ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Validity Of Distributed Inference; Towards A Formal Specification Of Validity Criteria In Argumentative Models

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Many disciplines, including gametheory, the theory of social choice, conversation analysis, social psychology and organization theory are in some way or another concerned with distributed inference. Roughly put, this notion refers to those patterns of reasoning, arguing or deciding where more than one agent affects (the outcome of) the process of reasoning, arguing or deciding. These agents may fulfill different roles, they may have distinct knowledge, preferences and even conflicting interests, but they are interdependent as well. They are aware that moves and choices of other agents may influence their own interests and they may even adopt their choices and preferences to the expected choices of the others.
However, in order to act in a rational way and to achieve individual or collective goals, this idea of “mutual awareness” usually is not enough. Quite often, agents are urged to commit themselves to some form of joint activity or cooperation. We are aware that this very generic description of distributed inference includes many divergent and hardly related models in the field of reasoning. Indeed, also much work in modern argumentation theory can be qualified as such (Barth 1991). However, for our purposes this description suffices.
Without adhering to a radical argumentativism like Ducrot and Anscombre (all language-use is argumentative) we believe there is a raising conviction that important types of distributed inference are primarily argumentative and consequently should be modeled as such. In (Starmans 1996b) the role of argumentation theory in Artificial Intelligence was reviewed and some relations between both fields were explored. Furthermore, many formal approaches to commonsense reasoning, including (Loui 1991) (Vreeswijk 1993) (Hage 1993) (Starmans 1996a) and (Verheij 1996) adopt argumentative insights, concepts and methods. But also in organization theory, business communication and qualitative marketing research various diagnostic and evaluative instruments or tools have been developed, that can be considered as argumentative: they can be analyzed as a verbal and social goal-oriented activity, a process of constructing, weighing and combining arguments and counterarguments. They include Porter’s 5-forces model (Porter 1980) and the so called MABA-analysis (Market-Attractiveness Business-Assessment), a well-known method in portfolio analysis. What’s more, some of these models can be reconstructed rather easily as a critical discussion. (Starmans, forthcoming).

In our doctoral dissertation (Starmans 1996a) it was argued that formal models of distributed inference should be based on a suitable, integrated theory of argumentation. A mere eclecticism of concepts and ideas taken from argumentation theory does by no means provide a solid foundation for developing such models. In this paper we focus on one related and significant problem, that seems to be a bottleneck in the before mentioned models as well; the validity of distributive argumentative models. How can these inferences be validated and what concept of validity do we require?
Unfortunately, the term validity is not unproblematic. It has many uses, meanings and dimensions in logic, argumentation theory and social science, and none of these fields possesses a monopoly of its use.
Avoiding the extensive literature on the topic, in this paper we will focus on one aspect of the problem of validity in distributive argumentative models, that is closely related to the idea of intersubjective validity. Since this notion deals with the conformity between the model’s components and the “values, standards and objectives actual arguers find acceptable” (Barth 1982), an important question is: what role, does the initial knowledge of different agents play in the ultimately accepted arguments and conclusions.

How can these “initial commitments” be combined, integrated, adopted or aggregated? Debates may proceed in different ways, but one cannot validate specific moves or rather the entire procedure without representing requirements regarding these initial commitments. It is argued that in order to validate the process of argumentation, these validity criteria have to be represented in a declarative, i.e. non-procedural way. It is shown that this can be achieved by defining an aggregation function and by specifying formal properties of it. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Strategies And Tactics Used By F.W. De Klerk And Nelson Mandela In The Televised Debate Before South Africa’s First Democratic Election

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
1.1 Research questions and method used
Presidential debates began as an innovation in the 1960 election campaign between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. Since then televised debates have become a permanent and major part of the election process in the United States (Nimmo & Sanders 1981: 273). A similar debate took place between President Nelson Mandela (then, leader of the African National Congress, ANC) and the former President F. W. de Klerk, (then, leader of the National Party, NP) before South Africa’s first fully democratic election. It is highly probable that this debate – a first for SA – will set an example for similar debates. With the second election for the new SA in 1999, it seems apposite to do research on this trend-setting debate.

This study is a step in understanding and evaluating the processes involved in debating. From this analysis might come further discussions to improve the quality of debating and argumentation, in order to enrich democracy and allow citizens to make well informed decisions.
The focus of this paper is on the discursive logic or rational aspect of the message (Smith 1988:268), namely the verbal strategies and tactics. Therefore, this study endeavours to answer the following questions:
* Which verbal strategies and tactics have been used by the two debaters?
* Are there significant similarities and/or differences?
* Were they more “issue” or more “image” oriented?

In order to answer these questions the so-called Humanistic approach has been used. According to Smith (1988:269), this approach generates descriptive and inferential information, but its principal contribution consists of interpretations and criticism. In a certain sense this is a qualitative case study of a communication artefact (Watt & Van den Berg 1995:256; Marshall & Rossman 1995:124).
The following method has been used:
A verbatim transcription of the debate from video;
1. the strategies that Martel (1983:62-72) identified, as well as Rank’s model (Larson 1995: 15-21) have been used to identify and apply tactics and strategies;
2. a descriptive analysis (De Wet 1991:160) to indicate similarities or differences in the use of strategies and tactics;
3. an evaluation of the descriptive analysis.

1.2 Election background
The analysis must be viewed against the particular context of this debate. This election was not a normal one, but the first fully democratic election with a regime change. According to political scientist Theo Venter (1998) it was a so-called “designer” election, because the result was a forgone conclusion. The ANC’s take-over had been built on their high legitimacy because of the struggle against apartheid, where as Mr. De Klerk (hence: De Klerk) and the NP enjoyed deligitimation in the eyes of the masses. President Mandela (hence: Mandela) knew the ANC was the majority party and indeed they won the election gathering 62.7% while the NP got 20,3% of the votes. One can assume that Mandela’s goal was to reassure his supporters, or simply to avoid doing anything that might jeopardise their support.

De Klerk, on the other hand, wanted a strong as possible opposition against the ANC: “We need a balance of power. There is only one party (NP) which can form the balance of power against the ANC”. Both of them knew beforehand that the ANC would win. The margin of winning was in doubt. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – ‘Blocking The Enthymeme’ – Does It Unblock Identity Problems In Argumentation?

ISSAlogo1998“There are some men. . . so wild and boorish in feature and gesture, that even though sound in talent and art, they cannot enter the ranks of the orators (Cicero 1942, 1988: 81).”

This is a quote from Cicero’s De Oratore. Cicero argued that appearance trumps oratorical skill, thereby keeping otherwise articulate people from being able to effectively use their discursive powers. Cicero did not suggest that these “wild and boorish” men would be unsuccessful orators, instead, their appearance served as an insurmountable barrier forcing their silence. While acknowledging the effect of a speaker’s appearance on a rhetorical situation, Cicero removes appearance from the realm of rhetoric. This position is consistent with rhetorical theory both before Cicero and today.
The appearance of a speaker has been largely ignored within the field of rhetoric. When appearance is addressed, it usually serves as background information rather than an analytic focal point. One reason for this may be that much of rhetorical criticism engages texts that are in written form and removed from the original speech situation. This explanation is inadequate because text-based rhetorical criticism allows contextual readings, based on both textual and extra-textual historical information. Therefore, there must be another reason. I hypothesize that appearance is not considered rhetorical. When I use the term rhetorical, I am referring to an Aristotelian definition of rhetoric. According to Aristotle, rhetoric is composed of arguments constructed by the speaker during the speech (artistic proofs) made up of enthymemes and examples. I turn to Aristotle in part because his well-known handbook, The Rhetoric, is the oldest known treatise on rhetoric, and because his theory of rhetoric serves as the cornerstone of the contemporary incarnation of rhetorical studies.
Aristotle did not discuss the physical appearance of orators. He argued that a speaker’s character (ethos) is constructed during the speech with words (Aristotle 1954, 1984: 24). Aristotle maintained that there was a clean separation between a person’s public identity and his/her private identity. It is also important to note that the cultural perspective from which Aristotle wrote required that to be an orator one must be a male Greek citizen. The specific appearance issues with which I am concerned, namely race, gender, and ethnicity, were not relevant in ancient Athens.
However, it is time for rhetoricians to stop regarding appearance issues as being the realm of rhetoric and, therefore, not our theoretical responsibility. Visual characteristics can, and do, prevent otherwise articulate speakers from effectively addressing audiences. In the multi-cultural world in which we live, it cannot be the case that discourse is only persuasively powerful for those born looking a certain way. If rhetoric, as a field of study, dooms to failure all people who are not completely void of non-dominant features, then the field itself is doomed.
Fortunately, appearance does function rhetorically. If we understand how it works, we can create rhetorical strategies which will allow all people, regardless of their appearance, to use their discursive powers effectively. A speaker’s appearance, although unchanging, has different meanings to different people in different situations. According to Stuart Hall, race (and by extension gender and ethnicity) are “floating signifiers.” Hall’s “floating signifiers” are signifiers whose meaning can never be fixed because they are based on relations not essences (Hall 1996). The inability to fix the signification of a person’s appearance makes it contingent. This contingency designates appearance as potentially rhetorical. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Students’ Skill In Judging Argument Validity

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Within the context of a national assessment study into argumentation skills a large number of paper-and-pencil tests were administered for the measurement of receptive and productive argumentation skills. This study revealed large individual differences. Students vary considerably in their skills in identifying and analysing argumentation (cf. Oostdam 1990; Oostdam & Eiting 1991; Van Eemeren, De Glopper, Grootendorst & Oostdam 1995) as well in their skills in producing argumentation (cf. Oostdam, De Glopper & Eiting 1994; Oostdam 1996). Obviously the cognitive field of argumentation skills is as heterogeneous as the cognitive fields of other language skills such as reading, writing, speaking and listening (cf. Oostdam & De Glopper 1995). In oral and written arguments language users make an appeal to diverging knowledge and skills.
In this article we will focus on the paper-and-pencil test for the measurement of students’ skill in judging argument validity. The test has been constructed according to a facet design in which the different facets define a specific form of valid and invalid arguments. Representative samples of students in secondary education were tested: grade nine students in junior vocational and lower general secondary education, grade ten students in higher general secondary education and grade eleven students in academic secondary education. The following research questions will be addressed: ‘To which degree are individual differences in skill in judging argument validity substantial and correlated with grade and school type?’, ‘To which degree are arguments correctly identified as valid or invalid?’ and ‘Do different types of valid and invalid arguments invoke different cognitive components or processes?’.

2. Research questions
In the pencil-and-paper test for judging argument validity we were concentrated on the students’ skills in evaluating the argument validity of four types of argumentation: a syllogistic argumentation based on all-premises (e.g. ‘All A are B. All B are C. So: all A are C’), a syllogistic argumentation based on some-premises (e.g. ‘All A are B. Some C are A. So: Some C are B’), the modus ponens (‘If P than Q. P. So: Q’) and the modus tollens (‘If P than not Q. Not Q. So: not P’).
In former empirical research into argumentation skills we revealed considerable evidence for individual differences in students’ performance in identifying and analysing argumentation. Therefore we would like to know whether individual differences also exist with regard to the judging of argument validity. Moreover we were interested in the correlation between the school type students visit and their ability of judging argument validity. After primary school students are referred to the different school types in Dutch secondary education on the basis of their general cognitive skills. It may be expected that occurring differences in argumentation skills correlate with differences in the general cognitive abilities of students. This assumption leads to the following research questions:
1. How substantial are the individual differences in judging argument validity?
2. To which degree are the individual differences in judging argument validity correlated with the type of school attended by the students?

Furthermore we were interested in effects on task difficulty of the different factors, type of argumentation and validity of argumentation, which are systematically manipulated by means of the facet design. This addresses the following research question:
3. What are the effects on task difficulty of the factors type of argumentation (syllogistic argumentation/modus argumentation) and validity of argumentation (valid/invalid)?

Finally we want to address the question whether the judging of different types of argumentation measure one single underlying skill or different cognitive skills or components. This leads to the question:
4. Do different types of valid and invalid argumentation invoke different cognitive skills or components? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Must Arguments Be Explicit And Violent? A Study Of Naïve Social Actors’ Understandings

ISSAlogo1998Argumentation is one way of settling differences, and it is often prized by theorists as an alternative to violence and other less intellectual ways of managing conflicts (e.g., Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca 1969; Ehninger & Brockriede 1963). We academics have no difficulty at all in seeing that arguing is a dramatically different sort of thing than physical fighting. The clarity with which we see this, however, may not match the perceptions of our students, or the public at large. This paper explores the possibility of perceptual connections between arguing and violence among ordinary people.

1. Literature Review
At the 1997 Alta meeting, we reported some intriguing results about naive social actors’ understandings of argument (Benoit & Hample 1997). We had asked them to keep diaries about conflicts that they had avoided or cut short. But in reading the diary accounts, we frequently found ourselves wondering what could possibly have been avoided or cut off, because the narratives seemed very complete to us. After a number of re-readings, we decided that, unlike argumentation scholars, our respondents assume that there is a “violence slot” in the development of face to face arguments, and if nothing physically aggressive happened, the argument had not moved through all its potential phases. We also realized that they seemed not to count something as an argument at all if the central claim-and-disagreement were not explicit. That is, if no one had gotten around to announcing the disagreement, they thought the interaction was unfinished.
We followed that study up with a larger one, still using data from conflict diaries, but undertaking systematic coding of the accounts instead of a qualitative reading of them (Hample, Benoit, Houston, Purifoy, VanHyfte, & Wardwell 1998). We found that explicitness and destructiveness of the arguments in the diaries were correlated at r = .80, which is extraordinarily high. In other words, the more explicit (i.e., argument-like) a conflict was, the more destructive it was. For our respondents, arguments seem not to be alternatives to violence; instead, they appear to be companions to fights, or causes of them, or parts of them, or perhaps even essential to their nature.

That we were surprised by this is surely due more to our own perceptual blinders than anything else. Earlier work has shown that people are definitely fearful that their arguments will get out of hand, in spite of their earnestly cooperative intentions (Benoit 1982). Trapp (1990) documented a tendency for arguments to escalate into verbal aggression, and Infante, Chandler, and Rudd (1989) suggest that these out-of-control arguments may trigger spouse abuse. When naïve actors are asked to list the specific actions that may take place in a face to face argument, many of them specify one or more slots for threats and physical violence (Hample, Dean, Johnson, Kopp, & Ngoitz 1997). Gilbert (1997) explores the idea that both the standard practices and standard theories of argument are competitive, agonistic, and masculine. Somehow, though, our own commitments to argumentation as an alternative to violence, as a rational path to conflict management, as an interactive ideal in the face of conflicting wants, made us see all these negative indications about the nature of argument as being nothing but minor perceptual distortions, failures to understand the real nature of arguing. We continue to hold our original commitments, but we now feel a greater need to acknowledge, understand, and respect what non-specialists think about all this. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Ad Baculum Is Not A Fallacy!

ISSAlogo19981. Practical Arguments
Our point of departure is the practical syllogism. The invention is Aristotle’s and the interpretation we give it is Anscombe’s (Anscombe, 1957). As is well-known, the standard syllogism is a discursive entity, an n-tuple of declarative sentences, of which the terminal member is the conclusion and the rest are premisses. In contrast, a practical syllogism is a mixed structure, part discursive and part non-discursive. The difference shows up in the conclusions of the two structures. In a standard syllogism, the conclusion is a sentence; in a practical syllogism the conclusion is an action. It is useful to compare practical syllogisms with deontic or prudential arguments. A simple example of such is:
1. If you are late home from the movies, you’ll irritate and worry your mother
2. So, you shouldn’t be late.

It is easy to construct what we could call the practical syllogisation of this argument. It is the ordered pair in which the first member is the premiss of the deontic argument

1* If you are late home from the movies, you’ll irritate and worry your mother.

and in which the second member, the conclusion, is not the sentence which bids the addressee not to be late, but is simply the addressee’s not being late.Thus the conclusion of our practical syllogism is the action advocated by the conclusion of the preceding deontic argument.

The distinction between deontic-prudential arguments and practical syllogisms calls to mind the old maxim that talk is cheap. `Cheap’ in turn suggests `suboptimal’, and, in some respects, this is precisely what can be claimed by deontic-prudential arguments in contrast with their practical syllogisations. It is one thing to get an addressee to concede that he should do such-and-such; it is another, and often better thing, that he actually do it. Better the cheque in the mail than `The cheque is in the mail’. We may say in a quite general way that a practical syllogism is the consummation of a deontic arguer’s intent.

In this note we propose to expand the concept of practical syllogism in a slight but natural way. We shall attempt to show that modest though the extension might be, it produces results of genuine consequence for the theory of argument. In our proposal, a second way of being a practical syllogism is one in which one or more of the premisses is an action rather than a sentence. It is a point worth emphasising that the conclusions and, as we now may say, the premisses that make for practical syllogisms are role-specific. Any action by any agent at any time, make for a true proposition, namely the proposition ascribing that action to that agent at that time. Any of these truths is available in principle as the conclusion or as a premiss of some or other bit of argument that may chance at a time to bubble out of the dialectical soup of the human community. Such arguments are not made into practical syllogisms in consequence of this fact; for it is the actions themselves, not the sentences they make true, that are the irreducible components of practical syllogisms. In Aristotle’s conception of it, the action that is the conclusion must be the action of the party to whom the argument is addressed. In our extension of it, the action that is the premiss of a practical syllogism must be the action of the maker of the argument, not his addressee. So there is an agent-specific asymmetry between, as we shall now say, conclusionally practical syllogisms and premissorily practical syllogisms. Read more

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