ISSA Proceedings 1998 – From Topos To Locus To Topos: Between Aristotle And Ducrot

ISSAlogo1998You may know – or you may not know – that the basic thesis of Ducrot’s theory of argumentation in the language-system (TAL) is that certain argumentative features are inherent to the language as a system. That means that language as a system, as an abstract, general structure (as defined by de Saussure), in itself possesses or contains some argumentative potential, some argumentative force and certain argumentative orientations, and not only language in action, its use in discourse and as a discourse. For example, there are certain language structures that (restrictively) impose certain argumentative orientation on the discourse, or in other words, language as an abstract system (at least partly) controls what discourse can say, and sets its limits. If that sounds too obvious (language controling what discourse can say), let me illustrate what I mean with a few examples. Suppose someone says to us (one of Ducrot’s favourite examples)

(1) It is 8 o’clock.

Is this an argument? Why would anybody be telling us that it is 8 o’clock? Just to let us know what time it is? Not likely, unless we wanted to know what time it was. But suppose we didn’t want to know what time it was, suppose somebody just said to us (1). Why would anybody want to do that? Obviously, because he or she, by saying (1), wanted to tell us something else. But, what possible follow-up(s), what possible conclusion(s) could such an utterance lead to? In a situation where we don’t know what the exact co(n)text is, there are many possibilities:

(1a) It is 8 o’clock Hurry up!
Take your time!
Turn on the radio!
Go brush your teeth!

Now, let us see what happens if we introduce two modifiers to (1), already and only respectively, as in

(1’) It is already 8 o’clock


(1’’) It is only 8 o’clock..

All things equal, from (1’) we can no longer conclude, “Take your time” (as we could from (1)), but only, “Hurry up”; on the other hand, from (1’’) we can no longer conclude, “Hurry up”, but only, “Take your time”. And why is that supposed to be so surprising? Because (1), (1’), and (1’’) refer to the very same (chronological) fact, namely, that it is 8 o’clock: while (1) allows a multitude of conclusions, (1’) only allows conclusions oriented in the direction of lateness, and (1’’) the conclusions oriented in the direction of earliness. How is that possible if (1), (1’) and (1’’) refer to the same chronological fact, if the basis of (1), (1’), and (1’’) is the same state of affairs? Well, this “same state of affairs” is viewed from different angles: in one case, (1’), 8 o’clock is viewed (and represented) as late, in the other, (1’’), 8 o’clock is viewed (and represented) as early. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Linguistically Sound Arguments

ISSAlogo1998The centuries-long discussion as to what constitutes “good” argument has often found supporters and opponents on the basis of the standards selected to evaluate argument. Ancient standards of technical validity have been the subject of some twentieth-century scrutiny. No issue is more fundamental to the study of argumentation than the question of what constitutes good argument. Our legitimacy as critics, practitioners and teachers of argumentation rests upon our ability to evaluate, construct and describe good arguments. Historically, argument scholars have relied primarily upon formal standards borrowed from the field of logic to provide necessary evaluative criteria. In the latter half of this century, however, those criteria have increasingly been attacked as being inappropriate or, at least, insufficient for the study of both public and personal argumentative discourse. Stephen Toulmin has suggested we replace the mathematical model of argument with one from jurisprudence, thus focusing on the soundness of the claims we make, especially as we use argument in “garden variety discourse.”(Toulmin, 1958). Other theorists quickly followed Toulmin’s lead.

1. Recent Interpretations of Good Argument
While a few theorists (Willard, 1979) have gone so far as to reject logical standards, most others continue to recognize their usefulness as a part of broader schemas for evaluation of argument. Toulmin’s dissatisfaction with the rigidity and formalism of logic led him to propose a more open and flexible model of argument and to suggest that the evaluation of arguments involves the application of both traditional field invariant standards and previously overlooked field specific standards (Toulmin, 1958). Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca have advanced the concept of the universal audience composed of critical listeners, which presumably restrains advocates from making spurious arguments. At the same time, they suggest we consider adherence as the goal of argument, a focus on the intersection of psychological effects and logical strength (Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969). Drawing on the work of earlier scholars, McKerrow describes a good argument as one  which provides “pragmatic justification (McKerrow, 1977). This interpretation places emphasis on the “rational perusal of arguments” by an audience in a dialectic-like relationship. Farrell interprets validity in terms of “soundness” of a rhetorical argument. An argument is sound if it conforms to three conditions:
1. is addressed to an empowered and involved audience,
2. conforms to the consensual standards of the specific field, and
3. is consistent with social knowledge (Farrell, 1977).

Zarefsky defines good argument as one that is “reasonable,” and one is reasonable if “the form of inference is free of obvious defects, and the underlying assumptions of the argument are shared by the audience” (Zarefsky,1981:88).

Collectively, these authors and others suggest that good arguments are ones that have, at least, some claim to rationality and are based upon premises and standards acceptable to the specific audiences being addressed. While these conditions serve as minimal standards for good argument, they are, in our judgment, incomplete and lacking in explanatory power. What is missing from current analyses is a consideration of the role of language. Careful language usage is necessary for the construction of sound arguments, and effective language is the key to persuasive argumentation. We define a good argument as one that is linguistically sound. The term “linguistically sound” is intended to encompass three conditions. A linguistically sound argument:
1. conforms to the traditional field invariant standards of inductive and deductive argument,
2. is based upon data appropriate to the audience and field, and
3. is expressed in language that enhances the evocative and ethical force of argument.

In the sections that follow, we will demonstrate how each of these conditions is linguistically based and how a linguistic perspective helps to explain the strength of the argument. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 ~ A Study Of Undergraduate And Graduate Students’ Argumentation In Learning Contexts Of Higher Education

Abstract: This study sets out to examine to what extent the arguments used by undergraduate and graduate students refer to scientific notions and theories related to the discipline taught in the course. The results of this study indicate that only graduate students advance arguments that refer to scientific notions and theories strictly or somehow related to the discipline taught in the course, whereas undergraduate students typically advance arguments based on common-sense knowledge and previous personal experience.

Keywords: Argumentative Strategies, Higher Education, Pragma-Dialectical Approach, Qualitative Research, Student-Teacher Interaction

1. Introduction
In the learning contexts, argumentation is not a heated exchange between rivals that results in winners and losers, or an effort to reach a mutually beneficial compromise; rather it is a form of “logical discourse whose goal is to tease out the relationship between ideas and evidence” (Duschl et al., 2007, p. 33). Argumentation enables students to engage in knowledge construction, shifting the focus from rote memorization of notions and theories to a complex scientific practice in which they construct and justify knowledge claims (Kelly & Chen, 1999; Sandoval & Reiser, 2004). Notwithstanding, current research indicates that learning how to engage in productive scientific argumentation to propose and justify an explanation through argument is difficult for students. Thus, empirical research that examines how students generate arguments has become an area of major concern for science education research.

The present study intends to provide a further contribution to the line of research on student-generated arguments. It specifically focuses on the learning context of higher education and sets out to investigate the arguments used by undergraduate and graduate students in Developmental Psychology during the disciplinary discussions with their teacher and with their classmates, i.e., task-related discussions concerning the discipline taught in the course. In particular, the objective of the present study is to verify the following two hypotheses:

1. “Undergraduate students draw their arguments from common sense and personal experience more often than graduate students”.
2. “Graduate students put forth arguments that refer to scientific notions and theories strictly or somehow related to the discipline taught in the course, i.e., Developmental Psychology, more often than undergraduate students”.

These two hypotheses will be verified by means of a small-scale corpus study, and this certainly limits the generalizability of the results obtained by the present. A larger database would probably permit more quantitatively reliable data for certain statistical relationships, thus drawing conclusions of general order. However, the careful study of a small number of conversations will allow a more penetrating “data-close” analysis of the argumentative dynamics in the classroom. In order to focus on the arguments used by students, the object of investigation will be the argumentative discussions between students and teacher, as well as among students, occurring during their ordinary lessons, rather than an ad hoc setting created to favour the beginning of argumentative discussions. Tools developed in argumentation theory will be useful in this respect as they can be employed to respond to this need. The analytical approach for the selection of the students’ arguments is, in fact, the pragma-dialectical ideal model of a critical discussion (van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1992, 2004).

The paper is structured as follows: in its first part, a concise review of the most relevant literature on argumentation in learning contexts of higher education will be presented. Afterwards, the methodology on which the present study is based and the results of the analyses will be described. In the last part of the article, the results and the conclusions drawn from this study will be discussed. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 ~ Negotiation Versus Deliberation

Abstract: Negotiation and deliberation are two context types widely studied in the argumentation literature. However, one issue that still must be addressed is how to distinguish negotiation and deliberation in practice. In this paper, I seek to develop linguistic criteria to identify instances of these genres in discourse. To this end, I characterise the felicity conditions of the superordinate speech acts defining and structuring deliberation and negotiation encounters.

Keywords: Deliberation, negotiation, offer, proposal, superordinate speech act.

1. Introduction
Most contemporary argumentation theorists agree that fallacy judgments are, ultimately, context-dependent. Accordingly, over the last two decades we have witnessed a wave of attempts to characterise different types of contexts and formulate specific reasonableness conditions for the use of argumentation within each of them. Among these attempts, those carried out by Walton and the pragma-dialectical school are probably among the most systematic and advanced.

In Walton’s (1998) approach, context types are conceptualised as ‘dialogue types’: i.e., as exchanges of speech acts between two speech partners governed by a primary goal and a set of rules. Within the pragma-dialectical framework (Van Eemeren, 2010), context types are partly studied through the concept of ‘discourse genres’, conceived as “socially ratified ways of using language in connection with a particular type of social activity” (Fairclough, 1995, p.14).

‘Negotiation’ and ‘deliberation’ are two among a number of other context types that have been studied by these authors. Walton and Krabbe (1995) have proposed a characterisation based, mainly, on their primary goals and rules; pragma-dialecticians have characterised the two contexts in terms of their communicative conventions and the constraining force of those conventions on argumentative discourse. Thanks to these descriptions, it has become possible to carry out context-sensitive and, thereby, more nuanced evaluations of argumentative discussions.

However, one issue that still must be addressed by the aforementioned contextual approaches to argumentation is how to distinguish negotiation and deliberation in practice. Since negotiation and deliberation share important features – both are collective decision-making procedures centred on the practical question ‘what to do’ – they can be easily confused during the process of analysing actual fragments of discourse. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that it has not yet been made clear which of the rules or conventions specified for each genre are – to use a well-known distinction – ‘constitutive’ and which are only ‘regulative’ of these practices (Rawls, 1955; Searle, 1969). Constitutive rules or conventions not only regulate, but also define the activity they regulate. Thus, constitutive rules or conventions are reliable criteria to distinguish one genre from another. Regulative rules or conventions, by contrast, only regulate a pre-existing activity and are, for this reason, unreliable criteria. If, for example, one of the parties violates a regulative convention of the genre of deliberation, it does not necessarily mean that the parties are not deliberating. It may just means that one party is behaving fallaciously.

With a view to contributing to the study of argumentation in context, this paper seeks to develop criteria that can help the analyst distinguish negotiation and deliberative practices. In this endeavour, I will use pragma-dialectics as my main theoretical starting point. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 ~ Interplay Of Implicitness And Authority: Some Remarks On Roman Rhetorical Ethos

Abstract: In the paper we present an analysis of ethos in the early Roman rhetoric. After a brief conceptualization of “Roman” ethos and different social roles of orator Romanus, we apply such a view of ethos to the Verschueren’s model of linguistic pragmatics. Focusing on different types of implicit meaning we demonstrate how an interaction between the explicit and the implicit reflects a discursive construction of a speaker’s character.

Keywords: argumentation, authority, ethos, implicit meaning, linguistic pragmatics, Roman rhetoric.

1. Introduction
The research of rhetorical ethos varies from historical and theoretical conceptualizations to practical instances as well as possible approaches for analysis. In this paper we focus on Roman rhetorical ethos and its representations as they can be reconstructed from the texts of early Roman republic. As a general conceptual framework we adopt a more socio-cultural viewpoint on rhetorical ethos and try to apply it to the field of linguistic pragmatics.

Rhetorical ethos reveals at least three characteristics that should be kept in mind when classical texts are considered: a) being a part of oratorical practice, ethos is primarily rooted in a Greco-Roman socio-cultural world (Enos, 1995); b) ethos as a theoretical concept of Greco-Roman rhetorical system significantly extends over Aristotle’s or Isocrates’ conceptualizations as two most frequently studied directions in classical rhetoric (Amossy, 2001; Žmavc, 2012); c) in terms of ancient cultural presuppositions of character as a moral and pragmatic category (May, 1988), ethos as a rhetorical representation of such character manifests itself through different means, which all gravitate towards the same rhetorical purpose: to secure a speaker’s successful persuasion of their audience.

In this case study we are interested in the function, forms and contexts of Roman ethos and its explicit/implicit nature, where speakers, along with what they say explicitly, try to communicate something else in terms of presenting their character. The purpose of our investigation is grounded in the nature of the early Roman rhetoric and the speaker/orator as a focal point of public persuasion. It is a well known fact that in Roman society especially in the 3rd and 2nd century B.C. most of the public performance was limited to the members of governing elite.[i] Hence, rhetorical ethos as a persuasion strategy based on a presentation of speaker’s character reflected and at the same time helped to secure their dominant social position.

Considering specifics of socio-cultural context of Roman rhetoric, our main objective is to analyse rhetorical ethos as a certain manifestation of language use, which is anchored in the context of early Roman rhetoric as a time and place specific communicative practice. With such perspective we hope to contribute to an understanding of early Roman rhetorical ethos as well as set an example of methodological framework for further comparative and contrastive perspectives in analysis of rhetorical ethos. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2014 ~ Argumentation In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Abstract: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address normally is understood as epideictic, intended only to dedicate a national cemetery. In fact, however, an important argument is subtly and implicitly developed in this brief text: that nationalism is necessary for democracy to flourish. This argument will be identified and its layout described. Moreover, Lincoln employs all three dimensions of strategic maneuvering (topical potential, audience demand, and presentational choices) to enhance this argument. Its placement within an epideictic address is strategically useful and illustrates the ways in which epideictic can have argument content.

Keywords: argument structure, burden of proof, coordinative argument, deliberative, epideictic, eulogy, Gettysburg, Lincoln, strategic maneuvering.

1. Introduction
Probably no figure in United States history is better known worldwide than Abraham Lincoln, who is taken as representative of the upward mobility Americans value and of the ideals the nation espouses. No speech delivered by Lincoln is better known around the world than the Gettysburg Address. Seemingly a model of simplicity, the Address actually is quite complex/ Seemingly a purely ceremonial address, it actually also presents and develops an argument whose contents are mostly implicit. Seemingly a recitation of communal values, it actually upholds values that are highly controversial. And seemingly transparent in its message, it actually relies on silence, ambiguity, and assertion as means of strategic maneuvering.

This essay is written in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address in 2013. In what follows, a brief sketch of the context will be followed by an analysis that seeks to unpack the paradoxes noted above.

2. The battle and the speech
The battle of Gettysburg, a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, was fought on 1-3 July 1863. Although not fully evident at the time, it was a turning point of the war. It stopped the bold attempt by Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army to invade the North through Maryland and to threaten the capital, Washington. It thereby meant that the South could not win the war through invasion (although a later attempt at a raid was made) but would need to rely on attrition and war-weariness on the part of the North. But the Northern failure to capture Lee’s army after the battle, allowing it instead to escape to Virginia, meant that the war would not end decisively, certainly not soon.

For the most part, the thousands who died in battle were left where they fell on the ground. Hoping to give the Union soldiers a dignified burial and also to control the stench and disease caused by rotting corpses, a group of private citizens undertook to establish a military cemetery on part of the battlefield. Their efforts, though not complete, progressed far enough for the cemetery to be dedicated on November 19, about five months after the battle.

The principal speaker for the occasion was Edward Everett, former governor, representative, and senator from Massachusetts, former president of Harvard University, former secretary of state, and 1860 vice-presidential candidate of the Constitutional Union Party, one of the four major parties that year. Everett spoke for over two hours and, although he has been ridiculed for its length, his speech was an excellent example of its kind. (The text is readily available as an appendix in Wills 1992.) He verbally recreated the battle from start to finish and celebrated the Union victory. His detailed rhetorical depiction enabled audience members to feel as though they were present for all three days of the historic battle. Everett’s speech was followed by a musical interlude and then Lincoln rose for brief remarks formally dedicating the cemetery – the role he was invited to play. Popular myth has it that Lincoln wrote the speech on the back of an envelope while riding on the train to Gettysburg. This myth was created during the 1880s and has no basis in fact (Johnson 2013). In fact he wrote a draft before leaving Washington and then did final editing in Gettysburg the night before delivering the speech (Boritt 2006).

At only 272 words, the text (Basler 1953, 7:23) is easily accessible; a copy is included in the Appendix. Briefly, Lincoln positions the present moment as part of a war testing the commitment of the American founders to nationalism premised on liberty and equality. It is appropriate, he says, for us to hallow the ground on which the soldiers defending this commitment fell, but in a larger sense we cannot, since the battlefield already has been dedicated through their bravery and sacrifice. What we should do, therefore, is to rededicate ourselves to their ideals and to finish the work on their project. Read more

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