ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ Putin’s Terrorism Discourse As Part of Democracy And Governance Debate In Russia

logo 2006Abstract
This paper [i] presents a study of President Putin’s use of the issue of terrorism in public debate in Russia. President Putin’s speech made in the wake of the Beslan tragedy, on September 4th, 2004, is examined. The logico-pragma-stylistic analysis employed in the paper describes communicative strategies of persuasion employed by the speaker and investigates how the Russian leader uses the issue of terrorism to further his political goals. The terrorism debate is analysed within a wider context of democracy and governance debate between the President and the liberal opposition.

Key words: argumentative discourse, rhetoric, pragmatics, pragma-dialectics, fallacies.

This paper is a study of the use of the issue of terrorism in public debate in Russia. It examines President Putin’s address to the nation in the wake of the Beslan terrorist attack, on 4 September 2004.

The study doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive treatment of the topic; rather it aims to present a logico-pragma-stylistic analysis of the speech, to identify communicative strategies of persuasion employed by the speaker, and to investigate how the Russian leader used the problem of terrorism to further his political goals. The terrorism debate is analysed within a wider context of the democracy and governance debate between the President and a liberal opposition.

In trying to persuade his or her audience a skilled arguer assesses the audience and the issues at hand. When composing a message the speaker takes into account of several factors: the medium of communication (electronic mass media, print media), topic of discussion, audience (gender, level of education, expertise in the topic under discussion, rationality/emotionality, degree of involvement in the problem, level of life threat presented by the problem, etc), nature of the discussion (i.e. whether it is a direct dialogue with an opponent in a studio or an indirect dialogue through electronic or print media), applicable conventions (e.g. parliamentary procedures), and finally a broader, cultural and political context in which communication is taking place including such elements as openness/restrictiveness of the political regime, moral dilemmas and cultural taboos existing in the society, and traditions of conducting discussions inherent in the culture.

The process of assessment and adaptation of the issues to the audience establishes a communicative strategy of persuasion. The key decisions in a communicative strategy are to choose targets to appeal to and to prioritize them. While there are a wide variety of possible targets of appeal, it is possible to identify three major ones, people’s mind, emotions, and aesthetic feeling. An appeal to people’s reason or rational appeal is based on the strength of arguments. Emotional appeals arouse in the reader or listener various emotions ranging from a feeling of insecurity to fear, from a sense of injustice to pity, mercy, and compassion. Aesthetic appeals are based on people’s appreciation of linguistic and stylistic beauty of the message, its stylistic originality, rich language, sharp humour and wit. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ Changing Our Minds: On The Value Of Analogies For Extending Similitude

logo 2006Analogies are important in invention and argumentation fundamentally because they facilitate the development and extension of thought. (Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric)[i]

In a recent article, A. Juthe notes that “it is not obvious that the most plausible interpretation [of an “argument by conclusive analogy”] is a deductive argument”; reconstructing those arguments as deductive, Juthe suggests, reveals “the perhaps too great influence of the deductive perspective in philosophy” (2005: 23). Juthe goes on to argue that “argument by analogy is a type of argument in its own right and not reducible to any other type” (16). In this paper, I extend Juthe’s analysis of analogical arguments in the interest of supporting an expansion of the category of argumentation in the public sphere beyond the traditional conception that’s valorized in Habermas’s conception of “communicative action.”

Analogical arguments may be assessed as valid, Juthe argues, by virtue of “a correlation or an intuitive connection based on our experience and background knowledge” (15). This conception suggests that there’s a major shift in orientation that’s needed to appropriately assess the value of analogical argumentation. More precisely, there are three shifts in orientation: reversing the relative importance usually allotted to properties in contrast to relations as well as to substances in contrast to events, when constructing arguments, and reversing the relative importance usually allotted to “warrant” in contrast to “background” when using the Toulmin model for argument analysis. Analysis of discussion of topics in public sphere argumentation suggests that we often rely upon analogical reasoning to propose alternatives to views propounded by discourse partners. Thus, examples in that domain inform my sense of the importance of analogical argumentation, background knowledge, temporality (events rather than substances) and relationality (correlations and counterparts, rather than identities) in mundane concept formation. It may be helpful to note that I am not concerned to reject the value of warranted arguments involving properties and substances. Rather, my interest is in valorizing analogical argument as worthy in its own right; as irreducible to other forms; and as a form of argument that bypasses what I suspect is a lurking remnant of that “perhaps too great influence of the deductive perspective in philosophy” that Juthe notices. That same influence, I suggest, may well be efficacious in what I argue elsewhere (Langsdorf 2000, 2002b) is a constrained conception of argumentation that limits, and even distorts, Habermas’s conception of “communicative action.”[ii]

This paper continues my previous work on the ontological aspect of articulation by focusing on analogical reasoning’s revelatory power in argumentation that seeks truth in Heidegger’s sense of “aletheia,” or “uncovering.” But that concept easily suggests a realist, in contrast to constitutive, basis for inquiry. Thus my initial task is to delineate the contrasts between realist and constitutive ontological starting points, in relation to dramatically different expectations as to what analogical arguments may accomplish. My further task concerns the implications that follow from acknowledging that these expectations are embedded in constitutive rather than realist ontologies; namely, we must assess their truth value by standards other than those more traditionally used in argumentation theory. In this paper I pursue only the initial task. The titles I use for the two orientations rely upon John Dewey’s identification of philosophy’s “proper task of liberating and clarifying meanings” as one for which “truth and falsity as such are irrelevant” (1925/1981, p. 307). Yet Dewey modifies that separation of “meanings” and “truth” by his recognition that “constituent truths,” in contrast to “ultimate truths,” rely on a “realm of meanings [that] is wider than that of true-and-false meanings.” My thesis, then, is that analogical reasoning’s value lies in uncovering alternate meanings by using the implicit “background knowledge” that’s intrinsic to any communicative situation. That knowledge includes “intuitive connections” that shape “wider” meanings – those meanings that propose “constituent truths” – and so “facilitate the development and extension of thought.” For that process of developing alternative possibilities and extending conventionally accepted meanings, I suspect, is crucial for that little-understood process we call changing our minds. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ From Figure To Argument: Contrarium In Roman Rhetoric

logo 20061. Introduction
Roman rhetoricians knew about a certain rhetorical device called contrarium, which they, however, variably considered either a figure of speech or a certain type of argument, at times even both. This paper will try to analyze the function of this term that vacillates between the realms of stylistic embellishment and argumentation and to elucidate both its logical background and linguistic appearance. In a first section, the development of the concept of contrarium from the Rhetoric to Herennius to Cicero and Quintilian will be sketched. Next, Cicero’s account of the enthymeme in his Topics and its relationship to contrarium will be analyzed and, based on the examples offered by those authors, an analysis of the typical pattern of this type of argument will be given. A study of a selection of examples from Cicero’s writings will reveal their underlying argumentative basis, before finally the persuasive force of the standard phrasing as rhetorical questions will be discussed.

2. Contrarium in Roman Rhetoric

2.1. Contrarium in the Rhetoric to Herennius
In the fourth book of the anonymous Rhetoric to Herennius, which is arguably the oldest extant rhetorical handbook in Latin, most commonly dated to the mid-80s of the first century B.C.E., a feature called contrarium appears within a lengthy list of figures of diction (Rhet. ad Her. 4.25-26). It is defined as a figure “which, of two opposite statements, uses one so as neatly and directly to prove the other.” Unfortunately, the anonymous author does not go into any greater analytic detail. Instead, he prefers to offer a whole series of examples, as follows (trans. Caplan 1954, p. 293, modified):

(1) Now how should you expect one who has ever been hostile to his own interests to be friendly to another’s?
(2) Now why should you think that one who is, as you have learned, a faithless friend, can be an honourable enemy?
(3) How should you expect a person whose arrogance has been insufferable in private life, to be agreeable and self-knowing when in power, and
(4) one who in conversation among friends has never spoken the truth, to refrain from lies before public assemblies?
(5) Do we fear to fight them on the plains when we have hurled them down from the hills?
(6) When they outnumbered us, they were not equal to us; now that we outnumber them, do we fear that they will be superior to us?

It is obvious that in each of these examples one or more pairs of opposites are involved:
(1) own interests versus another’s; hostile versus friendly;
(2) friend versus enemy;
(3) arrogance versus agreeability; private life versus position in power;
(4) truth versus lies; conversation among friends versus public assemblies;
(5) plains versus hills;
(6) them outnumbering us versus us outnumbering them; not even equal versus superior. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Ehninger’s Argument Violin

Douglas Ehninger’s theoretical gem, “Argument as Method” (1970), introduces us to two unsavory debate characters. First, there is the “neutralist” – an interlocutor who eschews commitment at every turn. Following the Greek philosopher Pyrrho, the neutralist thinks that since nothing can be known, standpoints should float freely, unanchored by the tethers of belief. The neutralist’s counterpart is the “naked persuader” – someone who approaches argument like Plato’s Callicles – clinging doggedly to preconceived beliefs and resisting any shift no matter how compelling the counterpoints (Ehninger 1970, p. 104).

Naked persuaders and neutralists each have difficulty engaging in argument, but for different reasons. According to Ehninger (1970, p. 104), argumentation is a “person risking enterprise,” and by entering into an argument, “a disputant opens the possibility that as a result of the interchange he too may be persuaded of his opponent’s view, or, failing that, at least may be forced to make major alterations in his own.” In this account, naked persuaders are hamstrung by their unwillingness to risk the possibility that the force of reason will prompt alteration of their views. Neutralists, on the other hand, prevent the “person risking enterprise” from ever getting off the ground in the first place, since they place nothing on the table to risk.

Ehninger’s unsavory characters illustrate how the concept of standpoint commitment has salience in any theory of “argument as process” (Wenzel 1990). To reap the full benefits of the process of argumentation, interlocutors must adopt stances vis-à-vis their standpoints that strike an appropriate balance between perspectives of the naked persuader and the neutralist. For Ehninger (1970, p. 104), such a balanced posture consists of “restrained partisanship,” where advocates drive dialectic forward with tentative conviction, while remaining open to the possibility that the course of argument may dictate that their initial standpoints require amendment or retraction. Finding this delicate balance resembles the tuning of violin strings – a metaphor that underscores his point that the proper stance of restrained partisanship must be tailored to fit each situation.

The public argument prior to the 2003 Iraq War offers a clear example of a poorly tuned deliberative exchange. While several official investigations (e.g. US Commission 2005; US Senate 2004) have explained the breakdown in prewar decision-making as a case of faulty data driving bad policy, this paper explores how the technical concept of foreign policy “intelligence failure” (Matthias 2001) can be expanded to offer a more fine-grained explanation for the ill-fated war decision, which stemmed in part from a failure of the argumentative process in public spheres of deliberation. Part one revisits Ehninger’s concept of standpoint commitment, framing it in light of related argumentation theories that address similar aspects of the argumentative process. This discussion paves the way for a case study of public argument concerning the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. Finally, possible implications of the case study for foreign policy rhetoric and argumentation theory are considered. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ On How To Get Beyond The Opening Stage

1. Introduction
What is the opening stage? And why would it be hard to get beyond it?

The opening stage – as many will know – is one of the four discussion stages contained in the familiar pragma-dialectical model of critical discussion (Van Eemeren & Grootendorst 1984, 1992, 2004), which constitutes a normative model for argumentative activities aimed at the resolution of a difference of opinion. It is one of the merits of this model that, in its description of the ideal argumentative process, it does not limit itself to argumentation in the proper, but narrow, sense of advancing arguments for a standpoint, but includes discussion stages where other necessary steps for the resolution of differences of opinion are located. Remember that there are just four stages, and that they are, in order, the following:

1. Confrontation Stage
2. Opening Stage
3. Argumentation stage
4. Concluding Stage.

Contrary to what may be expected, the opening stage does not figure as the first stage (whereas the concluding stage finds itself indeed neatly placed at the end). This is a vagary of nomenclature that sometimes breeds confusion even among experts. Apart from that, it is clear that the process of argumentation proper has been placed in the third stage, the argumentation stage, and that the first two stages figure as preparatory stages.

The problem I want to discuss actually pertains to both preparatory stages, namely: how can one get them completed, in a satisfactory way and within a reasonable time, to move on to what is properly called argumentation. However I will discuss this problem with special reference to the opening stage.

To enhance a more lively remembrance of the four stages of discussion you could picture them as a house with four rooms (see Figure 1).

When guests enter into this house they start on the ground floor in Room 1, a kind of gym – a place suitable for boxing exercises – which represents the confrontation stage, i.e., the stage where a difference of opinion is made explicit. The goal is to get, ultimately, to Room 4, another ground floor room, giving on to the garden, where refreshments are served – drinks and tidbits ­– which room represents the concluding stage, i.e., the stage where agreements are achieved. Now to get there, our guests have to pass through two other rooms, both on the upper floor, which represent the opening stage (Room 2) and the argumentation stage (Room 3). In Room 3, the actual business of argumentation is going on: for instance, a standpoint S is being supported by argument. But before one gets there, a lot of preparatory work needs to be done. The agenda will be presented in the next section, but one thing that has to be settled is the choice of a system of discussion rules that the parties are going to adhere to. No wonder Room 2 is packed with theorists of argumentation debating these rules. The complexity of issues and the multiplicity of perspectives is making one wonder whether any agreement will ever be reached at all. One would be fortunate to see the people in Room 2 manage to come to an agreement about just the shape of their table. Even that issue can be nasty, as was the case at the opening stage of the Paris Peace Conference about Vietnam. As some will remember, in 1968-69 the shape of the table was debated for months. This, of course, was a case of opening a negotiation dialogue, not a persuasion dialogue or argumentative discussion. Yet, the case of the Paris Peace Conference constitutes a classical illustration of how difficult it may be to get beyond the opening stage of a discussion. (Which is not to say that the issue of the shape of the table was unimportant at the time.)

The rest of this paper will be organized as follows. As I announced before, I shall first present the agenda for Room 2, i.e., a task list for the opening stage, assembled from pragma-dialectic writings (Section 2). Then I shall illustrate these tasks in a dialogue (Section 3), point out some problems (Section 4) and start on some sketch of a way to adapt the architecture of critical discussion in order to overcome these problems (Section 5). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 ~ Pragma-Dialectics And The Function Of Argumentation

logo 20061. Introduction: Pragma-Dialectics and the Aims of this Paper
During the last 25 years Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst have very impressively developed Pragma-Dialectics, i.e. a consensualistic theory of argumentative discourse, which sees the elimination of a difference of opinion as the aim of such discourses and of argumentation. Currently this is the most famous and most discussed approach in argumentation theory in the world.

In what follows I will discuss Pragma-Dialcetics mainly from an epistemological standpoint, i.e. what this theory has to tell us with respect to acquiring true or justified beliefs and knowledge.

Technical note: The discussion rules are the constructional core of Pragma-Dialectics; in addition to a few material changes and to stylistic improvements, these rules have undergone a change in numbering. In this text I will refer to their first English version (E&G 1984, p. 151-175) as “Ro1” etc. (“original (or old) rule no. 1”) and to their most recent statement (E&G 2004, pp. 135-157) as “Rs1” etc. (“Rule in ‘Systematic Theory of Argumentation’ no. 1”). The material changes regard, first, the possibilities of defending (or attacking) a premise (Ro9/Rs7 (E&G 1984, p. 168; 2004, p. 147 f.)); the originally included possibility of common observation has been deleted – which is surprising – and the originally lacking possibility of argumentatively defending a premise included, which is a clear improvement. The second and most important change concerns the argument schemes that may be used for defending a claim: originally only deductive arguments were permitted now non-deductive argument schemes have been added (Ro10/Rs8 (E&G 1984, p. 169; 2004, p. 150)) – a substantial improvement. The following discussion usually refers only to the best version.

2. The Aim of Argumentation and Argumentative Discourse: Elimination of a Difference of Opinion
The whole approach of Pragma-Dialectics is constructed starting from one central theorem about the function of argumentative discourse and argumentation in general. The aim of argumentative discourse and of argumentation, as these are seen and constructed by Pragma-Dialectics, is to eliminate a difference of (expressed) opinion (e.g. E&G 1984, p. 1; 1992, xiii; p. 10; 2004, pp. 52; 57; Eemeren et al. 1996, p. 277) or to resolve a dispute – where “dispute” is understood as: expressed difference of opinion (e.g. E&G 1984, pp. 2; 3; 151). This resolution has taken place if the participants both explicitly agree about the opinion in question. The central task of the theory is to develop rules for rational discussions or discourses; and the value of the rules to be developed is regarded as being identical to the extent to which these rules help to attain the goal of resolving disputes (E&G 1984, pp. 151; 152; cf. 2004, pp. 132-134).

This, obviously, is a consensualistic conception of argumentative discourse and of argumentation, which aims at an unqualified consensus, i.e. a consensus that is not subjected to further conditions.[i] Consensualism defines a clear aim for argumentation and argumentative discourse, which can be the basis for developing a complete argumentation theory, including criteria for good argumentation, good discourse, theory of fallacies, theory of argumentation interpretation, etc. Thus, consensus theory in general, and Pragma-Dialectics in particular, is a full-fledged approach to argumentation theory. Similar and competing full-fledged approaches are, first, the rhetorical approach, which sees convincing an addressee, i.e. creating or raising an addressee’s belief in a thesis, as the aim of argumentation (e.g. Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca 1958; Hamblin 1970; Tindale 2004), and, second, the epistemological approach, which sees generating the addressee’s justified belief in the argumentation’s thesis as the standard function of argumentation (e.g. Biro & Siegel 1992,; Feldman 1994; Goldman 1999, ch. 5; Johnson 2000; Lumer 1990; 1991; 2005/2006; Siegel & Biro 1997). As opposed to epistemological theories, both consensus theory and rhetoric aim at an unqualified belief (though in Pragma-Dialectics this is more an expression of a belief than the belief itself); but consensus theory then, unlike rhetoric, requires that both participants share this opinion. Read more

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