ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Reasons To Buy: Teaching Reasoning Through Television

ISSAlogo1998Ads purport to give us reasons to buy. What sorts of reasons are they? When Nike asked us to ‘Just do it’, they were not – or not simply – with a sort of primitive practical syllogism, telling us to just buy. The phrase has layers of meaning. It could mean do what you were going to do, or what you were not going to. It has overtones of the coach, or the irritated mother, of the inner voice urging you on. It is a cryptic and ambiguous phrase, accompanied by a stylish logo, and it is universally known. What is more, people buy Nikes. But their purchase is not simply falling in with the order to buy: it is a complex and highly social event.
To think of ads as practical syllogisms is to think of them as arguments from the content of the ad to an act of buying, or an intention to buy. But it is too simple to claim that an ad is properly taken only if the appropriate action issues. Ads are complex and highly sophisticated components of modern life, embedded deeply in a variety of cultural practices, but at the same time, communicating across the global village with almost unprecedented effectiveness My project is to look more closely at the reasoning structure of advertisements.
George Steiner’s claim that advertising is the poetry of the modern age is correct in the sense that the pure condensation of meaning which was once the province of purely poetic or religious discourse is now found in the ad industry. Highly intelligent (and well paid) executives spend hours searching for the one pithy phrase, a phrase that will capture the imaginations and heart, which will resonate and be sung, whispered or held – often for life. The jingles of my childhood seem inexpugnable. One, of very limited poetic worth, went
‘Menz makes biscuits a treat
Because Menz makes biscuits that are good to eat’

It will, I am sure, remain with me when all else has gone. In the days of music videos and startlingly high production values of visual television, the qualities of ads are legion. The sheer effectiveness of ads as memorable images, as semiotic signifiers, as music videos or film clips is itself a matter of academic study. We are familiar with the intertextuality of ads, both in the sense that the one theme will appear in print, television and billboards, but also in the sense that ads refer to the genres, particularly of television, with enormous subtlety. Puns proliferate, both visual and verbal and across the media. I do not attempt here to cover all aspects of advertising paper seeks out the structures of argumentation in ads. I concentrate on the verbal messages of ads as the central focus of argumentation. This is not to deny the importance of the visual and musical components of the force of advertisements, but rather to focus on one element of ads which has received relatively little attention.
I begin with an example of a print advertisement, to indicate the possibilities of argumentation, but also to sharpen issue of differences between print and other media. In this context, I explain my general project of analysing the reasoning on the media as a way of both teaching kids philosophy and of teaching them about the impact of the media. Kids are all too familiar with denunciations of the capitalist forces behind advertising -yet they adore ads. If we wish to have kids react critically to ads, the best method is to have them draw out their own understanding of advertisements as a starting point.
The second section draws on materials I have developed for talking about reasoning in television ads, and their billboard counterparts. The final section deals with the obvious problem with ads – are they true? Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Reasonableness Rather Than Rationality

ISSAlogo1998The idea that logic alone can determine the distinction between good and bad arguments is rapidly being replaced by a broader dialectical theory of argumentation. Yet, to preserve a suitable notion of normativity, dialecticians appeal to a notion of rationality that shows much the same features as the disreputed logic is sought to replace. In this contribution, I will diagnose the problem and present an alternative: dialogical rhetoric.
The idea that bad arguments are logically interesting is rather young. For ages, logic was primarily interested in good arguments. Bad ones were negatively defined as not-good, and, as distinguishing instrument, logic could be limited to answering the question what accounts for the goodness of arguments. Modern formal logic, in this fashion, sought after sound arguments that yield conclusions by necessity. Starting with true premises, a truth-preserving method of valid inference warrants conclusions that cannot be wrong. The truth of the premises, although essential for soundness, is left to the relevant fields of investigation. Logic proper concerns the method of inference and deals only with validity. Logically speaking, a good argument is a valid one, and a bad argument is invalid. This type of logic observes what we may call the deductive demand. A good argument is one of which the conclusion follows necessarily, under the condition that its premises are true.
Hamblin’s Fallacies (1970) cracked the ice. He showed that the notion of invalidity was not adequate in accounting for bad arguments, and that consequently the deductive demand did not serve the distinction between good and bad arguments. In a nutshell: invalidity was neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for fallaciousness. Some fallacies are not invalid at all (e.g. the notorious begging the question), and many arguments are invalid but not fallacious (all inductive arguments are deductively invalid). Many thinkers have followed Hamblin, and added doubts on the suitability of the deductive demand. I will mention three problems in particular.

1. The deductive demand is an all-or-nothing matter: only necessary conclusions are allowed and anything less is rejected. To every problem there is only one solution: the best one. Curiously enough, however, no account can be given for a notion of `better’. This makes argumentation, in any substantial sense, impossible. Argumentation, after all, consists of arguments pro and arguments contra, and the balance of those two factors constitute the strength of an argument. The deductive account cannot acknowledge positive and negative forces in this way because a deductive argument `knocks down’ either way.

2. The deductive demand cannot acknowledge alternatives, and is in that sense monological. The point is that as a truth-preserving method it should yield necessary conclusions and it cannot allow a different logic arriving somewhere else. But if so, any deviation of the monologic is impossible, including unlogicality. Indeed, as the early Wittgenstein said: `we can think nothing unlogical, since if we could, we would have to think unlogically’(Tractatus: 3.03). The idea is that thinking as such presupposes logic. This feature gives monologic a transcendental flavor: it provides for the very condition of the possiblity for thinking and cannot be questioned, nor sustained by argumentation. Monologic must be `seen’, and can only be `shown’. The problem, obviously, is that bad arguments do exist and that we must presume that the persons who advance them in fact thought badly.

3. Perhaps the most serious problem for the deductive demand is that it is not hard at all to meet it. Many arguments are sloppy in the sense that not all premises are explicitly mentioned. This is not a problem, because most people will tacitly add the missing premise. To determine the deductive validity, however, we must add the hidden premise. This can do no harm because it cannot make a valid argument invalid, but it can do much good by explicitizing an implicit premise. The problem, however, is that any argument can be made valid by adding the right premise. The associated conditional, or even the conclusion itself, and perhaps even the negation of one of the other premises[i], will do. This simply means that either an argument is valid, or can be made valid. Deductively, no bad arguments exist. Deductive logic, far from providing a suitable instrument, has no powers to perform its distinguishing task. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Falsification And Fieldwork In Recent American Anthropology: Argument Before And After The Mead/Freeman Controversy

ISSAlogo1998Ethnographic fieldwork – going into the bush, into the unknown – to study some ‘tribe’ has arguably been the central feature of cultural or social anthropology in this century.[i] “Ethnography has been, and is, the sine qua non of cultural anthropology. It accounts for our initial status and networks within our profession, legitimizes us as ”real” anthropologists. . . and provides us with the means to survive the publishing dictates of the academy.” (Farrer 1996: 170). It has been taken as primarily the product of the individual researcher and as relatively unproblematic. It then provides the evidential foundation for anthropological theory, which is where controversy enters. Debates are about the implications of the ‘research findings’, not typically the findings themselves. In the last decade and a half, there has been increased attention paid to just how ethnographies are rhetorically constructed by an anthropologist.
This is a valuable emphasis, but I am adding another – looking at how fieldwork is criticized and accepted as reliable after publication. I explore this process as a social activity by the discipline in light of its various audiences. To do this I focus on what led up to and followed Derek Freeman’s attack on Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa. My concern is not with argument by Mead or Freeman per se – that has been done (Weimer 1990, Marshall 1993).

A bit of quick history. In 1925 Margaret Mead went to American Samoa to test G. Stanley Hall’s then current account of adolescence as inevitably stressful.. Her subsequent book refuting Hall and giving a compelling portrait of South Sea life, Coming of Age in Samoa, became a bestseller, and its view of adolescent development, particularly in sexual relations, had a great influence on American culture. Mead became the best-known anthropologist in America, a veritable cultural icon (Lutkehaus 1996).
In 1983, five years after Mead’s death, the first notice of the Australian anthropologist Derek Freeman’s critique of Mead was published on the front-page of the New York Times; a media event ensued, complete with television appearances. Freeman, who dedicated his book to Karl Popper, the philosopher who championed the importance of falsification in science, claimed to have definitely falsified Mead, as well as offered a more adequate account of the interaction of biology and culture. A multitude of reviews and rejoinders followed; Freeman replied vigorously to many of these.
The American Anthropological Association even took a vote deploring the recommendation of the book by the magazine Science 83. In 1989 a documentary film, Margaret Mead and Samoa (Heimans 1989), apparently supported Freeman with an interview with one of Mead’s informants who stated that she and other Samoan girls had “pulled Mead’s leg in response to probing questions about their personal lives, and that Mead, then 24 years old, believed their tall tales” (Monaghan 1989: A6).
Why was the Mead-Freeman controversy such an event? For some anthropologists, there has been a certain befuddlement – why won’t it go away? One reason is the sheer number of issues involved – ranging from particular questions such as the degree of Mead’s facility with the Samoan language, to the personalities involved, to larger issues such as the nature-nurture debate and social responsibility of scientists. It is a mistake to say, as some have, that “it was really about” one thing and not another. Nonetheless I focus in this paper primarily on the relation of an epistemic matter to a standard rhetorical one, on how anthropological fieldwork claims are taken to constitute reliable evidence or knowledge for the audiences of anthropology. Following Lyne, I distinguish anthropology’s intra-field audience – other anthropologists, its inter-field audience – other scholars and scientists outside the discipline, and its extra-field audience – the general or educated public (Lyne 1983). My issue involves how, as Lyne puts it, epistemic expertise is projected to these various audiences. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Rhetoric As Ideological Pronouncement: An Analysis Of The Cardinal Principles Of The National Entity Of Japan

ISSAlogo1998The concept of kokutai or ‘national structure’ derived from the fundamental insularity and isolation of the Japanese. The concept served as a powerful linguistic weapon both for attack and defense in the political arena of the period 1931-1945…. [A]fter the Meiji Restoration, ‘national structure’ was used to signify the uniqueness of the existing government of Japan. The word became a glorification of that order, a claim that the present had existed since time immemorial. Since the oldest book extant was the Kojiki, which recounted the descent from heaven of the ancestor of the Royal Family, the national structure was generally understood to centre on an unbroken line of emperors of heavenly origin. – Tsurumi Shunsuke

Over the past centuries, scholars of rhetorical communication have been grappling with a fundamental nature of argumentation that continues to shape and reshape social, political and religious structures of human society. Literature suggests that whereas most scholars acknowledge its critical or sometimes subversive effects, some have paid a considerable attention to enemies of argumentation such as ideology, myth, and propaganda. For instance, Marxists are concerned with ideology as the ruling ideas of the epoch in an attempt to investigate what might be termed the internal life of the ideological realm and to provide detailed and sophisticated accounts of how a society’s “ruling ideas” are produced. Religious scholars have argued that myth, as sacred tales concerned with the origins of natural or supernatural, or cultural phenomena, serve various roles available within the articulated social cosmos for community members to achieve a position of influence within the social hierarchies or to find ways of operating meaningfully as contributing members. Finally, the scholars of media studies have explored the tension between the principles of democracy and the process of propaganda since the notion of a rational person, capable of thinking and living according to scientific patterns, of choosing freely between good and evil seems opposed to secret influences or appeals to the irrational.
Given that, it is surprising to know that there has been very little discussion about “ideological pronouncement,” which means a sort of rhetoric which undermines and limites the possibility of critical discussion among target audiences. In what follows, I will explore “ideological pronouncement” as an enemy of argumentation. First, I will contend that the nature of argumentation is primarily characterized as an engagement in critical/rational discourse. Second, I will define the nature of ideological pronouncement as an engagement in fascist/anti-realist discourse. Specifically, the essential constituents for such an enactment can be identified as anti-realism, a lack of critical space, and especially, one-sided communication.
Finally, I will investigate Japan’s wartime textbook, the Kokutai no hongi, or Cardinal Principles of the National Entity of Japan (hereafter it will be referred to as Cardinal Principles) as a rhetoric of ideological pronouncement. In 1937, the Cardinal Principles was published by the Japanese government and became the most widely employed moral education textbook, an official attempt at indoctrination of its nationalist principles: “first printing of approximately 300,000 copies was distributed to the teaching staffs of both public and private schools from the university level to the lower cycle of elementary schools” (Cardinal Principles 10). As of 1943, the book is said to have sold approximately 1,900,000 copies. Given such enormous popularity, it seems appropriate to use the Cardinal Principles as a prime example of fascist discourse.

1. Argumentation as engagement in critical/rational discourse
Let me start the discussion by posing a question: Why is ideological pronouncement problematic or undesirable? To answer the question, I will define and examine the following three concepts: argumentation, argument, argumentativeness. First, argumentation is generally recognized as “the process of advancing, supporting, modifying, and criticizing claims so that appropriate decision makers may grant or deny adherence” (Rieke & Sillars 5). This audience-centered definition holds the assumptions that the participants must willingly engage in public debate and discussion, and that their arguments must function to open a critical space and keep it open. From this perspective, as Chaim Perelman has rightly pointed out, the aim of argumentation is to gain the adherence of others. Hence, argumentation should be viewed as an interactive process between arguer and audience to determine the appropriateness of an advocated claim based upon data presented with reasoning given. Only the arguments that exceed a threshold for audience acceptance will survive or prevail, and others will disappear or fade away. This way,  argumentation plays a chief role in the critical decision-making process. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Pragma-Dialectics of Visual Argument

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction A number of recent commentators (among them Birdsell & Groarke 1996, Blair 1996, Groarke 1998, and Shelley 1996) have discussed the role that visual images play in public argument. The present paper is an attempt to sketch a pragma-dialectical account of this role. I will call the argumentation which employs such images “visual argumentation” in order to stress the extent to which the images in question can be compared to verbal claims. Because a detailed account of the pragma-dialectics of visual argument is beyond the scope of a short paper, I will more modestly attempt to sketch some cental features of such an account. In the process I will emphasize two aspects of pragma-dialectics: (i) its commitment tospeech act theory and (ii) the principles of communication it uses to explain implicit and indirect speech acts. I end with some remarks on an approach to visual argumentation which is fundamentally at odds with the one that I propose. 2. Visual Images as Speech Acts Any pragma-dialectical attempt to understand how visual images inform public argument must begin with the recognition that such images can, like verbal claims, function as speech acts in argumentative exchange. Understanding such exchange in a pragma- dialectical way, we can say that argumentation is a reasoned attempt to resolve a dispute, that a dispute centers on a a standpoint which is “entails a certain position in a dispute,” and that an argument is an attempt to defend a standpoint (Eemeren & Grootendorst 1992, 14). The question whether visual argumentation is possible thus reduces to the question whether visual images can be used to express standpoints and defend them, and can in this way contribute to the critical discussion which revolves around disputes.[i] A comprehensive account of visual images in argumentative contexts requires a detailed account of visual meaning. Because such an account is beyond the scope of the present paper[ii], I will instead demonstrate the possibility of visual argumentation with some select examples. The first is reproduced below. It is a World War I American political cartoon drawn by Luther Bradley and published in the Chicago Daily News. Though the message is in part visual, it functions as a pointed comment on the causes of the war. Ingeniously, Bradley portrays the world at war as a person afflicted with a terrible tooth ache and the world’s “old” monarchies as dental crowns. The nurse labelled “The Spirit of Peace” provides his own diagnosis: the war will end and the world will enjoy peace and comfort only when its old crowns are removed.


“The Spirit of Peace”

Press has described the view of international politics which characterizes this and other American cartoons of the same period in his book, The Political Cartoon. “War is,” it holds, “made necessary by the machinations of corrupt and archaic feudal monarchs. Such outmoded feudal leaders seek war because they glory in the pomp of military splendour and aggrandizement, or else they are prone to excesses and saber rattling that inadvertently leads to war. The root cause of war is thus… feudal monarchs and self-proclaimed Emperors [who] vie with each other for the spoils of empire, in a manner suited to the Middle Ages or to Graustark or Zenda, but not to modern times. The solution to war is to replace an outdated feudalism…” (Press 1981, 158). In presenting the standpoint this implies, Bradley’s cartoon functions as a speech act which may appropriately be called an “assertive.” The proposition it asserts might be summarized as the claim that “If the world is to enjoy peace, then old monarchies must be removed.” In the present context, it illustrates the point that a visual image may present a standpoint and in this way initiate or contribute to critical discussion. As in the case of standpoints expressed in purely verbal ways, one might agree with Bradley’s position and adduce evidence in support of it. Alternatively, one might – like Press – argue that it is founded on the simple minded view that American democracy is a panacea which can, if propagated, solve the world’s problems. The important point is that Bradley’s standpoint can thus become the locus of argumentative exchange. Bradley’s cartoon might usefully be described as a sophisticated visual metaphor. His standpoint might therefore be said to express the view that “The world is (like) a person with a bad tooth ache who needs old crowns (monarchies) removed.” Not all visual images can be classed as metaphors, but the role that visual and verbal metaphors play in critical discussion makes the important point that standpoints are often expressed in ways that extend beyond literally intended verbal claims. The study of visual argumentation in this way extends argumentation theory beyond this narrow compass. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – On The Fallacy Of Fallacy: Arguing For Methodological Difference: Producing vs Processing

ISSAlogo19981. Introduction
Fallacies have always been in the centre, or near the centre, of argumentation studies. In fact they lie at their roots in two senses: most approaches to argumentation have sprung from a consideration of what is amiss in human reasoning or thought, and theories of argumentation stand and fall with their capacity for detecting errors. In other words, fallacies are the cornerstone of argumentation theories very much like paradoxes once percieved by Russell as the stumbling block of scientific theories: they constitute the boundary conditions within which human thought and action remain to be rational. For a long time fallacies and rationality had been taken to be the two sides of the same coin, until certain evidences appeared to undermine their interdependence. They came basically from two sources: the psychology of decision making and the semantics and pragmatics of inferences in language use. Now it is no longer the exclusive power of argumentation theory that matters but their inclusivity, i.e. how charitable they are with faulty reasoning, error making and unjustified action. If fallacy theory does constitute a major divide, it works rather like a filter through which the beyond normal is let upon the territory of the rational; or at most it is a tradeoff between the rational and the irrational.
In this paper I am not going to take stock of the enormous data corroborating the “legal status” of irrational moves in thought and action; I only elaborate a little on the diagnosis that with the cognitive turn in the 70s a new look on the methodological basis of argumentation is needed. Yet I will not adumbrate a methodology here because, as I see it, there is an important, and not clearly noted, distinction underlying most of the insights in cognitive science that should be reckoned with in the first place before any stand on argumentation can be taken. Since there is not enough room here to fully elaborate this distinction, I have to suffice with some important consequences. Thus I am doing a kind of archeology of knowledge in the Foucaultian sense, which may fall beyond the proper scope of argumentation theory, but if there is anything wrong with the idea of fallacy, as I think there is, it can only be identified in its undepinnings and its undepinnings are in cognition.
It is a most common opinion that the idea of fallacy is theory-laden: no fallacy without a theory. Now I want to oppose that view and try to argue for a rather strong claim that there are – at least some interesting – cases of language use when what appears to be fallacious or misplaced is not the given move itself but rather the attempt to judge what has been said or done as acceptable by some pre-set theoretical standards. Fallacies result then from a fallacious methodology; the methodology is fallacious for two reasons, which are however related.

2. The outline of the argument
I start then with the first reason why fallacies are originally methodological. It is constituted by what I take to be a major tension between the descriptive and normative ideal of argumentation theories. It is the basic claim of this paper that conflating the two inevitably leads to apocalypse. Thus it is because of the trafficking between the two ideals that John Woods could once call relevance theory as developed by D. Sperber and D. Wilson apocalyptic.
Since most frequently argumentative structures are the result of re-descripitions of utterances, in illustrating the first reason I will draw upon certain tenets from linguistic theory. This does not mean that I am necessarily biased by linguistic theorizing; rather the principles of understanding and producing language like relevance, graduality, similarity or structure mapping etc. should cohere with the more general priciples of argumentation. If our understanding of language, i.e. of what is said, is apocalyptic, there is not much chance of constructing a – let alone sound – argument out of it. Read more

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