around the house, or worn to a party.
While there is considerable complexity in the circumstances of their use – as well as complexities and variations in the form of questions themselves – the basic point to see is that questions elicit from respondents pragmatic commitments to propositions. Moreover, questions elicit commitments in ways that pragmatically constrain the kind of propositions the respondent can properly select for commitment. And from these constraints, the informational ground of dialogue is refined and positions may be tested.
Of course, the success of even the simplest idealized question-answer argumentation depends upon clear questions with uncontroversial presuppositions and straightforward, truthful answers to those questions. In practice, questions are often complex, their points opaque, their presuppositions loaded with controversial assumptions. Under less than ideal conditions an appropriate and fitting answer may actually require a reply that is not simple, direct, straightforward, and obviously to the point. Hedging, qualifying, elaborating, and framing answers, and various ways of correcting and pre-empting questions often are cooperative contributions to a complicated situation. Then again, often they are not.

Through the dynamics of questions and answers interlocutors may find themselves faced with defending equally unwelcome choices of position, committed to unanticipated conclusions, forced to abandon positions in which they have a vested interest, or simply compelled to disclose information they would rather not provide. Rather than embrace such consequences, respondents may construct utterances that bend, break, bruise or abandon the principles of cooperative engagement.
Argumentation theorists have long acknowledged that complicated questions of various sorts constitute fallacies that impair argumentative discourse (cf. Walton, 1989a; 1989b; 1991). But they have been less quick to take up systematic problems in answers. This paper examines a type of complicated answer that also constitutes what we think is a fallacy of argument: evasive “answers”. Evasive “answers” are, from our point of view, a subclass of the more general class of answer avoidances. Though they appear to be answers to the question asked, evasive “answers” are not really answers at all (thus the scare quotes). Read more

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