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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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Totalitarian Argumentation: Theory And Practice

ISSAlogo1998In the history of the 20-th century totalitarianism has left a deep and bloody trace. It has been connected not only with destroying civil public institutes and different deformations of people’s private and social life. This century totalitarianism turned out to be an Intellect of Devil with a capital letter which forced people to realize the necessity of replacing monistic Ratio by numbers of autonomous and competing with each other intellect instances. The connection between totalitarianism and intellect is paradoxical. Destroying the intellect with a small letter and thus discrediting the great Ratio totalitarianism created special communicative practices.
It’s wrong to believe that the power of totalitarianism can be explained exceptionally by the power of its repressive structures. A great role in its expansion is played by unrepressive mostly [first of all] verbal practices the core of which was an argumentation. “Argumentation is a social, intellectual, verbal activity serving to justify or refute an opinion, consisting of a constellation of statements and directed towards obtaining the approbation of an audience” (Eemeren, Grootendorst, Kruiger 1987:7). Argumentation is a way of human deeds coordination.
As Ch. Perelman says, that activity is the communication of intellects, American philosofer H.W. Yohnstone says, that activity is the most adequate way of realizing the human nature.In connection with totalitarianism argumentation becomes the devil of homo sapiens and needs the most serious attention. Analysing it we may probably come to answer the question inspired by H. Arendt: How a physically normal healthy person may lose the interest to his own beinq to realize himself as a screw, soldier of Totalitarian one. (Arendt 1951) Totalitarianism isn’t the antipode of democracy, but its another genesis, plebiscite-acclamatorian form, as J. Habermas says on the point. Some democracy theorists consider that totalitarianism and democracy are antipodes. There are two forms of democracy: a representative democracy and a democracy of participation “For the survival of democracy in Eastern Europe, where touch economic and social measures are to be taken, participation is a prereguisite. But more participation will also be indispensable in solving some of the problems inherent in the democratic system institutionalised in the West” (Eemeren 1996:9) Only an inaccurate look perceives acclamation as one of false democracy. The estimation of totalitarianism as extermal displaying of dominatuion and as a false arche is also simplified. It’s more realistic without declaring the totalitarianism visibility what is forbidden by the voice of its victims, which is knocking in the contemporaries hearts, to try to understand which properties the argumentation must have to be an effective megaphone ,the way of totalitarianism implementation. These properties were dissolved in communicative practices of totalitarianism and were not recorded by means of language. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Arguing For Bakhtin

ISSAlogo1998“Bakhtin’s thought is so many-sided and fertile that he is inevitably open to colonization by others.” David Lodge, After Bakhtin.

In a recent paper, J. Anthony Blair (1998) laments a proliferation of terms that appear to be employed without discrimination or distinction: ‘dialogue’, ‘dialogical’, ‘dialectic’, ‘dialectics’, and ‘dialectical’. While he doubts it will occur, Blair proposes that ‘dialectical’ be reserved for “the properties of all arguments related to their involving doubts or disagreements with at least two sides, and the term ‘dialogical’…for those belonging exclusively to turn-taking verbal exchanges.” Setting aside his pessimism, what Blair identifies amounts to a clear trend toward ‘dialectical’ or ‘dialogical’ models of argumentation, a trend that has become more pronounced particularly among informal logicians in the last few years (Cf. Gilbert, 1997; Johnson, 1996; Walton, 1996, 1997).[i]
Of course, emphasizing the two-sidedness or turn-taking nature of argumentation may not amount to very much. Douglas Walton’s centralizing of ‘dialogue’ in his pragmatic account means that the dialogue provides the context which will determine the argument by virtue of telling us how the set of inferences or propositions at its core is being used (1996:40-41). And Ralph Johnson’s recent focus on a dialectical tier exists in relation to an underlying illative tier which is the premise-conclusion part of the argument’s structure (1996:264). But with these senses, it is possible (though not necessarily the case) for dialogue-focussed or dialectical argumentation to involve no more than an exchange of distanced, monological positions (perhaps through turn-taking, perhaps in whole), where each side presents its argument for acceptance or rejection (Shotter, 1997). Were such to occur, the current drive for a more genuinely interactive or ‘involved’ perspective might be lost.[ii]
It is here that the dialogism of Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) seems particularly appropriate and in many ways an anticipation of current trends in argumentation theory (as with so much else). Shotter (1997) turns to Bakhtin’s views for an understanding of dialogical communication and argument within actual communities. I want to take this further and look for an actual perspective on argumentation, one that really captures the interactive nature of dialogue.

While Bakhtin was a philosopher of language and literature, it is primarily the latter that has been championed in the west where his theory of the novel has been particularly influential. But for argumentation theorists, there is much more to be culled from his ideas on language and communication generally. This paper will both explore what ‘arguing’ is for Bakhtin, showing how his general theory of speech and meaning implicates a particular concept of ‘argument’, and argue for Bakhtin’s role as an important figure in argumentation studies. I will approach the first task through paying attention to special features of Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism (here understood provisionally as the relationship of every utterance to other utterances). Extending beyond Shotter (1997), I derive a concept of argument totally embedded in context (no detached reconstruction of premises and conclusions can be true to it), where even the situation itself enters as a constitutive element. Arguments are essentially co-operative enterprises, opening up meanings to mutual (and third party) understanding, exploring others’ positions, and developing consensus.
Limited by the constraints of time and page-length, I illustrate the prospects for success with the second task by exploring ways in which Bakhtin anticipates an important aspect of Perelman’s work. In particular, I discuss Bakhtin’s treatment of audiences and the importance for him of the “hovering presence” behind conversation of a third part “superaddressee” (1986, 126)[iii]. This concept and Bakhtin’s associated discussion has compelling and instructive parallels with the “universal audience” of the New Rhetoric. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – The Usefulness Of Platitudes In Arguments About Conduct

ISSAlogo1998Excerpt from a School Board Election Debate
We need leaders who will listen and work with parents, teachers and administrators to provide the best possible education for our kids. Our children should always be the focus of our efforts, not Board behavior. Imagine the possibilities if we could tap the vision of every concerned parent, teacher and citizen to come up with a school system that reflects the best of all tha- that all of us have to offer. Sounds better than fighting with each other doesn’t it? In elections for public office, a candidate’s record of conduct will influence how citizens vote. Whether consideration of conduct (i.e., character, personality, communicative style) is reasonable and should affect citizens’ votes, or whether it should not, is neither an easy judgment call nor one about which involved parties usually agree. As a consequence, making arguments about others’ conduct can be delicate business. The purpose of this paper is to take a close look at one community’s arguments about conduct. The site: A school board election in a medium-sized school district in the Western United States. In this election that set records for voter turn out and spending, candidates did not agree as to what were (or should be) the focal issues. Incumbents considered substantive concerns about directions for education as the main issue; the non-incumbents considered process problems – how school board members had been and should be conducting themselves in making decisions – to be the main issue. The election resulted in a decisive victory for the non-incumbents.[i] As the local newspaper proclaimed in a front page quote from one victorious challenger: “I think this election result really sends a message that rudeness is something people don’t want to see in local officials.”[ii]
After providing background on the school district, the materials, and some key events that preceded the election, I focus on the debate that occurred among the seven candidates. In particular, I show that the non-incumbents’ arguments as to why they should be elected (and the incumbents defeated) were heavily reliant on platitudes about conduct. Platitudes, I claim, are useful, perhaps even necessary conversational devices, when a candidate is criticizing a fellow candidate’s conduct. They assign responsibility without explicitly so doing, they evoke particular events for an audience yet do not explicate how a person’s handling of the event was inappropriate, and they minimize the likelihood of counter charges.

Rocky Mountain School District’s School Board
Rocky Mountain School District serves a population of a quarter of a million people. Its main city of roughly 100,000 is the home of a research university that educates a good number of the teachers and administrators that staff its schools. The district is geographically diverse, including not only the university city that is the hub, but bedroom suburbs of the city, and difficult-to-reach mountain towns. Twenty-five thousand children attend its 54 different schools. School board meetings are open to the public, occur twice a month, and are broadcast on a local public channel. Meeting involve school board members, the superintendent, the school system’s attorney and other school district officials, as well as members of the public. The Board is comprised of seven members elected for four year terms, with half of the board up for election every two years. Following each election, the Board selects its president and other officers. In the November 1997 election that is the focus of this paper four positions were at stake with seven candidates running (one district had an uncontested election). Although candidates were required to live in the district from which they ran, citizens voted in every district’s contest. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 1998 – Sustainable Development: New Paradigms In Discourse Linguistics

ISSAlogo1998The main concern of this presentation is to outline those tendencies in linguistic approach to discourse analysis as they are seen from the perspective of the new ideas of open systems. First, there will be discussed some major facts that are taken into account as background for dynamic analysis of texts: the idea of the Noosphere, preference of the term paradigm applied to dynamic analysis . Then we shall deal with three main tendencies in discourse linguistics connected with open systems which are all connected with reconstruction of discourse configurations that have an integral character. Finally we shall dwell on the main similarities that of discourse paradigms.

1. Sustainable development is a term and concept that implies certain interdisciplinary global approach of vision of nature and man by both sciences and the humanities. This term is one of the most radical ones that allows Prothagor’s old formula. ‘Man is a measure of all things’ to be understood in a different way at the turn of this millenium – man, being the measure should be concerned with reasonable attitudes to natural and social spheres of his activity so that man sustains his development. Antropocentric ideas of communication turn to Noocentric founded on the basis of dialogue systems. Modern complex social and political configurations in contemporary society bring forth the problem of communication on a very specific level – dialogue is considered to be not only an interactive means of information exchange between people but as a means of interactive activity between men, nature and mind. This interaction is carried through the language. The language becomes a certain liaison between man and different forms of life thus reflecting changes in types and methods of communication.
In Russia the idea of reasonable attitudes is connected with the concept of the Nooshere (“the sphere of reason”). The term was suggested by Eduourd le Roy (1870-1954) and Pierre Teilard de Chardin (1881-1955) and taken by Vladimir I.Vernadsky (1863-1945) when he came to Paris to work in Sorbonne. According to Vernadsky the Noosphere is a new evolutionary condition of the biosphere in which there should be met certain ecological and social orders. Vernadsky wrote that from evidence of global upheavals in both the natural and social indivisibility the only imperative is uniting humanity under the auspice of science. It was science that he ascribed a special role to in the transition to the Noosphere.
He thought that science has a strongest universal binding force as being the realm where humanity has appeared to make continuous progress. This sounds very idealistic, of course, but it should be born in mind that Vernadsky was the man who launched research programs on radioactivity and radioactive elements by founding the Radium Research Institute and he was very much concerned with the utilization of atomic energy. His theory thus stands at the very intersection of the most powerful trends of the modern and postmodern world. Read more

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