ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Cognitive Biases And Logical Fallacies

Abstract: Cognitive biases indentified in psychology are indications of imperfect reasonableness of human minds. A person affected by a cognitive bias will reason wrongly without realizing it. Argumentation theory should take the findings of cognitive psychology into consideration for two main reasons. First, the biases registered by psychologists will help create a more comprehensive inventory of fallacious reasoning patterns. Second, some cognitive biases may help explain why a person is reasoning fallaciously.

Keywords: cognitive biases, fallacious reasoning patterns, psychology, unreasonableness.

1. Introduction
We know that a speaker may use some of the reasoning patterns called fallacies in order to manipulate her opponent, or to mislead the audience present at the discussion. For instance, an illegitimate appeal to the expert’s status or a straw man can be used as purely sophistical devices that presumably may help the speaker win the debate. We also know that a person can reason fallaciously without realizing that she’s actually doing so. For instance, she may be affirming the consequent or using an undistributed middle term in a syllogism while not realizing that she is, in fact, committing a logical fallacy. In such cases we usually put it down to poor logic in the reasoner. However, with the help of a few examples I’ll show that some reasoning errors are committed not because the arguer’s mind lacks in logic, but because it is abundant in psycho-logic. As the human mind is a multifaceted structure, our choice of argumentation patterns can be determined not only by logic – or lack of it – but also by our psychology. In other words, I want to argue that if a speaker is reasoning wrongly it may be not because of bad intent, and not because his logical machine breaks down, but because his psychological machine is in gear. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Reasons Why Arguments And Explanations Are Different

Abstract: Trudy Govier defends the distinction (elsewhere taken for granted) between arguments and explanations. I will discuss what making the distinction really amounts to and try to show that the kind of distinction she wants to make between products (rather than between speech-acts whose distinctness from each other is uncontroversial) is under-motivated. In particular, I will show that her discussion of Hempel’s covering law model is a terminological muddle.

Keywords: argument, deductivism, explanation, Govier, justification, prediction, Stephen Thomas

1. Four ambiguities in setting the problem
In this section I want to narrow down what the distinction between arguments and explanations would amount to.

One might wonder whether defence is at all necessary, since ‘argument’ and ‘explanation’ are not synonyms and nobody takes them to be such. The issue, rather, is what the distinction is a distinction between and what notice we need to take of it. Kasachkoff (1988, p.25) instructively puts it this way:

What we are faced with, then, is a dispute not about whether there is a distinction between explanations and justifications: a distinction between them is maintained not only by those who . . . hold that we should analyze explanations and justifications differently, but also by those who claim that – at least for purposes of critical examination and evaluation – explanations are NO different from justifications. What, then, is the point of contention? It is whether the (admitted) distinction between explanations and justifications provides a reason for treating them differently. . . . . It is beside the point to argue against holders of this latter position that there is a difference between explanations and arguments, for their position does not deny this point. It is only the difference these differences make which it calls into question.

Kasachkoff, like Govier and like most who write on this subject, thinks that the matter is to be settled by showing that there are different normative constraints on the two things being evaluated; all that is then required to establish the distinction is an example of something that is successful as an explanation but unsuccessful as a justification, or vice versa. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Meeting The Demands Of A Changing Electorate: The political Rhetoric Of Julian Castro And Marco Rubio

Abstract: Rapid demographic changes in the United States have made American Hispanics an increasingly powerful force in American politics. This paper examines the argumentative strategies of two rising Hispanic stars of American politics: Democrat Julian Castro of Texas and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. This paper analyzes the argumentative strategies that Castro and Rubio use in their 2012 party convention speeches to build political coalitions with Hispanic and non-Hispanic voters.

Keywords: American Dream, American Hispanic politicians, identification, Julian Castro, Marco Rubio, narrative, political argumentation, political rhetoric.

1. Introduction
Rapid demographic changes within the United States mean that the country will soon have a majority-minority population. One group that has gained prominence during this demographic shift is American Hispanics, who are becoming a critical political population and are challenging the demographic hegemony held by white Americans. This demographic change has also created more opportunity than ever before for Hispanic politicians on the national stage. While many scholars of political rhetoric have studied the argumentative strategies used by non-Hispanic political rhetors to gain support from Hispanic voters, this paper examines how Hispanic politicians reach out to Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences in their political arguments.

This paper examines the argumentative strategies of two rising Hispanic stars of American politics: Democrat Julian Castro of Texas and Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. Castro represents a state that is already majority-minority and Rubio represents a state that soon will be. Both politicians made strong national debuts as prominent speakers for their respective parties during the 2012 presidential campaign. Both Castro and Rubio have parlayed this success into national political recognition. Julian Castro, as the youngest mayor of a major American city, is frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic vice presidential or presidential candidate. Meanwhile Marco Rubio has become an important conservative Republican voice in the U.S. Senate and is viewed as a potential Republican vice presidential or presidential candidate. This paper analyzes the argumentative strategy of identification that Castro and Rubio use in their public arguments in order to build political coalitions. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Justification And Effectiveness: Critical Thinking And Strategic Maneuvering

Abstract: Advocates of dialectical perspectives and critical thinking theorists require all the objections to a standpoint to be considered in order to justify it. Rhetorical attitudes on persuasion seem to contradict this position. Pragma-dialecticians relieve the tension between justification and effectiveness by strategic maneuvering. We find it necessary to link the nature of the issue and the degree of uncertainty to the rhetorical context to adapt the argumentative dialectical procedures.

Keywords: context, effectiveness, justification, persuasion, rhetoric, uncertainty

1. Introduction
There are different senses of using, and subsequent ways of defining what is meant by “argument”. An argument can be defined as a set of statements, one of which, called the conclusion (thesis, claim, standpoint etc.) is affirmed on the basis of the others. An argument can also be defined as an act of persuasion intended to cause an interlocutor to believe that something is the case. Arguing can be seen also as a mutual pursuit of truth or shared understanding.

By arguing one may try to sustain a well-grounded theory or a settled factual claim related to some state of affairs unknown to the addressee, but arguing can be also just a way of thinking about a claim that at the moment is uncertain for both parties in the discussion. Sometimes it is possible to analytically confirm the adequacy of the claim by means of sound arguments but in many cases, the justification of a claim may not fulfill strong epistemic requirements. Nevertheless, in many such cases, a change in the cognitive environment of the interlocutors can be induced because the acceptance of the claim can be strengthened as a consequence of the dialectical interchange.

As a consequence of the different approaches to the concept of argument, there are also different proposals for a theory of argument(ation), with evident tension between strong epistemic proposals and more holistic approaches that include elements related to the social component of argumentative practices. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – The Sliding Scales Of Repentance: Understanding Variation In Political Apologies For Infidelity

Abstract: This paper investigates the apologies of four US politicians whose marital infidelities were made public. The paper notes the variations in the use of religious language, representations of the transgressions, and metadiscourse. These variations can be calibrated to political ethos, the nature of the transgression, and the amount of repair work required. Thus, generic qualities of the personal political apology are best interpreted as existing on a sliding scale relative to the situation.

Keywords: Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, ethos, image restoration, Mark Sanford, Mark Souder, metadiscourse, political apology, representations of social events, stance.

1. Introduction
Apologies abound in everyday life as important speech acts that support saving face, maintaining relationships, improving ethos, and righting wrongs. Over the years discourse scholars have studied public apologies, identifying various shared characteristics. They have been particularly interested in how political apology works rhetorically to repair relations among different parties and repair the image of the one apologizing.

While the majority of studies have helped define the genre, a few have pointed out variations in public apologies due to cultural resources and speaker roles. In this paper, I also investigate variations, but do so by looking at apologies from similar rhetorical situations. I limit the variables of difference by investigating personal political apologies – those made for personal indiscretions – in these cases, marital infidelity by US elected politicians: Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Souder, and Anthony Weiner. These speech events share the same cultural context, speaker roles, transgression, and mass media dissemination. By limiting the variables of these selected speeches, I sought a more detailed understanding of the linguistic and rhetorical choices made by the speakers and thus, a more nuanced understanding of apologetic practices. The analysis revealed variations in the use of religious language, representations of the transgressions, and the use of metadiscourse. These differences can be calibrated to the speaker’s established political ethos, the nature of the transgression, and the amount of repair work required of the speaker. I will first provide an overview of apology, then discuss characteristics shared by the apologies investigated for this study, and finally, I will examine their variations. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 – Missed Opportunities In Argument Evaluation

Abstract: Why do we hold arguers culpable for missing obvious objections against their arguments but not for missing obvious lines of reasoning for their positions? In both cases, their arguments are not as strong as they could be. Two factors cause this: adversarial models of argumentation and the permeable boundaries separating argumentation, meta-argumentation, and argument evaluation. Strategic considerations and dialectical obligations partially justify the asymmetry; virtue argumentation theory explains when and why it is not justified.

Keywords: argumentation evaluation, virtue argumentation.

1. Introduction: an odd asymmetry
There is a curious asymmetry in how we evaluate arguments. On the one hand, it is taken as fair game to point out obvious objections to a line of reasoning that have not been anticipated. Arguments that fail to do this are not as strong as they could be and should be. Elementary critical thinking textbooks and advanced argumentation theorists all agree that the failure to criticize an argument for failing to take relevant and available negative information into account would be critically culpable. Of course, arguments that fail to take relevant and available positive information into account are also not as strong as they could be and should be, but those same voices are curiously silent on this omission. The failure to criticize arguments this way is so routine that it largely goes unnoticed, and when it is noticed, it is apparently regarded as acceptably strategic. Following Finocchiaro 2013 (p. 136), the question can be put very simply: Why are unanticipated objections culpable omissions but missed opportunities are not?

In the first part of this paper I propose an explanation for the presence of this odd asymmetry, including how it arises, why it can seem natural and comfortable from one perspective, why it can seem artificial and discordant from another perspective, and why the difference has not even registered on other perspectives. In the next sections, I offer a partial justification for this asymmetry by reference to arguers’ dialectical roles and obligations which put significant roadblocks in the way of offering positive and constructive criticism. Strategies are then proposed for overcoming them, leading, first, to the conclusion that the virtues approach to argumentation evaluation is especially well suited to accommodating and explaining the phenomena in question. However, those same considerations also lead to the conclusion that the fundamental insight of virtue argumentation – that a good argument is one in which the arguers argue well – has to be qualified in two substantial ways. The crucial analytic element for understanding this largely invisible problem about evaluating arguments is recognizing that the critical evaluation of arguments cannot be independent of the critical evaluation of arguers – all the arguers, not just the proponents and opponents. And, in addition, the value of an argument is not simply the sum of the values contributed by its arguers, so virtuous arguers can be only a necessary but not sufficient condition for good arguments. Finally, the entire exercise forces us to rethink what we mean be a good argument. Read more

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