ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Truth and Argument

ISSAlogo1998Truth is deeply complicit in argument wherever logic is, for independent of the purposes of different argument kinds, in so far as they use standard logic they are compelled by its underlying theory of truth. And the notions of truth underlying the two giant contributions in the history of logic: that of Aristotle, and that of the logicians preoccupied with the foundations of mathematics in the early twentieth century – show deep theoretical and even metaphysical assumptions that make them suspect as the underlying theory of a logic adequate to support the theory of argument as currently construed. That is, argument seen as the rational core of ordinary and specialized discourse of the widest variety of sorts. Such a theory of argument with a clear empirical and practical component cannot assume the usefulness of underlying images of logic drawn from rather different conceptions of how reason manifests itself in discourse.
First: as to the problems with the logical core James Herman Randall, in his classic exposition of Aristotle, offers a complex view of the relationship between truth, logic and inquiry. The to dioti – the why of things, connects apparent truths, the peri ho, with explanatory frameworks, through the archai of demonstration, that serve as ta prota, the first things – a true foundation for apparent truths. Although Aristotle was more ‘post modern’ then many of those that work in his tradition, the archai after all were subject matter specific, the envisioning of archai readily knowable if not known, reflected a classic and overarching optimism about knowledge. This enabled Aristotle to graft a determinate logic onto the various indeterminancies inherent in much of inquiry.
Logic is central in dialogue as well: to dialegesthai, the premise seeking activity that seeks to identify the appropriate archai of kinds of things. The theory of the syllogism, along with eristics, offers the basic tools of the logikos or dialectikos, one who thinks and questions.

When all works well, the result is the demonstrative syllogism, apodeixis which shows the necessity of a that, a hoti, in light of the dioti, the cause, in relation to the archai. From whence the archai? Quoting Randall, by “”experience” of facts, by repeated observations, we become aware of the archai, the universal that is implicit in them.” Citing Aristotle: “When the observation of instances is often repeated, the universal that is there becomes plain” pp. 42-3. Such a crude inductivist epistemologically has little appeal to moderns  and offers little danger for modern views of inquiry, but Aristotle’s logic, remains within the normative core. That is perhaps even worse for understanding inquiry, for unlike the crude inductivism which is quickly seen as too crude, his logic has both necessity and inherent plausibility. The result: the basic truth structure of his logic has been built into the normative structure of reasoning from his time till now.
The problem is how to distinguish the archai from among endoxa, the merely accepted opinions prevalent at the time. Again Randall “It is nous, working with and in the midst of facts, working in the subject matter itself, that ”sees” the truth of the archai“ p. 44. Not in Platonic isolation, to be sure, but in the context of subject matter. But still, this noetic ‘recognizing’ shares with Plato’s view a phenomenological (Randall calls it ‘psychological’ (ibid.)), rather than a logical account of what it means to come to see the truth of archai. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Emergent vs. Dogmatic Argumentation; Towards A Theory Of The Argumentative Process

ISSAlogo1998From the mid-70s onwards, in line with the “pragmaticization” of research into argumentation, scholars have felt an increasing need to turn their attention to the argumentative process. Simplifying a bit, it may be said that they worked with Toulmin’s layout, or with the topical tradition into which Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca had put new life; but they began to be interested in how arguers actually sorted out what was claim and data and how they hung together by an inference warrant, or how exactly a topical inference was based on reality or actually reorganized the structure of reality.
In a text as early as Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss’s introduction to logic En del elementære logiske emner – English version Communication and Argument -, first published in Norwegian in 1941, a point is made in favor of taking into account, not only the argumentative product, i.e., the “completed” layout or topical inference, but also the process of “completing” it. For Næss has it that the bulk of an argumentative encounter is not about argumentative support proper, but about being clear what an utterer meant when he used a certain expression. Næss introduces the four procedures of ‘specification,’ ‘precization,’ ‘generalization,’ and ‘deprecization’ by which arguers can be clearer about what exactly they want an expression to say.
Few approaches to argumentation have taken up this process-orientedness of Næss’s account, among them Frans van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst’s Pragma-Dialectics. Their meanwhile well-known and influential approach assumes that ideally a resolution-oriented discussion goes through four stages in each of which only certain resolution-furthering moves can be allowed. But furthermore, at every stage the discussants may perform speech acts specifying or precizating what they mean to say. However, these usage declaratives continue to be defined in the perspective of an argumentation that is successfully conducted to its fourth and concluding stage. That is to say, the argumentative process continues to be connected very closely to the product, i.e., the “completed” argumentation having successfully supported a standpoint which had been contested.

But, as van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992 : chap. 1) themselves acknowledge, the connection of the process and the product of arguing in colloquial speech is not as systematic as the earlier version of their theory (1984) might suggest. What prima facie would seem to be irrelevant sidesteps or childish bickering may be revealed to have a determining influence on the outcome of the discussion (see Jacobs & Jackson 1992). A discussion about one contested standpoint may become more and more complex because clarification is needed as to some of the elements adduced in support of this standpoint (see Snoeck Henkemans 1992). That is to say, while the product of arguing is perhaps best analyzed as an inference complex that dialectically renders plausible a conclusion with the help of plausible premises, the communicative process of arguing deserves more attention as a particular kind of conversation and, therefore, is best analyzed, as are other kinds of conversation, as a step-by-step process extending in time and not necessarily being organized by a dialectical macrostructure.
This is possible with a joint dialectical and communicational reconstruction, prefigured by Normative Pragmatics as proposed by van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson, & Jacobs (1993). In this framework, I shall give a different and more “communicational” interpretation to Næss’s four procedures. Thus, I will be able to reconstruct the argumentative process as a kind of communication organized, on the one hand, by a global dialectical goal and, on the other, step by step by local discursive moves. With Næss’s procedures of clarification in mind, I shall develop a tool for reconstruction starting from a model offered by Richard Hirsch in a different context. With this tool, it will be possible to show that the process of arguing is not always about the justification or refutation of a definable proposition on the background of presuppositions which are shared in principle, but very often about trying to match these presuppositions, these individual backgrounds, as best the arguers can, in order to overcome a problematic situation. In a sense, then, through the argumentative enterprise something individual becomes “inter-individual” or “intersubjective.” I shall show in this paper that this “intersubjectification” may work easily, may require considerable communicative co-operation, or may fail utterly – and this reflects whether or not at the outset the presuppositions of the arguers resembled each other closely. For obviously, an argumentation is more likely to succeed if the respective arguers’ unconstested starting points are quite similar and more likely to fail if they do not find enough common ground to start from (see, as to this, Willard’s (1983; 1989) theory of argumentative fields). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Encompassing And Enacting Dialectic: Kenneth Burke’s Theory Of Dramatism

ISSAlogo1998The work of American self-described “wordman”, Kenneth Burke, is having tremendous impact on rhetorical and literary theory and criticism, speech communication, sociology, and many other academic areas, including in some small ways argumentation.Despite this recent attention, particularly in the work of Arnie Madsen (1989, 1991, 1993) and James Klumpp (1993) as well as the recent special issue of Argumentation and Advocacy on “Dramatism and Argumentation” (1993) and occasional argument criticisms which invoke Burkean perspectives, Burke’s work still remains relatively unknown to many argumentation scholars, and potential contributions of Burkean theory to argumentation studies remain to be developed fully. Moreover, as Madsen (1993) observed, “the works of Kenneth Burke have gone relatively unnoticed in the field of argumentation theory” (164). And although it is certainly true that “Burke offers no systematic and complete theory of argument” (Parson, 1993, 145), it is also nonetheless equally the case that Burke’s work on human symbol systems and motives, summarized as his theory of “dramatism,” encompasses the traditional domains of rhetoric, poetic, and dialectic, thereby at least by most traditional accounts encompassing as well argumentation (See van Eemeren, Grootendorst, and Kruiger), subsuming, re-defining, and re-positioning “argument” within the orientation of “dramatism.”
The current study attempts to “locate” argumentation within Burke’s theoretical edifice, dramatism, and, more generally, to examine how “dramatism” transforms traditional approaches to “rationality.” As “rationality” is transformed, so too, necessarily, is argumentation. The specific objectives of this paper are per force more restricted. I will sketch, generally and broadly, dramatism’s encompassing argument move, with its attendent transformations of “rationality.” Second, and a bit more specifically, I will offer a description of Burke’s theory of dialectics, before concluding with some remarks suggesting how, via the agency of Burke’s “psychologized” rhetoric of identification, dialectic becomes enacted as what Burke calls the “great drama of human relations” (1955, 263).

Burke’s “Dramatism” is set forth broadly in his informal Motivorum Trilogy: A Grammar of Motives (1945), which treats generally of dialectics and transformational processes, A Rhetoric of Motives (1950), which treats of rhetoric as “consubstantial” with “identification,” and A Symbolic of Motives (unpublished), which treats of poetics and ethics variously (depending upon which design for the unfinished project is featured) from within the orientation of “dramatism.” A related manuscript, Poetics, Dramatistically Considered (unpublished), is a relatively complete treatment of precisely what the title promises; it may be a re-titled version of what began as A Symbolic.[i] Burke’s proposed “trilogy” of “a grammar,” which centered generally and paradoxically on dialectics, “a rhetoric,” and “a symbolic,” which subsumed both poetics and ethics, parallels in many ways classical formulations including the trivium,[ii] but Burke’s interests, lying at the intersection of language, psychology, and circumstance, focus concern on human motives rather than upon probable truth, “right” action, or divine telos. As such, “’finding’ a theory of argument, or positions that inform argument theory,” in Burke’s writings, Parson suggests, “will be an inferential process” (146; see also Madsen, 1993, 165). But given the sweeping nature of the Motivorum project, the process is not one of merely extending the domain of “dramatism,” a theory derived most explicitly from literary studies, to the domain of “argumentation,” for “dramatism” in subsuming and re-defining “dialectic” and “rhetoric” has already positioned itself atop much of the traditional “argument” domain. And in so-doing, it transformed the nature and function of argumentation itself. As Klumpp (1993) puts it, a “rapprochement” between mainstream argumentation studies and Burkean studies takes one more “toward adapting argumentation rather than dramatism” (149). One important reason for this is that frequently argumentation studies appears as a Phoenix arisen amid the detritus of formal logics, remaining under the sign of “Reason” and genuflecting instinctively toward Reason’s traditional consort, Truth. Burke’s orientation explicitly re-defines “rationality” and de-privileges, indeed de-stabilizes, truth. For a “rapprochement,” to borrow Klumpp’s terminology, to occur, “argumentation” needs to be approached from within the orientations of dramatism; that is, perhaps the most productive point of entry into a “conversation” between dramatism and argumentation is not “Where does dramatism ‘fit’ in argumentation?” but rather “Where does argumentation ‘fit’ in dramatism?” Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Presumptive Reasoning And The Pragmatics Of Assent: The Case Of Argument Ad Ignorantiam

ISSAlogo19981. Three Theses
This paper focusses on three traditional distinctions commonly made by argumentation theorists. The distinctions generally correlate with one another and work together in picturing argumentation and framing puzzles about it. Not everyone holds all or any of them – maybe not even most. But the distinctions are invoked and alluded to often enough that we think it useful to challenge them directly.
First, there is a distinction to be drawn between justifying the truth or falsity of a proposition or claim and justifying acceptance or rejection of a proposition or claim. The truth or falsity of a proposition is a matter of independent reality. Acceptance or rejection of a proposition is a voluntary decision. Rational justification of acceptance or rejection is a matter of choice, a weighing of costs and benefits. Rational justification of truth or falsity is a matter of evidence, a balancing of facts. Justifying truth or falsity is a matter of proof; justifying acceptance or rejection is a matter of persuasion.
Second, a distinction should be maintained between arguments over propositions of fact and arguments about propositions of policy. It is a distinction closely related to the first in its rationale. It relies on such matters as the difference between description and evaluation, “is” and “ought”, reasons and motivations, epistemology and politics, epistemic reason and practical reason.
Third, a distinction should be maintained between demonstrative proof and plausible demonstration. The former kinds of arguments are associated with strong conclusions involving direct evidence, certainty, necessity, infallibility and the like. The latter kinds of arguments deal with a balance of considerations, presumptions, probabilities, and tentative conclusions.

One can, of course, maintain all these distinctions as conceptual distinctions, which is to say that these distinctions mean different things, they have different implications, and they participate in different systems of concepts and puzzles. But presumably these distinctions are more than just conceptual. Presumably they point to real differences in the way in which argumentation is conducted in different domains and help to explain real differences in our sense of the quality of those arguments.
Traditionally, at least, scientific research has been held up as a paragon of demonstrative proof concerning the truth and falsity of propositions of fact. Its procedures of inference are highly formalized through statistical analysis. Its research questions are answered on the basis of quantifiable facts that are scrupulously guarded from questions of value. Its empirical claims seem to be as directly demonstrated and as certain as one can get. If these distinctions hold up anywhere, they should hold up here. In fact, there are important ways in which these distinctions blur when we examine the logic of the statistical analysis upon which modern scientific research depends.

2. Statistical Reasoning as Plausible Reasoning
The core of statistical analysis in empirical research is the logic of hypothesis testing. Factual propositions that are derived from theory and predict empirical differences (research hypotheses) are tested against observed differences. The test occurs by setting the research hypothesis against a competing, default hypothesis – typically the null hypothesis that there are no real differences. Now, it isn’t news to anyone that the test of whether the observed differences best match the research or the null hypothesis is a matter of probabilistic inference. But it is worth noting that the logic of hypothesis testing is also a logic of presumptive reasoning. In fact, the statistical inference amounts to argumentum ad ignorantiam (cf. Walton, 1996a). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Slippery Slopes: The Reciprocal Of A Node On A Curve Or Surface

ISSAlogo1998The idea of slippery slopes is a commanding and attractive metaphor. Indeed, speaking in this way has become commonplace in contemporary work in biomedical ethics.[i] It would be interesting to know whether this metaphor has a load-bearing role in philosophical analysis; whether, that is, it is anything more than une façon de parler, a figure of speech.[ii] In work underway I pursue this question in three theoretical contexts:
1. analogical arguments,
2. sorites arguments, and
3. the analysis of taboos.
Unless I am mistaken, we shall hit paydirt in the third context, and this is the context I wish to explore in this paper.

Slippery slopes in relation to taboos
In one of its meanings, a taboo is a deep cultural protection of a value, underwritten by broad and largely tacit societal consensus. In my usage here, a taboo is always an ordered pair X in which P is a principle protecting a value – usually a prohibition – and X is an exclusion, an embedded practice which excludes P itself from free enquiry, from the rough-and-tumble of dialectical probing. Sometimes the X-factor also precludes the mention in polite society of the practice prohibited by P; but its more general implication is averting discussion of P’s merits, of whether it is a justified principle and if so by virtue of what. If, for example, P is the principle that prohibits cannibalism then X is the determination not to expose P to critical reflection or scrutiny. Indeed if X is the present-day taboo against Holocaust revisionism, the X-factor operates so tenaciously as to make of the mere raising of the revisionist possibility, no matter how tentatively, an immediate self-disqualification.[iii] In the absence of the X-factor, P cannot be a taboo. In societies such as ours there is a principle which strenuously disenjoins urinating in public, but it is no taboo. Except in the most delicate of circles, there is no corresponding bar against explanation and justification, or meeting arguments which might be marshaled against the prohibition (e.g., that there is no such prohibition for males in Japan). Taboos, then, are special cases of principles or points of view attended by dialectically weak – or even non-existent – track records. Of course, there are whole classes of dialectically impotent statements, whose lack of justificatory vigour is a reflection of the fact that they are seen as not needing defence or justification. They are “self-evident”, or “common knowledge”, or some such thing. With taboos, however, dialectical impotence is less a matter of judging that a defence is not needed than that it should not even be attempted. (I return to this point.)
Many taboos were once religious proscriptions. This helps in understanding both the X-factor and the dialectical impotence that attaches to taboos even after they have lost their religious sanctions. Though shorn of this expressly religious backing, we seem to retain them out of culturally transmitted habit. When they were religious laws, they required no justification by us; indeed to raise the question of whether something commanded by God might require our justification is to risk the sin of hubris. These features are retained as the X-factor and, relatedly, a pallid dialectical track record. Other taboos such as the one against the eating of pork may be seen as risk averse generalizations from genuinely factual data, a stong induction from an occassional upset tummy.[iv] Epistemically, the generalizations are hasty; prudentially they are safe. Risk averse behaviour is tailor-made for taboos. In fact, a good deal of risk averse behaviour involves the holding of generalizations that we don’t know how to justify, or which we subconsciously see as having no inductive justification. (Of course, it doesn’t follow that risk averse behaviour is likewise without strategic justification). Thus our disinclination to raise the question of how these generalizations are justified, and the consequent lightness of the dialectical track record. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Effects Of Dialectical Fallacies In Interpersonal And Small Group Discussions: Empirical Evidence For The Pragma-Dialectical Approach

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Since Brockriede (1975) and O’Keefe (1977) publicly recognized the importance of studying arguments as they are made in the context of everyday discourse (O’Keefe’s argument2), argumentation scholars have been increasingly interested in studying the phenomenon in terms of its value as a communication activity rather than a logical exercise. Rhetoricians have long been interested in the function of argumentation in persuading an audience but it has only been recently that argumentation scholars have taken up the task of examining how patterns of reason giving are created and used by those involved in everyday conversation. Scholars such as Jackson & Jacobs (1980), Trapp (1983), Walton (1992), and van Eemeren and his colleagues (e.g., van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992; van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson, & Jacobs, 1993) have extended the study of  argumentation from the study of formal and informal logic structures to the study of the ways in which arguments function in resolving disputational communication.
One of the first and most productive lines of inquiry regarding the study of argumentation as it occurs in discourse has been the pragma-dialectical approach originating with van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992). The pragma-dialectical (PD) perspective extends the traditional normative logical approach of evaluating arguments by creating standards for reasonableness that have a functional rather than a structural focus. An argument is evaluated in terms of its usefulness in moving a critical discussion toward a well reasoned resolution rather than concentrating exclusively on the relationship of premises to conclusions. The PD approach recognizes the importance of normative standards for judging the strength or cogency of single argumentative acts but in addition recognizes that arguments are constructed in order to achieve a communicative goal.
As evaluative criteria for the quality of arguments, the PD posits several normative guidelines for how communication in resolving or managing a dispute should proceed. While several argumentation scholars have elaborated, extended, or some way adopted portions of PD (e.g., Walton, 1992; Weger & Jacobs, 1995), there has been little direct empirical research seeking to verify that the violation of the kinds of discussion rules identified by van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992) indeed causes problems in the management of disagreements. The purpose of this essay is to examine empirical research in interpersonal and small group argument in order to discover what harms, if any, result from the violation of rules for critical discussion. The essay will begin by examining the effects of following and violating discussions rules on the ability to resolve disputes and the quality of the decisions that result. The next section of the essay will examine the interpersonal and relational outcomes that are associated with following or violating discussion rules as articulated by van Eemeren and his associates.

In Argumentation, Communication and Fallacies, van Eemeren & Grootendorst (1992) lay the foundation for the pragmadialectical approach to argumentation study. They begin by arguing that the standard treatment of argumentation and fallacies either ignores the communicative functions in favor of examining reason/claim relationships or abandon entirely normative standards of evaluation in favor of examining whether the argument achieves the goal of gaining the acceptance of an audience. The traditional logical approach evaluates arguments based on decontextualized, abstract structural features of arguments that are applied across situations. The rhetorical perspective, on the other hand, tends to evaluates the quality of an argument in terms of its persuasiveness. PD provides an advance on these perspectives by suggesting that normative guidelines for evaluating the quality of an argument requires attention to the communicative functions served by arguing as well as the logical structure of the lines of reasoning used in the dialogue.
The functional perspective on argument is based first on the belief that argumentation is a communicative activity. And second, it is based on a functional view of communication in which messages are studied in terms of the purposes they serve and the goals they achieve. At its most fundamental level, the purpose of argumentative dialogue is the resolution and management of real or potential disputes. Therefore, it is a mistake to evaluate arguments out of the context in which they are used or in a way that looks only at the logical structure without a description of the way certain argumentative moves effect the ability to manage or resolve a dispute based on good reasons. A functional perspective requires that arguments be studied, in part, by how they contribute to the communicative goals of resolving or managing a dispute. Read more

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