ISSA Proceedings 2014 – What Is Informal Logic?

Abstract: In this keynote address at the eighth ISSA conference on argumentation I describe the emergence of two themes that I think are key to the constitution of informal logic. One is the development of analytic tools for the recognition, identification and display of so-called “non-interactive” arguments. The other is the development of evaluative tools for assessing deductive, inductive, and other kinds of arguments. At the end I mention several current interests of informal logic.

Keywords: argument analysis, argument appraisal, informal logic, non-interactive argument, reasoning appraisal

1. Prefatory remarks
Good morning.

If you consider this year’s ISSA keynoters, you can’t help but get the impression of a kind of Aristotelian trivium of argumentation theory – rhetoric, dialectic and logic. Professor Fahnestock represents rhetoric. Professor van Eemeren represents dialectic (at least the Pragma version of it). So Professor Blair must represent logic. Alas, I am no logician, as my friends are quick to tell me. What I will try to do is represent informal logic, which is a some-what different kettle of fish.

I must insert here two unplanned remarks. First, as you know, Frans van Eemeren did not rep-resent dialectic in particular in his address yesterday. Instead, he took the point of view of an eagle flying high above, surveying the argumentation forest below – albeit a Pragma-dialectical eagle. Today, in contrast, I will be taking the point of view of a sparrow, surveying just one species of tree in the forest.

Second, in case you have read it in the conference program, you will know that, along with Ralph Johnson, I am credited with inventing and developing informal logic. I would be happy to take that credit. However, there are some dozens of other people, several of whom are in this room today and many who have stood on this dais at earlier ISSA conferences, who would rightly take exception. “What about me?” they can say. No, informal logic’s rise and development are due to the contributions of many scholars, and no one or two people can take credit for it. And in my talk this morning, of course, I speak only for myself. Read more

ISSA Proceedings 2010 – Logic In The Pragma-Dialectical Theory

1. Introduction – Logic in the Pragma-Dialectical Theory [i]
Over the past fourteen years the proponents of the Pragma-Dialectical[ii] approach to argumentation have devoted the lion’s share of their efforts to working out in detail how the rhetorical properties of arguments and argumentation can be accommodated within their pragma-dialectical framework. By now, the dialectical and rhetorical properties of arguments have been theoretically integrated to their satisfaction (see van Eemeren and Houtlosser 2009, van Eemeren 2010). Thus, of the classical triad – logic, dialectic and rhetoric – two members have been accounted for in the theory. What, one might ask, of the third member: logic?

In the early development of the Pragma-Dialectical approach, its authors saw themselves as needing to differentiate their dialectics-oriented program from the then-dominant paradigms of logic and rhetoric (see van Eemeren & Grootendorst 1984 [Speech Acts in Argumentative Discussions], hereafter SAAD, pp. 12-13, 16). Even in the latest version of the theory, the authors are critical of the Perelmanian approach, representing a certain take on rhetoric, and the Toulminian approach, representing a certain take on logic (see van Eemeren & Grootendorst 2004 [A Systematic Theory of Argumentation], hereafter STA, pp. 44-50). They have, however, come to terms with at least some features of rhetoric, namely those that clearly can and do play a role within argumentative discussions aimed at resolving a difference of opinion in a reasonable way. The time has come, I contend, for the proponents of the Pragma-Dialectical approach to undertake the effort of sorting out with similar care their conception of logic and its role in their theory. Read more

ISSA Proceedings 2010 – Pragmatic Logic: The Study Of Argumentation In The Lvov-Warsaw School

1. The main question
Logical studies in Poland are mainly associated with the Lvov-Warsaw School (LWS), labeled also the Polish school in analytical philosophy (Lapointe, Woleński, Marion & Miskiewicz 2009; Jadacki 2009).[i] The LWS was established by Kazimierz Twardowski at the end of the 19th century in Lvov (Woleński 1989, Ch. 1, part 2). Its main achievements include developments of mathematical logic (see Kneale & Kneale 1962; McCall 1967; Coniglione, Poli & Woleński 1993) that became world-wide famous thanks to such thinkers as Jan Łukasiewicz, Stanisław Leśniewski, Alfred Tarski, Bolesław Sobociński, Andrzej Mostowski, Adolf Lindenbaum, Stanisław Jaśkowski and many others (see e.g. Woleński 1995, p. 369-378).

In ‘the golden age of Polish logic’, which lasted for two decades (1918-1939), ‘formal logic became a kind of international visiting card of the School as early as in the 1930s – thanks to a great German thinker, Scholz’ (Jadacki 2009, p. 91).[ii] Due to this fact, some views on the study of reasoning and argumentation in the LWS were associated exclusively with a formal-logical (deductivist) perspective, according to which a good argument is the one which is deductively valid. Having as a point of departure a famous controversy over the applicability of formal logic (or FDL – formal deductive logic – see Johnson & Blair 1987; Johnson 1996; Johnson 2009) in analyzing and evaluating everyday arguments, the LWS would be commonly associated with deductivism.[iii] Read more

ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Conceptualizing And Evaluating Dissociation From An Informal Logical Perspective

logo  20061. Introduction
Dissociation is one of the two major schemes of argumentation proposed by Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca. While association has already been scrutinized through analysis of such aspects as causal and analogical arguments, in-depth investigation into the nature of dissociation has been limited to work done by M. A. van Rees and this author. This article examines issues in conceptualizing and evaluating dissociation. More specifically, it proposes that Trudy Govier’s notion of “logical core” helps to both elucidate the conception of, and evaluate the adequacy of conceptual differentiation in regards to dissociation. Building on this foundation, this paper will attempt to address several issues surrounding dissociation. Section 2 of this article briefly outlines the notion of dissociation. Section 3 clarifies the concept of the “logical core” and theorizes that it helps to evaluate dissociation. Section 4 presents and responds to various implications. Section 5 offers conclusions and recommendations for further research.

2. Dissociation reconceptualized
Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca have started an investigation into dissociation as one of the two major argumentation schemes, the other being association. In association, an arguer assembles what are thought to be different entities into a single entity; examples include causal arguments, analogical arguments, and arguments from authority. Dissociation, on the other hand, is a type of argumentation scheme in which an arguer disassembles what was originally thought to be a single entity into two different entities by introducing criteria for differentiation (1969, p. 190). These criteria are normative as well as conceptual; as such, they establish a hierarchy between the dissociated entities, placing one above the other. Using dissociation, the arguer attempts to create a new world vision by establishing a conceptual demarcation in what is believed to be a single entity. If the audience is persuaded to accept the vision offered through this dissociation, a new reality is established. Based upon Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca and van Rees (2005), this author conceptualizes dissociation as a scheme of argument as follows:
1. X is accepted as a single entity.
2. X, assumed to be a single entity, is actually subdivided into two value-laden entities.
2.1 X is divided into two entities (X/XII and XI), based on criteria for differentiation.
2.2 The subdivided X (X/XII and XI) is placed in a hierarchy according to the value embedded in the criteria for differentiation.
3. Although X is believed to be a unified entity, it can be divided into X/XII and XI, with one being more important than the other (from 1, 2)[i].

Critical questions usually accompany an argumentation scheme. The fact that the following critical questions arise from the concept of dissociation is a strong sign that dissociation is not merely a technique used in argumentation, but a product of the practice of argumentation.

1. Is the original X generally accepted as a single entity?
2. Is the conceptual distinction between the two subdivided entities clear? In other words, do the criteria for differentiation form a conceptual distinction?
3. Is the value hierarchy which is set up among the subdivided entities tenable?
4. According to the value hierarchy, is one subcomponent more important than the other?

The above scheme and critical questions give rise to three discussion points. Firstly, both the conception of dissociation and the critical questions refute the line of reasoning which claims that dissociation is not an argumentation scheme. Bart Garssen, as quoted by Rob Grootendorst (1999, p. 288), states that dissociation is neither a scheme of argument nor a specific type of argumentation, since acceptance of the premise does not increase adherence to a conclusion, but rather ends in its denial[ii]. Since his position denies that dissociation is a scheme of argumentation, it requires some consideration.

One premise of dissociation, however, is that X is accepted as a unified entity, as offered in (1)-1 above. Additionally, the conclusion of dissociation is that although X is believed to be a unified entity, it can be divided into the less important XI and the more important X/XII, as seen in (1)-3. With an although clause in the conclusion of a dissociation, the acceptance of the above premise (1)-1 helps the audience adhere to that conclusion. A conclusion with an although clause, as shown in (1)-3, requires the acceptance of X as a single entity in its premise. Without an although clause, however, the acceptance of X as a single entity is irrelevant to the conclusion, since its acceptance does not promote adherence to the conclusion, as Garssen rightly claims. As a result, the although clause is without support, and the dissociation will be logically weak. This reconceptualization of dissociation denies Garssens’s position that dissociation is not a scheme of argumentation, and thus the presumption strongly favors the notion that dissociation is a scheme of argumentation. In light of this reconceptualization, scholars taking the position that dissociation is merely a technique of argumentation must first conceptualize ‘technique’ and advance a different line of support for why dissociation is a technique of argumentation.
Secondly, dissociation, like causal reasoning and analogy, can serve as a type of reasoning for use in argument. In other words, an arguer can offer a value-laden, conceptual distinction without actually making an argument. Ralph H. Johnson (2003), for example, questioned whether my previous article had wrongly regarded Johnson and Blair’s article (1980/1996) as an extended argument, without criticizing my main claim that they had used dissociation to differentiate informal logic from formal deductive logic and standard inductive logic. If Johnson is correct and I was examining dissociative reasoning rather than dissociative arguments, my article may have unfairly evaluated the dissociation they offered. The lesson to be learned is that the type of discourse must be determined before the dissociation can be evaluated appropriately. This is because if we treat non-argumentative discourse as argument, we will probably fail to evaluate the discourse fairly.
Finally, although dissociation is presented here as a scheme of argument or reasoning for subdividing a single entity into two, this does not exclude the possibility of dividing it into three or more. We can conceptually classify the world, for example, into ‘apparent’, ‘ real’, and ‘surreal’ worlds; if we succeed in this attempt, then the dissociation has, in fact, functioned to subdivide a single entity into three[iii]. Although these are key issues meriting further investigation, this article does not directly inquire into them, being limited to conceptual differentiation in dissociation. Read more

ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Cases: Their Role In Informal Logic

logo  2002-11. Introduction
One aspect of informal logic is the attempt to apply logic to ordinary discourse.  When attempting to do this, one needs to (a) recognize/determine that an argument is present and (b) be able to reconstruct the argument from the ordinary discourse. Doing both of these might be possible by inspection, e.g., you look and you know that there is an argument and what the argument is.  Indeed, I believe that there are some simple cases or familiar situations in which this occurs.  However, it seems equally clear that there are more complex cases in which neither the recognition nor the reconstruction can be accomplished by inspection.  A review of texts shows that rules, guidelines, lists of indicators, lists of steps to be followed, flowcharts, and examples are all frequently deployed as techniques to assist the student to achieve the objectives of identification and reconstruction.  These complex cases in which these tools are to be utilized are the interesting ones, both theoretically and pedagogically.

What are the situations encountered and how does one make the necessary determinations in these more complicated cases? What I want to do in this paper is to assess the nature of the two tasks listed above, discuss the roles of several of the tools just mentioned – rules and examples,  and look at some ways of conceptualizing what is occurring. Read more

ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Formal Logic’s Contribution To The Study Of Fallacies

logo  2002-1Abstract
Some logicians cite the context-relativity of cogency and maintain that formal logic cannot develop a theory of fallacies. Doing so blurs the distinction between ontic and epistemic matters and engenders a subjectivism that frustrates the project of logic to establish objective knowledge. This paper reaffirms the distinction between ontic and epistemic matters by establishing objective criteria for truth, validity, and cogency. It emphasizes the importance of the ontic notion of logical consequence underlying intelligible discourse. By clarifying a notion of fallacy it shows how formal logic contributes to fallacy theory.

1. The project of informal logic
The desire of critical thinking theorists, pragma-dialecticians, and informal logicians to dethrone formal logic has animated and defined their movement since its inception in the 1970s. In general, three matters mark their dissatisfaction with formal logic.
1. They believe that the mathematical development of formal logic has led to its becoming irrelevant to the needs of everyday discourse whose medium is natural language.
2. They maintain that it focuses too narrowly on the implicational relationships among propositions and relegates to the extralogical ‘everything else’ important to the evaluation of arguments.
3. They criticize its being asymmetrical in respect of its inability to formalize fallacious reasoning and even invalidity as it has been able to develop decision procedures for valid arguments.

Wanting to analyze informal fallacies and to develop a typology to categorize them impelled informalists to develop alternative theories of argumentation. These matters have remained core concerns for them. Two essential features of arguments underpin their complaint about the posture and project of traditional logic.
1. They take an argument to consist in considerably more than a set of propositions, where one is thought to follow logically from others. Rather, an argument consists in a set of premises that allegedly support a conclusion with an intention to change someone’s belief. An argument is a dynamic social activity. Thus, argument analysis requires recognizing the question-answer, or the challenge-response, nature of interactive dialogue.
2. They insist on the contextuality of an argument. A good or bad argument consists in its success or failure to persuade a participant of a belief or to act in a certain way. An argument is evaluated in terms of premise acceptability, premise weight and relevance, and in terms of the suitability of the inferential link between premises and conclusion, all of which are relative to persons at times. Read more

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