ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Argumentation And Public Debate

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Arguments play a role in public debates. Nobody will contest this statement. Disagreement starts when trying to specify what roles arguments play. In order to simplify I would like to distinguish two extreme positions. At one extreme, public debates can be conceived as argumentation. That means that each public debate can be understood as a complex process in which disagreements concerning a standpoint are settled or confirmed with the help of arguments and counter arguments. In this view, public debates are rational resolutions of conflicts of opinion with the help of proper arguments. The ultimate nature of public debates is made up by some form of collective rationality. Such a conception can be elaborated in various ways, such as by Habermas (1981) or by Van Eemeren (1987) and Grootendorst. These elaborations will give some attention to possible disruptions of the rational resolution process. As public debates take place in contexts of social, political, religious and economic confrontation, these approaches will admit that there may be all kinds of disruptions and breakdowns of public debates, which can be explained by unequal power relations, by lack of suitable information or by the adoption of dogmatic positions.
Another extreme position will understand public debates as expressions of power struggles. Any move is suitable as long as it helps to win. In other words, debates are just continuations of fights or disguised forms of war. Fights and wars can also be conducted in a rational way. Machiavelli could be seen as a proponent of such a view, or in modern social science, the french sociologist Bourdieu (1982). In this view, public debates are disguised forms of fights, and the proponents will not deny that arguments are used in such a process. However, the arguments used do not have any intrinsic strength as such. They serve for manipulation and maybe for easy victory. As soon as arguments will not be sufficient to guarantee victory, they will be replaced by other means, such as exclusions of some participants, formulating new agendas, the necessity to decide at once, etc.

The aim of this contribution is rather modest. I will not try to reject one or the other of these conceptions. Anyway, both offer useful and suitable instruments of analysis which have proven to be fruitful in some contexts of research. I will restrict myself here to analyze how arguments and other means of intervention are used in public debates and how they can be combined. In the conclusion I will outline how elements of the two mentioned conceptions can be integrated.
I will start by presenting a working definition of public debates and present some of their characteristics. In the central parts I will discuss forms of exclusions from public debates and their incidence on arguments and also mechanisms of participating in public debates and the role of arguments in these mechanisms. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Case For Cooperative Argumentation

ISSAlogo1998For the past several decades, argumentation theorists and instructors have become increasingly committed to developing and adopting perspectives designed to improve the quality of critical reflection and deliberation. These scholars and ducators are particularly interested in developing an approach to argumentation designed to equip people around the world with the knowledge, skills and understanding needed for ethical and effective decision making. To this end, argumentation scholars are looking anew at basic assumptions within the field.
In this essay, I seek to contribute to this project by focusing on one such assumption. Specifically, I challenge argumentation theorists to reconsider the prevailing assumption that argumentation is inherently oppositional, adversarial, and confrontational. I suggest that a cooperative approach to argumentation theory, practice, and pedagogy provides an alternative grounding, one that overcomes key obstacles to ethical and effective individual and group decision making in diverse practical contexts.

1. The Prevailing Competitive Model
In their landmark treatise on argumentation, The New Rhetoric, published in 1969, Chaim Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca offered a viable alternative to the cartesian dualism dominating the field of philosophy at that time. Perelman, Olbrechts-Tyteca, Stephen Toulmin, Wayne Booth, and other scholars in the New Rhetoric school proposed a theory of argumentation that offered a middle-ground between the certainty demanded by (but never attainable to) formal logicians on the one hand, and the arbitrariness to which so many scholars and practitioners acquiesced during this time. New Rhetoric scholars sought to provide a rigorous theory of practical reasoning, grounded in history and context, while providing cross-contextual criteria for assessment. This quest for a rigorous, yet contingent approach to practical reasoning continues to drive much productive work in the field. A brief overview of some recent efforts reveals, however, that fulfillment of the work’s potential has been hampered by unexamined acceptance of a key underlying assumption.
In their treatise, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca assume that all argumentation is aimed at gaining or increasing the adherence of minds to a thesis. This basic assumption continues to undergird much work in the field today. In her insightful introduction to the Spring, 1996 special issue of Argumentation and Advocacy, for example, guest editor Catherine Helen Palczewski notes that the field continues to rely heavily on an “argument-as-war” metaphor. Even Trudy Govier – who has worked hard to “differentiate argument as rational persuasion from disputes or fights” – nevertheless adopts “vestiges of argument as combat” in her lexicon. Palczewski notes further that Brockriede characterizes argument in terms of “competing claims,” while Zarefsky writes of argument as “verbal conflict.” Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Abductive Limits To Artificial Intelligence In Adjudication Pervasive Problems Of Analogy, E Contrario And Circumstantial Evidence

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Not that long ago the following thesis was defended (as a more or less funny supplement to a doctoral dissertation, as is usual in The Netherlands): The best circumstantial evidence for the existence of non-human intelligence is the fact that such intelligence made no attempt to contact us (Kwint, 1997). It may be left to the reader to decide to what extent this argument is analogous, and/or e contrario, whether it relies on circumstantial evidence and whether it may be salvaged from the pitfalls of such arguments. Anyway, it will be argued here that there are limits to artificial intelligence in adjudication, based on problems pertaining to abductive argument in analogy, e contrario and circumstantial evidence. Such arguments seem to be based upon “original data”, like analogata, denial of legal conditions and circumstantial evidence.
But analogy and e contrario cannot be but based upon underlying general rules and principles and the law as some or other kind of coherent whole. In their turn, such general rules, principles and coherent wholes cannot be exclusively based upon any original data. At best, such data play a subordinate role in validation or justification of general rules and coherent wholes. Analogously, the value of circumstantial evidence depends upon wholes of facts possibly related to such evidence. Such wholes may contain factors explaining circumstantial evidence more adequately than the facts for which proof is wanted may do.
If this holds good, no artificial intelligence may be expected to generate the implicit premisses of abductive argumentation in adjudication. Artificial intelligence is expected to proceed from an input consisting of data derived from the law and from facts, ranging from statute law to specific adjudication and factual evidence, circumstantial or otherwise. Such input appears to be inadequate in principle.

There are quite a few general and abstract arguments against artificial intelligence in the law or at least purporting to show clear-cut limitations to such artificial intelligence. Counter-arguments stressing that the proof of the pudding is in the eating (analogy here too) may not be implausible against such abstractions. However, arguments presented here are to be quite specific, pointing to forms of argument in adjudication which cannot be thought away without completely curbing such adjudication. Analogy, e contrario and circumstantial evidence may seem rather special forms of argumentation, but in fact they are implicitly pervasive in adjudication. Similarity and difference are the life of the law, just as is circumstantial evidence for facts, rarely supported as such facts are by direct and indubitable evidence.
To clarify this particular argument against artificial intelligence in adjudication, the concept of abduction will be explained first. Here, a specific conception of validation of abduction will be proposed, as relying on explication of enthymemes (§ 2). Next, analogy will be explained as abduction of underlying general rules or principles from the original analogon. Analogy will appear to be a particularly weak form of abduction, as the original analogon contributes only a highly marginal part to evidence for analogy. Such evidence consists of implicit general rules and principles, relying upon some or other whole or wholes of the law in their turn (§ 3). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Good Case For Practical Propositions: Limits Of The Arguer’s Obligation To Respond To Objections

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
This paper will discuss several questions about public deliberative argumentation raised by Trudy Govier’s conception of a Good Case. In the interests of “developing realistic standards for the evaluation of arguments and argumentation,” Govier distinguishes between an Exhaustive Case for a proposition and a Good Case. Unlike the Exhaustive Case, she observes, “the Good Case does not require that the arguer respond to all objections and all alternative positions.” (Govier, 1997: p. 12) This important concept has special significance for studies of the public argumention which enables groups, institutions, polities, etc. to reach decisions regarding their future acts and policies. It may be that Govier’s conception of the Good Case identifies a basic contour of the normative ideal for public deliberative argumentation. To explore this possibility, I will, first, attempt to identify an ideal function for public deliberative argument which plausibly implicates a Good Case as its normative ideal. Second, I will try to clarify the concept of a Good Case as a norm for deliberative argumentation.

2. The Normative Status of a Good Case in Public Deliberation
The issue here is not whether Govier’s conception is important. Most approaches to the study of argumentation would, I think, recognize that given limitations of time, circumstances, etc., often an arguer could not reasonably hope to establish an Exhaustive Case for her position; the best that could be expected from an advocate in many situations is a Good Case – a body of argumentation which, at least provisionally, dismisses some remaining objections and (possibly) some alternative positions. Rather, the issue concerns the normative status a of Good Case as contrasted with an Exhaustive Case. Is the concept of a Good Case merely remedial, applying to argumentation which falls short of the ideal Exhaustive Case, or does the concept of a Good Case delineate an ideal appropriate to some modes of argumentation and, specifically, to those which involve interpersonal deliberation about practical concerns? I do not hope to answer this very difficult question; in the discussion which follows, I will only attempt to show it poses a serious choice for students of argumentation.
The view that an Exhaustive Case is the normative ideal against which all modes of argumentation are to be assessed has widespread and well articulated support in current studies of argumentation. It has able champions in the pragma-dialectical approach to the study of argumentation developed by Eemeren and Grootendorst and significantly elaborated by many others. According  to pragma-dialectics, the norm of an Exhaustive Case corresponds directly to the ideal end served by argumentation. In this well-known view, argumentation ideally serves to resolve disagreement on the merits. (Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992: 34; Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson & Jacobs, 1993: 25) Resolving a disagreement is held to require more than merely settling a difference of opinion by setting aside or repressing doubts and objections; rather, resolution of a disagree occurs “. . . only if somebody retracts his doubt because he has been convinced by the other party’s argumentation or if he withdraws his standpoint because has realized that his argumentation cannot stand up to the other party’s criticism.” (Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992: 34) A resolution-oriented system is “structured in such a way as to assure that if it comes to any settlement at all, the settlement is one recognized by both parties as correct, justified, and rational. Hence, one characteristic of the ideal model is an unlimited opportunity for further discussion; an ideal system does not constrain the possibilities for expansion of a discussion” (Eemeren et al., 1993: 25).
In short, the ideal of resolving a disagreement on the merits requires, according to pragma-dialectics, that proponents of a standpoint establish an Exhaustive Case, a case which answers all pertinent doubts and objections to the satisfaction of the parties to the disagreement. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Promoting Interscholastic Debate Among Tallahassee Secondary Schools

It is difficult to believe that Florida’s capital lacks a comprehensive program designed to promote and further interscholastic debate among its youth, but it is true. Although there have been Tallahassee high school debate programs in the past, presently none of the ten institutions responsible for educating high school students, nor the eight responsible for educating middle school students, support, in any capacity, a competitive debate team.While interscholastic debate continues to flourish in neighboring Florida cities such as Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando, Tallahassee remains sedentary.
This apathy toward interscholastic debate cannot continue, as academic debate represents a necessary co-curricular activity designed to develop and hone a variety of skills: organizational, research, oral presentation, and critical thinking. In fact, developing these skills has been identified as essential in responsible education, as Stewart, an associate professor of education, stated in an article entitled, “Secondary School Imperatives for the ‘90s – Strategies to Achieve Reform,”
Today’s society makes the ability to analyze, reason, draw conclusions, and formulate intelligent decisions more important than ever. Critical thinking and decision making are essential for enhancing and perpetuating a democratic society, dealing with the ever-increasing complexity of societal issues and problems, processing the tremendous proliferation of information, and functioning in a highly technological age (Steward 1990: 72).
To rectify this glaring oversight by local administrators and teachers, members of the coaching staff of the Florida State Debate Team are prepared to launch a communication campaign designed to introduce competitive debate to Leon County. The purpose of this paper is to describe the elements of that campaign.

1. Description of the status quo
As stated earlier, presently there are no competitive debate teams among the Tallahassee schools, public or private. That is not to say, however, that to these schools ‘debate’ is a foreign concept. In fact, many of the secondary schools currently employ teachers and/or administrators who were at one time debaters. Unfortunately, these life experiences have not been enough to establish any type of long-term commitment to interscholastic competition.
In April 1996 contacts were established at each of the following secondary education institutions. Surprisingly, each person who was contacted was enthusiastic about beginning a debate program. While this does not guarantee 100 percent adoption, it does mean that the diffusion campaign can address issues other than the benefits of debate as those are already understood. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Quintilian And The Pedagogy Of Argument

ISSAlogo1998This essay deals with a Sophistic approach to argumentation known to ancient Greeks as antilogic and to Romans as controversia. I will use the terms interchangeably, along with other cognates like controversial reasoning and “in utramque partem,” or reasoning on both sides of a case. I will claim that controversia represents a major alternative to the Aristotelian tradition of argument. Broadly speaking, Aristotelian argument assumes an individual thinker who follows the dictates of deductive logic and who works to develop a sound proposition subsequently defended against all opposition. Controversia proceeds by placing multiple claims in juxtaposition and then negotiating the conflicts among them. It fully embraces the contingency of its setting, emphasizing dialogical interaction between specific parties, on a unique occasion, with a particular purpose. If Aristotelian argument is predicated on the drive towards formal validity and epistemological certainty, antilogic is based on the inevitable contention between probable opinions and the possibility of consensus among interlocutors. If Aristotelian argument proceeds in a linear, monological fashion, controversia approaches knowledge indirectly, tacking back-and-forth among opposing positions and assuming that “truth” is provisional and will reveal itself in mixed, ambigous form. Antilogic is thus dialogical, sceptical, contextual, and ultimately practical, all of which I will try to clarify as we proceed.
In previous work, I have traced the philosophic foundations of antilogic in the sceptical pragmatism of Protagoras and pursued the basic features of antilogical practice in a number of post-Periclean sources (Mendelson 1998). I have also explored Cicero’s De Oratore as an exemplary model of controversia (Mendelson 1997). As many of you know, the De Oratore displays considerable interest in an appropriate pedagogy for rhetoric, operating often as a master-class in the protocols of “in utramque partem.”[i] With the transition from Cicero to Quintilian, pedagogy takes center stage. The presence of controversial reasoning in Quintilian has, of course, been noted before (Bonner 1969, 1977; Clark 1957; Kennedy 1969; Marrou 1956; Murphy 1990). In the present essay, I will argue, however, that controversial reasoning is not just an incidental element, one techne “inter pares” (among equals); it is, instead, the very heart of Quintilian’s approach to rhetorical education. In other words, the Institutio Oratoria is principally involved in developing the concept of an “ideal orator;” and, as was the case with Cicero a century before, Quintilian is firmly committed to the notion that the “one and only true and perfect orator” is he who is able “to speak on both sides about every subject” (De Oratore 3.80). More specifically, I claim here that the pedagogy of controversia is ascendant in Quintilian because it fosters a sense of decorum (the ability to negotiate disagreement in ways appropriate to particular circumstances), while decorum, in turn, is essentially coordinate with prudence (the general ability to respond to controversy with dignity and common sense). Seen in this way, Quintilian articulates a syncretic vsion of argument, education, and culture, a vision of what Richard Lanham aptly describes as “the rhetorical paideia” (1993: 158; cf. 161).
In pursuit of this agenda, I will
1. briefly review the history of the controversial tradition,
2. explore Quintilian’s own method of argumentation and inquiry,
3. focus on the role of the progymnasmata exercises and declamation in the “Institutio,” and
4. extrapolate some general principles of controversial education from Quintilian and speculate on their potential contribution to a reconception of argument pedagogy today. Read more

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