ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Emotional Appeals In The Film ‘12 Angry Men’

ISSAlogo1998What is the legitimate role of emotion in argument? Surely something as fundamental as human emotion has an important part to play. Would we bother to argue at all if we did not have some feelings about things and events? Could we be critical thinkers at all if we didn’t care deeply about clarity, precision, fairness, accuracy and other intellectual standards? It’s not that emotions have no legitimate part to play, but that all alone they cannot be the sole basis for an argument. Their roles must be either a supportive one or make a positive contribution to the goal of critical dialogue. Some critical thinking textbook authors view the emotions as lacking truth value, arguing that they are neither true nor false even when they are sincerely or intensely felt. Sincerity and intensity, they hold, are aspects of only the personal dimension of an argument; evidence and truth alone belong to the objective, public dimension. But this presents an oversimplified view; it assumes that arguments are only about facts rather than sentiment, or that the two can always be clearly distinguished. While emotions, considered by themselves, may be thought of as having no truth value, in the context of certain types of dialogues, appeals to emotion can play legitimate and important roles. To support this view, a brief discussion of current argument theory is needed to form the theoretical foundation for the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate emotional appeals that this paper defends.
According to argumentation theorists van Eemeren and his academic colleague Grootendorst (1984), as well as Walton (1992), who follow the pragma-dialectic framework, an argument is seen as a dynamic exchange, a sequence of pairs of speech acts carried out by the participants in a dialogue. A dialogue is an exchange of speech acts between two or more arguers in turn-taking sequence aimed at a collective goal. A type of dialogue discussed by Walton that is particularly applicable to the film “12 Angry Men” is the “critical discussion” dialogue. This is a type of persuasion dialogue, in which the goal of each party is to persuade the other party to accept some designated proposition, using as premises only propositions that the other party has accepted as commitments. The goal of a critical discussion is to resolve a conflict of opinions by means of rational argumentation. A legitimate appeal to emotion, then, is one that contributes to the proper goals of a dialogue. Contrary to the common assumption that arguments based on emotion are not rational, the view advocated here is that an emotional appeal can be reasonable and appropriate if it furthers the legitimate goals of the discussion. This can be accomplished, for example, by its revealing an arguer’s unanalyzed presumptions or by its opening up a new and valuable line of argumentation that prompts critical questioning that steers the argument in a constructive way. On the negative side, in an illegitimate appeal to emotion, there is typically an attempt to arouse, say, fear or pity, and then to use these emotions to obscure or short-circuit reason.

When an illegitimate use of emotions occurs in argumentation it is commonly called an “emotional appeal”, and given a traditional label, such as the bandwagon argument, appeal to pity, ad baculum, or the ad hominem. While there are many other types of emotional appeals, we shall limit our consideration of illegitimate emotional appeals to the four just mentioned and give some examples of these from the film. When a legitimate use of emotions occurs, as we said above, it plays a supportive role or furthers the goal of the dialogue. We shall point out some examples of these in the film as well.
“12 Angry Men” is an exciting, suspenseful drama of 12 jurors trying to reach a verdict in a murder trial. Henry Fonda heads the all-star cast of actors which includes Lee J. Cobb as his main opposition, Ed Begley as a hateful bigot, E.G. Marshall as a somewhat cold, logical stockbroker, Jack Warden as a baseball fanatic, and Jack Klugman as a sympathetic former slum dweller. What makes the film suspenseful and intriguing is the wonderful intertwining of outbursts of emotion and key moments of insight derived in part from logical analysis and in part from keen observation. These critical elements are provided primarily by the architect, played by Fonda, and the retired old man, played by Joseph Sweeney. As we shall argue, sometimes the display of emotion helps the deliberative process and sometimes it gets in the way. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Most Powerful Engine Of Cold War Argument: The Munich Analogy

ISSAlogo1998The ubiquity of the Munich Analogy in Cold War argument is easily demonstrated. It is used by commentators of all political persuasions except perhaps Communists, and the conventional wisdom is that it swept all before it. In this paper I want to inspect a rare occurrence: an event where the analogy was effectively attacked, and the attackers won a significant engagement, even though they lost the war.
The event to which I refer was the construction by the Truman Administration of a so-called blueprint for the Cold War, NSC 68, which was not just a single document but a series of constantly-revised documents best known for the version delivered to Truman in April 1950, not declassified until 1975.
The conventional wisdom has it that NSC 68 was a consensus product adopted with no great opposition. My contention is that it was not only bitterly disputed, but that the dispute was not fully resolved, so that the final document in the NSC 68 series, delivered to the Eisenhower Administration in January 1953, was a confused amalgam incorporating watered-down versions of both adversaries.The principals in the long-drawn-out drama of the NSC 68 series were: (1) for the alarmist position, depending on the Munich Analogy (that the Soviet Union was programmed to destroy the United States) Dean Acheson and Paul Nitze. (2) For the moderate position (that Stalin was not Hitler, that the Soviet Union did not want  war but would expand wherever it found a soft spot) George Kennan and Charles ‘Chip’ Bohlen.
To those who boggle at my classification of Dean Acheson as an alarmist, or of Kennan as a moderate, let me assure you that these depictions are warranted. Acheson was pilloried by McCarthyites, hence many casual observers assume him to have been at least somewhat lukewarm about the Cold War. This is an error. As for Kennan, those who know him only as the anti-Soviet author of the “X” article, be assured that in the trenches of State Department warfare, Kennan fought against militarization of containment and did not believe the USSR was programmed to take over the world.

Use of analogies in public affairs argument is often attacked as irrational. Ernest May, in Lessons of the Past, believes use of some analogies causes many bad decisions. (May 1973). Since there is no scientific way of determining parallelism in two situations being analogized, the critic is dependent upon narrative/descriptive judgment, which judgment can never achieve the mechanical certainty of the syllogism.
One must begin an analysis of the application of the Munich analogy to Cold War argument by inspecting what happened at Munich, and why it was significant. Mine of course will be a bare-bones explanation; Telford Taylor’s landmark book of 1,084 pages is definitive enough, but Taylor qualifies everything. (Taylor 1975). I can only hope that my simplifications are not misleading.

At the Munich Conference of 29 September 1938, Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier settled the fate of the Czechoslovak Republic. Hitler had been agitating for cession of the Sudetenland, a border area at that time in Czechoslovakia but largely inhabited by ethnic Germans. It appeared to the British and French, who were guarantors of Czech independence, that if Hitler did not get the Sudetenland by agreement with the Western powers he would go to war. The British and French gave in, and Chamberlain returned to London claiming that he had gotten “peace in our time.” Since all the Czech defenses were in the Sudeten area, Hitler simply moved in when he was ready and absorbed all of Czechoslovakia. The falsity of Hitler’s promise that the Sudetenland would satisfy Germany’s territorial ambitions soon proved false; the partition of Poland and World War II soon followed.
Most historians dealing with Munich believe that “giving in” to Hitler, or appeasement as it is called, was wrong. The well-armed Czechs had been ready and willing to fight; had they done so, they would have taken many a German Wehrmacht division out of action, making Hitler’s conquest of the rest of Europe more difficult. This is a controversial judgment, but Hitler’s plan for world conquest is not denied by anyone, and giving Hitler the Sudetenland did not appease his appetite one bit. A fair statement of the lesson of Munich might be “Appeasing aggressive dictators is useless; it only postpones the inevitable.” Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Neutrality As Advocacy: The Argumentative Dynamics In A State-Sponsored, ‘Neutral,’ Educational Abortion Video

ISSAlogo1998The abortion controversy in the United States seems to be one of those enduring areas of public argument that both confound and intrigue the argument scholar. As the nature of the debate has shifted across time (see Condit 1990 and Condit Railsback 1984), so too have the sites of contest. While two apparently diametrically opposed groups have long dominated the abortion controversy (those favoring “choice” and those favoring “life”), areas for agreement seem to be opening up. While the elevation of the two ideographs of life and choice has truncated debate so that the ultimate question has been whether women’s choice to have an abortion, as narrowly conceived, outweighs the potential risk that a fetus is a human being (Condit 1990: 159), locations of argument are emerging that bypass this narrow debate. One example is found in the need for people from differing positions to work together on the development of state-sponsored informational videos.
As a result of the Iowa State Legislature’s action during the 1996 legislative session, the Iowa Code was revised so that notification of the intent of a minor to obtain an abortion must be made to a parent or grandparent. In addition to such notification, the licensed physician performing an abortion is required to offer the viewing of a state produced video to the minor during the initial appointment relating to those services. As a result of this legislation, a committee was appointed by conservative Republican Governor Terry E. Branstad to develop the video. The end result of the committee’s work is the video “You Are Not Alone,” which is accompanied by a workbook and a physician’s manual.

The interesting outcome of the video production process is that while the committee was disproportionately filled with those from the anti-abortion end of the spectrum, the video has been well-received by abortion providers and roundly critiqued by those who oppose abortion (Des Moines Register, November 26, 1996). Having viewed the video as a member of my local Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa community council, I decided to analyze the argumentative and visual structure of the video. I conclude that the video is an example of an attempt at neutrality that unintentionally functions as an argument for choice. Ultimately, I hypothesize that the need for consensus in the production of the video removed the grounds for anti-abortion arguments.[i] The rhetorical patterns, both metaethical and visual, of anti-abortion argument structure, as detailed by Randall Lake in “The Metaethical Framework of Anti-Abortion Rhetoric” (1986), would preclude any compromise, yet compromise was legislatively mandated. Additionally, because the video focuses on the decision-making process of the girl, it decenters the baby/fetus, again violating the basic structure (linguistically and visually) of anti-abortion rhetoric. At the point that compromise was legislatively mandated and agreed to by the committee, as it was in the case of the video, the entire argument structure of pro-life advocacy collapses.
This presentation offers an analysis of one of the most recent examples of attempts to place limits on abortion: notification and informed consent. While many of those in the pro-choice movement see those actions as attempts to further limit abortion access, the experience with the State of Iowa’s video offers an alternative interpretation – that the need for neutrality limits the persuasive power of anti-abortion arguments. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Pretending And Port-Royal Logic (Bad Reasoning And Pretend Reasoning)

ISSAlogo1998The standard and approved ways of looking at fallacies start us off with a list of “tidy-looking dichotomies” (Austin 1964: 3). Reasoning is either good or bad, cogent or non-cogent, correct or incorrect, sound or unsound, valid or invalid. Sets like convincing or unconvincing can be found in some versions of the approved ways but not in all. And there are some versions that will include things like misleading, deceptive, and blighted, but their partner-words hardly ever show up.
It’s easy to see that one side of this division is positive and the other, negative. Cases of reasoning put on the positive side are cases of ‘good reasoning’. Cases put on the negative side are cases of ‘bad reasoning.’ Good reasoning is just good reasoning. Bad reasoning gets a special label. It is fallacious reasoning. It is easy to turn this all around and call a fallacy a case of bad reasoning. Sometimes it indisputably is. But sometimes it may not be. Or, anyhow, it may not be just a case of bad reasoning. Getting clear about the times when it is not and why it is not is what this paper is about. It’s a matter of being fair to fallacies.
First a word about some long standing complaints concerning the standard, approved ways. In the early 1980’s Woods and Walton complained that standard treatments of fallacies failed to provide a non-arbitrary way for sorting out cases of correct reasoning from fallacious ones. The standard treatments were mostly happy to take up the inherited list of names, usually in Latin but sometimes very colloquial – remember Flew’s “No-true-Scotsman” (1977: 47) – and give supposedly illustrative examples. Most of these examples were contrived or made up to suit the names and many were so obviously bad that they provided more fun than instruction. And some turned out to be not bad at all.
More importantly, however, clear guidelines and explanations for sorting, for putting this case on one side and another case on the opposite side, were said to be remarkably absent from the standard treatments. For Woods and Walton, this absence came, in large part, from the lack of an adequate model of correct reasoning or argument. They saw their job to be that of providing such a model. This would involve setting out precisely formulated rules, procedures, requirements, and the like for correct (good) reasoning. With such a model firmly in place, it should be a bit of snap to get non-arbitrary guidelines and explanations for sorting the cases of correct (good) reasoning from incorrect (bad, fallacious) reasoning (1982: v).
So we now have a sure-fire, fail-safe way for detecting cases of bad reasoning and for sorting them out into two piles. Moreover, we can give reasons for putting this case in one pile and that case in the other. Clearly, this is much better than what we are said to get in the standard treatments where it was mostly a matter of matching cases or samples with patterns. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Making A difference Or Not: Utterances And Argumentation

ISSAlogo1998As a linguist, I am limited, in the study of argumentation, to the linguistic traces of the argumentative process. Fortunately, they are numerous, and exactly like the relation between fossils and life forms, they present the advantage to be testable and that one can be sure that, even if some aspects of the argumentative process do not leave fossilized traces, most do.
Arguments are utterances and therefore they share certain characteristics of utterances (as opposed to propositions or phrases). To highlight what is probably the most important feature of utterances as far as understanding the relation between an argument and conclusion, is the aim of this paper.
I had the opportunity (Nemo, 1995) to present here a description and account of argumentative relevance, which I will quickly summarize, before introducing new evidence for my main hypothesis.

1. Utterances and argumentation
First of all, the distinction between proposition and utterance must be justified. If we consider the difference between proposition 1 and utterance (1):
1. Bill Clinton is alive.
(1) Bill Clinton is alive.
i.e. the difference between an unsaid proposition and an uttered proposition (the utterance), it must be remarked that 1 represents only the fact that Bill Clinton, is alive, whereas (1) represents both the fact that he is alive and the fact that this might (indexicaly and not theoreticaly) not have been the case. Consequently, the utterance (1) can represent only a moment when something has happened (an accident, an heart attack, an assasination attempt, etc…) whereas the proposition represents any moment in which 1 is true. In other words, the sentence is (only) an image of the reality whereas an utterance is the association of an image of the possible and an image of the reality: an utterance consists, minimally, of the association of a proposition with a modal frame, and hence receives the following description:
(1)
Bill Clinton may be alive – Bill Clinton is alive.
– may not be alive

The mere use of language implying a modal framing of reality. From this general standpoint a description of the argumentative value of utterances may be proposed. The constraints which have to be described in order to account for it are at least four, one accounting for the argumentative value itself, as opposed to informative value for example, another accouting for the argumentative orientation, and the others for the argumentative strength of utterances. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Phenomenological Argumentative Structure

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction[i]
What is the proper representation of phenomenological argumentative structure? By ‘phenomenological argumentative structure’ I mean the logical structure that an argument is perceived to have by mature reasoners – yet ones who are untrained in logic. Except for a few remarks, this paper will not be concerned with whether this informal ability to identify or match argumentative structure is an important reasoning skill; rather, it will be primarily concerned with judging or attempting to measure this skill. Instruments that have questions designed to do this include major standardized tests for graduate school admission, e.g., the United States-Canadian Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Writers and reviewers of such tests need an appropriate foundation for developing such questions – they need a proper representation of phenomenological argumentative structure – for legitimacy, and because these tests affect people’s lives.
A further motivation is cost. A single question on these tests probably averages about $2,000 to develop, so it is not a trivial matter when a test item is miscast and fails psychometric statistical review. Even given this, however, it may be that an attempt to represent phenomenological argumentative structure through (probably expensive) empirical studies would not be advisable. The results could be bewildering and not generalizable (one study found that the diagramatic aids examinees drew when taking like tests tended to be quite idiosyncratic – Cox & Brna 1995). Instead, the approach that this paper will take will be mainly philosophical rather than empirical.
It would certainly appear that the informal or nontechnical ability to identify or match argumentative structure is fundamental to reasoning well. With only one putatively clear kind of exception, the validity (for deduction), or more broadly, cogency (for both deduction and nondeduction), of an argument is entirely (for deduction) or largely (for nondeduction) a function of its logical structure or form (cf., e.g., Sainsbury 1991: Ch. 1; also Walton 1995: Ch. 5 for a distinction of 25 nondeductive argument structures or “schemes”). The same applies to the invalidity or lack of cogency of an argument. The only arguments that supposedly constitute an exception are those that proceed through conceptual analysis, that is, those that are termed ‘materially’ valid or invalid; a classic example is ‘this is red all over, so it is not blue all over’ (e.g., Read 1994). So apart from such arguments, and apart from conversational and rhetorical matters and matters related to the actual truth values of premises and conclusions, to perceive the logical structure of an argument is to perceive that in virtue of which the argument is good or bad (deduction) or is to perceive much of what makes the argument good or bad (nondeduction). Naturally, then, a principal way of assessing the cogency of a given argument is to  match its structure with that of an argument whose cogency is known or obvious. In the case of showing lack of cogency, this tactic is called ‘refutation by logical analogy’. (Some of the presuppositions of these remarks will be defended in §3.) Read more

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