ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Wilson On Circular Arguments

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
In his paper “Circular Arguments” Kent Wilson (1988) argues that any account of the fallacy of begging the question based on epistemic conditions is inadequate and suggests grounds on which a more satisfactory analysis can be provided. He does this by criticizing the epistemic attitude in the fallacy analysis and showing how this has led to an unacceptable analysis of the fallacy of begging the question. I will concentrate on Wilson’s two main points. First of them is Wilson’s argument against the epistemic condition:  that we should not overemphasize the assumption that an argument should prove its conclusion. Wilson admits that it is an important function of the argument, but thinks that we should recognize other purposes as well, such as refuting a proposition or undermining confidence in it. Understanding these other purposes would then contribute to the study of the fallacy and point us to a better analysis. I will try to show that Wilson’s ideas on argument’s functions are compatible with the epistemic analysis and that they do not therefore improve our understanding of the fallacy.
The second point I wish to comment on is Wilson’s argument against the division of the fallacy of begging the question into two types: the equivalence and the dependency type. According the equivalence type, a fallacy is committed when the conclusion is equivalent with some premise. In the dependency type some premise is dependent on the conclusion: its acceptability somehow depends on the conclusion’s acceptability. This dependency is often analysed in doxastic or epistemic terms, as for example Sanford and Biro have done. Wilson argues that the dependency view of the fallacy of begging the question is not adequate for several reasons and assumes the equivalence view. I will argue for the dependency view of the fallacy. I do not believe we can subsume it to the equivalence type. Wilson’s critique in fact coincides with Biro’s views on some points. In conclusion, I argue that the epistemic version of dependency can adequately analyse the fallacy of begging the question.

2. On the functions of the argument
Wilson argues that to understand the fallacy of begging the question better, we must widen our view of the functions of the argument from the epistemic emphasis. This epistemic approach has assumed the status of background assumption. It shows in the fallacy theory as an attitude that the primary purpose of an argument is to prove some proposition. He quotes two writers that he thinks have especially emphasized this function, David Sanford and John Biro. Sanford’s formulation of this idea is that an argument should increase the degree of reasonable confidence which one has in the truth of the conclusion (Sanford 1981: 150). According to Biro, an argument should make us know that something, which we did not know to be true, is true, because of something which we do know to be true (Biro 1977: 264). Wilson points out that Biro even seems to go as far as to say that knowledge is the sole aim of the argument when he writes that “Someone that has seen Socrates die would not need an argument for the proposition that Socrates is mortal.”(Biro 1984: fn. 5, 243). Wilson criticizes these views. He thinks that we must recognize other purposes as well:
“For example, arguments are offered on occasion to refute some proposition, or to undermine confidence in it by giving a counter argument against it or by showing that an argument that has been given for it is not valid. Arguments are also given in contexts where one wants to understand better a passage of a text or a discourse – perhaps even a novel or other fiction – to unfold the implications of a plot or of a theory, for example. Somewhat further removed from proving paradigm of argumentation as the marshalling of evidence, arguments are sometimes given in order to explain, to understand, and to predict … arguments may be given in order to answer correctly a puzzle or a problem, where “real knowledge” or even belief need not be involved.” (Wilson 1988: 39.) Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Judges In Argumentation Games

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
There is a lot of definitions of argumentation systems used for different purposes. In some of the papers one can distinguish simultaneous use of the notion of argument in two senses: as a proposition that is an argument for the thesis and as a proof method. For the second we use argumentation functions and argumentation strategies to characterize it. In that model many of the nonclassical logics are definable in natural way.
The argumentation processes may be considered as games over a judge opinion (Gargov, G. & Radev, S. 1987a), (Vreeswijk, G. 1993). The winning (price) of such a game is the judge verdict. The judge may be of different forms and different structure:
1. In the case of discussion the judge is the common knowledge (and opinion) of both players,
2. in the football play type (or the administration) the judge consists of a set of judges and possibly is structured hierarchically (higher instance),
3. In the chess the judge is the rules of the game except the case when the champion is elected.

Moreover the judge knowledge (opinions, evaluations, believes) may differ from the knowledge of the players and possibly his believe system may change during the discussion (game). From the other hand the players may be honest or not and their honestness may be included in the calculation of the price (judge opinion) or not. Also the judge may be honest or not. These possibilities determine a couple of different games and deductive problems. Few of the interesting (and simple) examples are investigated in the present paper. For more complicated cases we need more time/place then the limit of that paper.

2. Arguments and argumentations
In logical investigations we often treat semantics generated in the process of justifying some statements by means of other statements. The latter are usually called arguments for the former. At the beginning (Gargov, G. & Radev, S. 1986) we tried a simplified approach based on the following assumptions:
1. the argumentation is one-step, i.e. the arguments are already with a definite truth value determined by their meaning,
2. the scheme of evaluation is consistent in the sense that no already evaluated statement should be given argument.

Such simplified considerations lead us to the so-called argumentation functions generating truth definitions given some basic semantics (Vakarelov, D. 1972), (Gargov, G. & Radev, S. 1986, 1987a, 1987b), (Radev, S. 1996). The corresponding logical systems (treated in the cited papers only at the propositional level) turned out to be small (3 or 4-valued) many-valued logics.
Later we tried to extend the treatment to more dynamic situations when the arguments for a given statement are also questioned and this gives rise to an iterated procedure of argument evaluation. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Arguments From Perfections

ISSAlogo19981. Introductory remarks
This paper is not a direct discussion of the concept of perfection. Rather it raises a problem of arguing and drawing conclusions from the concept of perfection in inter-religious discourse.
The way we argue depends, of course, on the mode of reference we are using. In religious discourse we often do not argue and draw conclusions from the concept of God, but from the singular perfections like ultimate goodness, absolute love, greatest wisdom, etc. These descriptions are referring under certain conditions to God, despite the fact that “God” does not have the same meaning as “ultimate goodness”.
This form of discourse has become normal in inter-religious debates, where a rigid concept of God (whatever is meant by this) is often replaced by its more flexible referential descriptions. Some philosophical theologians too, see good reasons for the flexible talk about God: “Conceptual frameworks come and go. This does not mean that we should not try to understand the very meaning of the God of Israel and the God of Jesus, but that we have to look for another conceptuality, one that will take into account all that know about the world in which we live.” (Van der Vekken 1992: 163).
The strategy ables to overcome cultural differences and build up the models of inter-religious discourse in which the univocal use of “God” has been substituted by equivocal and analogous uses of the concepts of good, love and wisdom.
There are however problematic cases, if we have to presuppose, that some particular culture or religious group is lacking the concept of certain perfection or even several of them. Semantic investigations have established a provisional set of human concepts, expressed as identifiable words in all languages. This set, which includes close to sixty elements, provides a trans-cultural framework for analysing meanings across languages and cultures in the form of trans-cultural metalanguage. According to the linguistical investigations, certain tribes of Papuas do not have the concept of love (Wierzbika 1995: 210).
This fact, stated by linguists as an empirical one, creates a theoretical problem: Which forms of argumentative discourse are effective, when speaking with Papuas about God as ultimate love? The concept of “God” itself is of course not universal, but can inter-religious argumentation be construed in trans-cultural metalanguage if there is no place for the concepts of divine perfections like love, wisdom etc?

2. The concept of perfections and conceptual framework
Good arguments usually convince. At least, they convince those of us, who can understand how the argument works. It is also widely assumed that if the logic of the arguments is the same, the argument which uses commonly understandable and univocal concepts is more convincing than the one which uses non-understandable and equivocal concepts. For instance, the missionaries who work with primitives know well, that preaching in the name of ultimate love is normally much more effective than giving arguments from the concepts of primal cause or first mover. For, to provide effective arguments they need to have rely on suitable conceptual framework.
Now, what are the common concepts for all mankind? According to linguistic semantics, in particular to the so-called Goddard’s and Wierzbicka’s “NSM” school of semantics (Goddard & Wierzbicka 1994) there exists pretty clear answer to this question, namely, in the form of the set of universal human concepts. The set of universal human concepts has been established on the basis of cross-linguistic investigations and contains several substantives (I, you, someone/person, something/thing, people, body), determines (this, the same, other), quantifiers (one two, many, all, some) mental predicates (think, know, feel want, see, hear) etc. As to the attributes: “Good”, “bad”, “big”, “small” are universal, but for instance “love”, “wisdom” are not universal concepts for the mankind. According to the Wierzbicka, there are some tribes, where arguments from “love” are non-understandable. Just because they do not have corresponding concept in their tribal language.
How, then, the missionary could tell something about Jesus as a Perfect Love? Non telling about the love would badly harm the very understanding what Christian God is? In the Biblical parables love is the most central and highly important topic. It is also true that the most effective inter-religious arguments will take their start from “love”. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Criteria For Winning And Losing A Political Debate

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
I am concerned about the quality of the public political debate. I am concerned about reducing it to a game, where opposing political parties play their roles, obey the game’s rules and confirm the genre.
In this paper the aim is to answer the following questions: What are the relevant criteria for the analysis of winning and losing a political debate? What are the theoretical and methodological implications of applying a normative argumentation theory (pragma-dialectics) and a descriptive interaction theory (conversation analysis) to the same data?
To give an answer to these questions I have first tried to investigate the general and specific character of the modern political debate and from these I have drawn the relevant evaluation criteria. To justify why these are relevant, I have decided to look at the debate genre in a broad diacrone perspective. By doing this I believe that a cearnel of genre constituting features can be revealed besides a set of more context-sensitive ones. In other words I try to describe the genre in terms of constant and relative/flexible elements. Thereafter, I will argue that a winning and losing enterprise forces the investigator to build a normative framework.
My claim throughout this paper is that there is a close relationship between genre development and the development of evaluation criteria. Consequently I will also claim that while genres change and develop over time, also evaluation criteria will have to change.

2. The development of the political debate genre
Broadly speaking “genre” can be understood as either relative or stable, or as a combination (Ventola 1989). In this perspective I will understand the pragma-dialectical ideal context as a predefined, idealized and stable genre. However, I will argue that a context description has to consider both stable and variable features in order to provide relevant evaluation criteria.
My point is not to give an outline of the ancient roots of the political debate, but rather to point at the fact that electronic debates, and especially televised debates, represent a shift in debate style from a more discussion-like format to a more quarrelsome one. This shift has implications for what kind of criteria that create the winner and the loser of a public political debate.
My claim is that the debate tradition experiences an important shift with “The Great Debates” between Nixon and Kennedy in the 1960 campaign. At this time the political debate genre as we know it today was in its infacy. Five specific elements of debate can be isolated as it has developed in the American tradition, a debate is:
1. a confrontation,
2. in equal and adequate time,
3. of matched contestants,
4. on a stated proposition,
5. to gain an audience decision (Auer 1962). Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Duties Beyond Borders? Appeals To Moral Necessity In Statecraft

ISSAlogo1998Speaking at the dedication of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum a few years ago, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel called for the Clinton Administration to take action to stop the carnage in Bosnia. “Something, anything, must be done,” he implored (Time, May 3, 1993: 48). Shocked by atrocities, the horror of systematic rape, and waves of panic-stricken refugees fleeing in the wake of “ethnic cleansing,” many other people joined Wiesel in urging the nations of the world to intervene for humanitarian reasons. “All humanity should be outraged,” asserted Thomas Buergenthal, former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and a survivor of Auschwitz (cited in Lillich 1993: 574). “We cannot just let things go on like this,” insisted former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “It is evil” (Time, April 26, 1993: 35).
Whether prompted by genocide in the former Yugoslavia or political mass murder in such places as Cambodia or Rwanda, the issue of what should be done about human rights violations in other countries highlights an old debate over whether ethical considerations ought to influence foreign policy. Do political leaders have a moral obligation to alleviate human suffering no matter where it is located? Must they protect foreign nationals even at the expense of their countrymen? If so, should it be done through a quick rescue operation? Or should it include an effort to eradicate the underlying cause of the suffering? These questions have received renewed attention with the establishment of a United Nations’ War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, charged with conducting the first international war crimes trials since those undertaken in Nuremberg and Tokyo at the end of Second World War.
The purpose of this essay is to analyze appeals to moral necessity in persuasive dialogue on foreign policy issues. I begin by differentiating between two types of appeal: one based on duty; the other, on right. After comparing the deontological assumptions of duty-based appeals with the consequentialism of rights-based appeals, I discuss how metaphors are sometimes used in the latter to conflate legal right with moral obligation. Next, using a series of speeches that attempted to justify the 1989 intervention by the United States into Panama, I illustrate the rhetorical strategy employed by statesmen who mask legal permissibility as moral obligation. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the problems inherent in moral appeals that blur the distinction between the permissible and the obligatory.

1. Arguments From Moral Necessity
Throughout the ages, political leaders have justified the use of military force against neighboring states with a form of argument that stresses how foreign policy is driven by unavoidable necessities. In general, these necessities are portrayed in strategic terms; they are actions that supposedly must be carried out to advance national security interests regardless of whether they contravene prevailing ethical standards (Raymond 1995).
Recently a different conception of necessity has entered into debates about the use of military force. Rather than defending the resort to arms on the grounds of strategic necessity, it is often justified nowadays as a “categorical moral imperative” to stop a brutal government from violating the human rights of its citizens (Reisman 1973: 168; Schermers 1991: 592; Rodley 1992: 35). As one advocate of this view has put it, the military defeat of rulers who initiate massacres “is morally necessary” (Walzer 1977: 105). It is an absolute duty, one that holds at all times and in all places, and regardless of whether it advances the strategic interests of the intervening state. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Problematizing Standards Of Argumentation To Students

ISSAlogo19981. The Problem
I teach undergraduate courses in Speech Communication in the United States in which I’m presumed to be able to grade students on their papers and on their classroom presentations based on how well they argue rather than what they argue. Yet I also live in a so-called postmodern age in which virtually all standards of rational argumentation have been called into question, particularly those emanating from white, heterosexual, Eurocentric males like myself.
Moreover, I’ve discovered that even those among my colleagues who’ve been trained as I have in principles of argumentation, informal logic, critical thinking and the like tend to apply those principles unevenly, inconsistently, particularly as regards the sorts of highly sensitive, highly controversial topics my students find most interesting. One potential source of inconsistency is bias. There is little reason to believe that we teachers of controversial subject matter are immune from the well documented influences of prejudices and wish-fulfillment beliefs on judgments of the validity of arguments (e.g., Hample, D., 1979; McGuire, 1960).
But another likely culprit is the principles themselves. What exactly is a false dichotomy or an inappropriate appeal to authority? When do circumstances mitigate what might otherwise be considered illogical? Does the press of time ever justify my decision to follow the crowd or be swayed by an ad hominem?
Designed as they are to apply to an array of context-sensitive situations, the various informal fallacies are inherently imprecise. These problems in judging the quality of students’ arguments bear also on what we as teachers say and do in the classroom. At a recent conference on faculty advocacy in the classroom, a number of academics used the occasion to defend against charges that they had been using the classroom to promote one or another version of political correctness. To the contrary, said one Women’s Studies professor, … some, perhaps much, of what my students take to be advocacy in the classroom in fact consists of critical questions about the empirical foundations of their political and social beliefs, or critical evaluation of the logical structure of their beliefs…. As evidence for my ‘advocacy’, students point out that most of the corrections I make as to fact or logic tend to be in a more liberal or ‘politically correct’ direction. [H]owever, it is not at all surprising that I might encounter more poorly founded opinions of the conservative sort. When the opportunity arises, I do try to point out similar errors made by the ‘politically (not quite) correct’, but they tend to be fewer in number….” (Holland, 1996).
But are what Holland calls “errors” in the logic of her conservative students really a reflection of her own biases, thus providing unwitting evidence of the limits of objectivity? Read more

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