ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Standpoints In Literary Reviews

ISSAlogo19981. Argumentation in literary reviews
In this paper I want to report about my analysis of the main standpoints in literary reviews from a pragma-dialectical point of view. This first exploration was carried out on a corpus of literary reviews in Dutch newspapers.
The main standpoint in a literary review is a value judgement about the quality of the book as a whole. There are more standpoints to be found in reviews. Reviewers advance arguments to support the acceptability of their standpoint. If they say the book is beautiful, they have to bring in arguments like ‘it is well-written, it opens new horizons for the reader’ etc. These arguments relate to certain characteristics of the book. They are value judgements on aspects of the book, such as style, reality, innovation, and information. These arguments serve as sub standpoints in the literary reviews, whereas the main standpoint is an utterance about the book as a whole.

2. Standpoints and value judgements
The term ‘standpoint’ is broader than the term ‘value judgement’. A standpoint not only can relate to the truth of propositions but also to their acceptability in a wider sense. Since a judgement may refer to the value of the subject of the utterance, it is a special kind of standpoint.
In literary reviews, the main standpoint is a judgement about the value of the book as a whole (and not about the values of certain aspects like style as pointed out before). Only relative terms can be used to express the value of books. Relative terms are always based on a scale. A scale is defined by two extremes: e.g. beautiful and awful, and the line between these extremes. In my survey, I postulated four different scales, on which the value of a book might be given.

1. The value of the book can be placed on a general scale from positive to negative. The general scale is between beautiful (or any other related positive qualification) and awful (or any other related negative qualification). Unlike the qualifications in the next scales, these qualifications are not exclusive for literature. “Fear could have been a terrible book because of all this, but it is a beautiful novel from the very start” (N. Hylkema, Leeuwarder Courant, 19-5-1995).
2. The value of the book can also be expressed by comparing a book with a general accepted standard of literature, a ‘literary scale’. For example: ‘This book is like a new Shakespeare. ’The value of Shakespeare’s work is generally accepted, so the book is evaluated in a positive way.[i]
3. The value can also be expressed by comparing a book with another book from the same author as in ‘This book disappointed me (…). His previous novel was much better. ’This scale can be called an oeuvre-scale. This is an example from the corpus: ‘The award has caused quite a stir. That is not so surprising, because the book is an average book that in the light of Llosa’s previous works looks particularly pale’ (S. de Vaan, de Volkskrant, 19-5-1995).
4. The value can also be given within a certain genre as in: ‘This book is a moving historical novel.’This utterance doesn’t specify the value of this book as a novel, but it does express the value as a historical novel. In this example ‘historical novel’ can be replaced by all genres: from historical novel to pulp fiction, from experimental novels to thrillers. I called this the genre-scale.[ii] Genre is used here in a broad sense: Dutch books can be called a genre as well. I found this example in the corpus: ‘Van Teylingen’s writings enriched Dutch literature’ (J. Diepstraten, de Gelderlander, 17-5-1995). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Argument Structure And Disciplinary Perspective

ISSAlogo1998Many in the informal logic tradition distinguish convergent from linked argument structure. How intuitively we may present this distinction is quite familiar. In some arguments, several premises may each be offered to support some conclusion but these premises are apparently intended to be taken together, to work together to constitute a case for the conclusion. Each premise given is somehow incomplete in itself. Its removal would leave the argument with a gap. As Stephen N. Thomas puts it in Practical Reasoning in Natural Language, the “reasoning involves the logical combination of two or more reasons,… each of which needs the others to support the conclusion.” (Thomas 1986: 58) Following Thomas, we say that such an argument has linked structure. By contrast, some arguments will have what Thomas calls convergent structure, where two or more premises are intended to support the conclusion separately, independently giving evidence for it.

The problem of distinguishing linked from convergent structure has proved vexing; indeed so vexing that it is currently the central problematic issue for understanding argument structure. The terminology in which Thomas and others have drawn the distinction is one obvious explanation for this difficulty. What do these key concepts of logical combination, premises needing each other, or being separate or independent mean? These characterizations are shot through with terms whose precise meaning is far from clear. What does it mean to say that reasons logically combine, that they need the others, that they fit together? What does it mean to say that they are completely separate or independent?

The metaphorical nature of the terms in which the linked-convergent distinction is frequently cast may betray a more fundamental difficulty with this distinction. It is a confusion over just exactly what this distinction is to mark. It is the thesis of this paper that the linked-convergent distinction, which we regard as a logical distinction, is frequently confused with a dialectical or pre-logical distinction, the distinction between multiple and co-ordinatively compound argumentation as defined by the pragma-dialectical school. This distinction is sometimes regarded as marking the linked-convergent distinction, but only using different terminology. However, as I shall argue, the distinction is quite different. According to van Eemeren and Grootendorst in Speech Acts in Argumentative Discussions, a multiple argumentation consists of “a series of separate and independent single argumentations for or against the same initial expressed opinion.” (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1984: 91) Each argumentation is (or is intended to be) individually sufficient to justify accepting (or rejecting) the initial expressed opinion. With co-ordinatively compound argumentation, the single argumentations are “only sufficient together” (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1984, 91). In Argumentation, Communication, and Fallacies, they point out that in “multiple argumentation, the constituent single argumentations are, in principle, alternative defenses of the same standpoint” (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1992: 73). Again, “What matters most is that the individual arguments should count as independent defenses of the same standpoint” (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1992: 75). By contrast, “Compound argumentation consists of a combination of single argumentations that are…presented collectively as a conclusive defense defense of a standpoint….In a coordinative argumentation, each argument individually is presented as being a partial support for the standpoint, but it is only in combination with the other arguments that it is presented as a conclusive defense” (van Eemeren and Grootendorst 1992: 76, 77).[i]

Why should we not see van Eemeren and Grootendorst as drawing the linked-convergent distinction, only using different terminology? Why does the multiple versus co-ordinatively compound terminology mark a different distinction from the linked-convergent contrast? The answer comes, as I have already suggested, from the fact that the multiple-co-ordinatively compound distinction is dialectical, whereas the linked-convergent distinction is logical. We have two different disciplines here out of which these distinctions have come, disciplines with different perspectives on argumentation. Let me make it clear that by saying that these perspectives are different, I am not suggesting that one perspective is valid and the other not, or that one perspective is superior to the other. The perspectives of these disciplines may be equally valuable, but they are different, have different goals, and should not be confused. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Critical Thinking: Assessment, Flow Charts And Computers

ISSAlogo1998This paper will look at some new directions in the teaching of critical thinking. This project originally began as an assessment project to discover how well our students were mastering the critical thinking unit in our introductory philosophy course. By using computers to test the pre and post course skills of students, and by running some statistical analyses of what students were and were not learning, I became aware that students had little difficulty memorizing logical concepts – they could define arguments, they understood the difference between premises and conclusions, etc.What they were not able to do successfully, or as successfully as I would like, is apply these concepts to new material. They had difficulty distinguishing arguments from other forms of discourse, evaluating new arguments for strength and validity and recognizing examples of pseudoreasoning. What they most needed help in was learning the skills one uses to come to the decision that a passage does or does not contain an argument, or that a particular form of fallacious reasoning is being used.
My initial computer exercises focused on reinforcing the nature of the concepts – what an argument is, what a slippery slope involves, distinguishing between valid and invalid arguments, etc. These exercises improved student outcomes, but not as significantly as I had hoped. My next step was to develop flow charts to help students picture graphically the relevant reasoning processes. I have used three such charts, designed to help students recognize arguments, recognize valid arguments, and recognize several informal fallacies. The students could then use these flow charts to develop their own methods to accomplish these tasks.
By focusing on the processes used to make logical decisions, I hope to show that students can master logical concepts more easily. Most logic texts are problem based; yet little is offered on processes to solve the problems. For example, most texts include problems on identifying arguments, but do not show the steps necessary to distinguish arguments from other types of discourse. Notable exceptions to this are units on more complicated logical procedures such as diagraming arguments, using Venn Diagrams and logical proofs. Logic Texts address part of this problem when they teach students how to recognize premises and conclusions. The expectation seems to be that if students can understand the concept of an argument, they can therefore identify arguments in practice. But I do not find this to be the case. This is not enough to give students the ability to distinguish arguments from other types of discourse. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – “Scorching Irony, Not Convincing Argument, Is Needed”: Frederick Douglass On Some Rhetorical Limitations Of Argumentation

ISSAlogo1998This is the fourth ISSA conference to which I have contributed a paper. Each paper, with the exception of the first, has discussed the ideas of some thinker who was, for one reason or another, largely opposed to the strong Western insistence upon argumentative justification. Thus in 1990 I rehearsed Friedrich Schlegel’s complex rationale for believing that “nothing should, and nothing can be proved,” while in 1994 I explored Plato’s attempt to “blame Lysias” for deviating from argumentative procedures which Plato advocated in theory but neglected to practice[i]. I have chosen to examine thinkers who are skeptical about, if not also opposed to, argumentation primarily because much of my own current work seeks to trace the long subalternated tradition of Western anti-argumentative, “declarative rhetoric.” I am interested, that is, in all of those thinkers who, for a wide range reasons, have come to believe that the process of providing reasons and inferences in support of claims, is not, or at least is not always, the best way to accomplish communicative, rhetorical or epistemological purposes. I must confess, however, that I especially enjoy discussing such argumentative agnostics and atheists at this particular conference, for this is a place which, more than any other I’ve encountered, abounds with the hubris of argumentation, and it gives me some small pleasure to play the role of the oracle of doom, to be the one who, however modestly, attempts to inject a smidgen of yin into a discourse that is otherwise so lopsidedly yang.
As part of my larger project of recuperating the long declarative protest to the hegemony of argumentative justification in the West, I am forever on the lookout for argumentative Nichtmitmacher, for those refractory types who refuse to accede to the conventional requirement that one be prepared to justify all of one’s assertions, or “declarations,” through recourse to argumentative justifications. I have by now collected quite a few odd characters in my declarative menagerie. Many of them, of course, oppose argumentation for rather poor reasons. But several of them, like Meister Eckhardt, Friedrich Schlegel, Soren Kierkegaard, Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Walter Benjamin, provide objections to argumentation that deserve to be taken very seriously.

The author I wish to discuss today, that 19th century escaped American slave, polymathic autodidact, turned abolitionist orator par excellence, Frederick Douglass, is yet another who has some objections to argumentation which, I believe, are well worth the consideration of all who, like me, are interested in the many ways argumentation has been challenged by the subalternated declarative tradition.
Douglass’s thoughts regarding the rhetorical limitations of argumentation occur toward the middle of what is generally, and I think rightfully, considered to be his oratorical masterpiece, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? An Address Delivered in Rochester, New York, on 5 July 1852.” I frequently have my students analyze this speech as part of my course on “Rhetoric and American Culture.” There are, of course, many features of the work that lend themselves especially well to rhetorical examination. Douglass is a master stylist, so it is easy for students to discover and scrutinize all manner of rhetorical devices, with which the work, like most 19th century American orations, is replete. The speech also exemplifies the characteristically American form of the jeremiad, a form inherited from early Puritan oratory much discussed in recent years.[ii] Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Nature Of Symptomatic Argumentation

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
There seems to be general agreement among argumentation theorists that argumentation schemes are principles or rules underlying arguments that legitimise the step from premises to standpoints. They characterise the way in which the acceptability of the premise that is explicit in the argumentation is transferred to the standpoint. The argumentation scheme that has been used by an arguer determines the specific relation that is established between the explicit premise and the standpoint that is being justified. This relation is not a formal but a pragmatic relation.
Argumentation schemes play an important role in the evaluation of argumentation. In order to evaluate an argumentation, one must first determine which argumentation scheme is employed. Then it can be established whether the premise is in an adequate way linked to the standpoint. For this purpose, one has to answer the critical questions that go with the argumentation scheme that has been used.

The pragma-dialectical typology of argumentation schemes is designed to enable an adequate evaluation of argumentation. In this typology, three types of argumentation are distinguished:
1. symptomatic or ‘token’ argumentation, where there is a relation of concomitance between the premise and the standpoint;
2. comparison or ‘similarity’ argumentation, where the relation is one of resemblance; and
3. instrumental or ‘consequence’ argumentation, where there is a causal relation between the premise and the conclusion.

These three argumentation types are categorised based on the way in which the argumentation scheme concerned is to be evaluated. With each type of argumentation go corresponding assessment criteria that pertain to the relation that is characterised in the argumentation scheme. This means that a new argumentation scheme should be distinguished only when it can be shown that “new” assessment criteria are needed to evaluate the corresponding type of argumentation.
Each of the pragma-dialectical argumentation schemes represents a category that can be subdivided into a number of subtypes. The reason for distinguishing between subtypes is that evaluating the argumentations concerned requires more specific evaluation criteria. Argumentation based on analogy is, for instance, a subtype of comparison argumentation which is to be distinguished because the critical question ‘Are the things that are compared (X and Y) comparable’ needs further specification. This way of classifying the argumentation schemes results in a typology that meets the requirements of an adequate classification: its categories are clearly demarcated, homogeneous, mutually exclusive, and non of them is superfluous. Read more

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Issa Proceedings 1998 – The History Of The Enthymeme

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction [i]
Enthymemes are on the agenda of modern rhetoric, argumentation theory, conversation and discourse analysis, formal and informal logic and critical thinking. However, in the various approaches to enthymemes there are many and sometimes large differences with respect to the definition of an enthymeme. In some cases the definitions do not even seem to refer to the same language phenomenon:
Some modern definitions of an enthymeme
An enthymeme is a truncated of abbreviated argument – (…) with either a missing premiss or an unstated conclusion (Crossley and Wilson, 1979: 106).
Enthymemes are arguments in which the support is matched to the questions and objections of the recipient (Jackson and Jacobs, 1980: 262).
The enthymeme does not require a particular linguistic frame, it is a form of thought, rather than a form of composition. (Nash 1989: 206)) This argument has all the earmarks of the enthymeme: the opening proposition, the syllogistic statement of contraries or incompatibles, the conclusion which is in effect a reformulation of the opening proposition (Nash, 1989: 210).
An enthymeme is an argument in which the speaker for pragmatic reasons left certain parts implicit, which means that at the logical level of analysis the missing part must be added in order to render the argument valid, while at the pragmatic level the particular assumption on which the argument relies has to be shown (Van Eemeren en Grootendorst, 1992).[ii]
These are just some examples. There are many other definitions that resemble one of them, but may differ in one aspect or another. This variety in definitions is puzzling. Are the differences only differences in stressing some aspect or another of essentially the same meaning, or do they reflect major theoretical differences? My main concern in this paper is to investigate and explain these differences, which I will do by giving you a historical overview. It is important to look into this, because it is often tacitly assumed that there is general consensus on what an enthymeme is, while in my view this is not the case. As a result of that, discussions on enthymemes sometimes suffer from a confusion of tongues. There are some thorough and helpful recent studies on the history of the enthymeme (e.g. Burnyeat, 1996; Braet, 1997), but these focus on one particular historical period, whereas I think that we need an overview of all the relevant periods. Read more

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