ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Communication Principles For Controversies – An Historical Perspective

logo  20061. Introduction
For centuries people have complained about their opponents in controversies who tend to make chaos of rational argumentation by evading arguments, by writing incomprehensibly, by intentionally misunderstanding their opponent, by insulting him, and by committing all kinds of fallacies. (A similar list of infringements of principles was drawn up by Leibniz, cf. Leibniz, “Art of controversies”, Ch. 27.) These complaints presuppose ideal forms of controversy and the validity of relevant principles which should guide the actions of the participants. They form an important part of what one could call the implicit theory of controversy that people apply in their practice. Most of the time speakers and writers follow these principles as a matter of routine without having to formulate them explicitly. Sometimes, however, occasion arises to make such principles explicit. This is the case when one teaches or when one complains and criticizes. Teachers of argumentation skills have always formulated rules or principles for good argumentation, from Aristotle’s “Sophistical Refutations” and the traditional rules of disputation (cf. Jakob Thomasius, 1670) to the ten pragma-dialectical rules for critical discussion (cf. van Eemeren/Grootendorst/Snoeck Henkemans 2002, 182f.). Students of disputation should be lead from that senseless type of dispute in which everything is confused without order and formal presentation to a more useful kind of reasoning which aims at discovering the truth (“ab insano illo conflictu, qvo sine ordine, sine formali discursu miscentur vulgo ac turbantur omnia … ad magis proficuam veritatis eruendae rationem”, Thomasius 1670, 140). The importance of the participants’ critical remarks on ongoing discussions for a theory of dialectics was emphasized by Hamblin in his book on fallacies: “… the development of a theory of charges, objections or points of order is a first essential” (Hamblin 1970, 303). It is therefore not surprising that for an historical analysis of communication principles the complaints and accusations concerning dialectical malpractice uttered in the course of historical controversies should form a prime source of data (cf. Fritz 2005).

Before embarking on a survey of such principles I should like to clarify what I mean by communication principles. The simplest way to do this is to say communication principles are basically what Grice called maxims of conversation (cf. Grice 1989, 26ff.). In saying this, I am not subscribing to the Gricean theory in general, including the cooperative principle etc. As far as the assumption of basic principles is concerned, my sympathies lie with theories like Hintikka‘s (Hintikka 1986) and Kasher‘s (Kasher 1976) who emphasize the foundational role of some kind of rationality principle – which of course was also mentioned by Grice (Grice 1989, 29f.). However, I feel that at the present stage of research it may be useful to concentrate on the empirical study of communication principles in order to get a more vivid picture of how rationality is put into practice. And maybe this empirical approach will also show that there are principles which are not in any simple way related to standard assumptions of rationality, e.g. principles which people inherited from earlier periods without adapting them to new communicative demands.
Taken at a certain level, such principles seem to be fairly simple and universal, like for example the principle of relevance, but as soon as we go into empirical detail we realize that the principles people mention (and follow) are often much more fine-grained and that they form highly complex families which are differentiated according to social groups (e.g. scholars vs. courtiers) and types of text (pamphlets vs. reviews) etc., and which, for good reasons – this is a basic assumption of this paper – are historically variable. If such principles are indeed derived from a general principle of rationality, then what counts as an application of this general principle is a rather complicated matter and can be assumed to be subject to historical changes. On the one hand, there are long-lasting traditions of certain principles, e.g. the Aristotelian tradition of criticizing certain types of fallacies, on the other hand there are obvious changes over time which are linked to social developments, e.g. the development of social groups, the development of a culture of conversation, or the developments of media. A few examples may be in order: In 17th century polite conversation, contradicting an equal was a highly problematic move, which had to be accompanied with face-saving utterances (cf. Shapin 1994, 114ff.). When 17th century scholars became advisers at court, they had to give up their academic bickering. And when the new scientific journals were created by the end of the 17th century, academic discussions had to conform to new principles of text production, which differed from traditional pamphlet writing.
The following observations are based on case studies within the framework of Historical Pragmatics, mainly from the 16th to the 18th century.[i] In this framework, the history of communication principles is part of the study of the conditions of continuity and change in forms of communication. Controversies are a particularly rewarding object of study for Historical Pragmatics, as they show fairly clear basic structures, as there is a large amount of interesting data available, and as many of the writers of polemical texts tended to reflect on their own polemical practice and that of their opponents. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Irony As Ethical Argumentation In Kierkegaard

logo  20061. Scope of the investigation
Irony is a type of stylistic argument that, because of the great variety of its forms, is particularly resistant to analysis. In this essay, therefore, I propose to focus the discussion on the use of irony in:
1. ethical argumentation,
2. within rhetorical contexts,
3. especially as practiced and interpreted by philosophers, and
4. specifically by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. My reasons for limiting the topic of stylistic irony are the following four.

1.1 Ethical argumentation
Irony is frequently found within ethical argumentation, perhaps more distinctively than in any other context. The association of irony with ethics stems from the evaluative character of irony, since irony often encourages the listener to make a judgment that an implied idea or state of affairs is better, somehow or another, than the one the ironist explicitly puts into words. Not all irony is ethical argumentation, of course, not even all evaluative irony; for example, irony also occurs in aesthetic argumentation. Some of what is called irony is not argumentation at all, such as “tragic” or “dramatic” irony, where the irony lies in what happens and not in what is said. Moreover, much of what goes under the name of irony seems too trivial to be called ethical argumentation, or indeed argumentation in any usual sense. It seems, rather, to be mere playfulness, a way of having a bit of fun with the vagaries of words and typical human dilemmas. Still, if someone identifies some pages as a paradigm case of sustained irony, the passage is apt to turn out to be a piece of ethical argumentation – perhaps as used in personal invective or social critique – in such works as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal or A Tale of a Tub.

1.2 Importance of the rhetorical context
Each case of irony needs to be appreciated in its specific rhetorical context – in terms of the situation, at that time, of the particular ironists and listeners, their emotional states, their personal histories, and even the very intonation of the words they speak. The words by themselves and their sentential structure do not identify a passage as ironical, since just the same words, with a slightly different inflection or under other circumstances, may be utterly devoid of irony.
Toward the end of the twentieth century several rhetoricians wrote interpretations of the concept of irony that continue to be significant for the study of irony and its place in argumentation. Three writers laid the foundation: Norman Knox, with his book The Word Irony and its Context, 1500-1755 (1961), D. C. Muecke, with The Compass of Irony (1969), and, above all, Wayne Booth, with his influential study, A Rhetoric of Irony (1974). David Kaufer then applied their insights specifically to the study of irony’s place in argumentation, with a series of three articles, in 1977, 1981, and (with Christine M. Neuwirth) 1982. Their work, in turn, was followed by that of a pair of informal logicians, Christopher W. Tindale and James Gough, in 1987.

1.3 Interpretation and practice of irony by the Romantic philosophers
Although looking to philosophers to interpret literary irony may seem strange, the explanation is simple. Near the beginning of the nineteenth century a group of philosophers, led by Friedrich Schlegel and his brother August, but including many of the leading philosophers and poets of the day, greatly expanded the concept of irony and made irony central both to philosophy and to literature, both for their own time and up to the present. To call them philosophers, however, does not mean that they were not also literary figures, since for them literature and philosophy – like poetry and prose, the novel and philosophical dialogue, and irony and the non-ironical – are all false dichotomies. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Metadialogues And Meta-Arguments: Krabbe On Formal-Fallacy Criticism

logo  2006“A metadialogue is a dialogue about a dialogue or about some dialogues. A dialogue that is not a metadialogue will be called a ground level dialogue” (Krabbe 2003, p. 641). With these definitions, Krabbe explicitly introduced the topic of metadialogues into argumentation theory. Similarly, I define a meta-argument as an argument about one or more arguments, and a ground-level argument as one which is not a meta-argument.
Here it is useful to stress the overlap between dialogues and arguments. Krabbe himself has stated that his main interest lies with persuasion dialogues, or critical discussions, and these entities involve arguments in an essential way. Moreover, Barth and Krabbe (1982) have famously proved the equivalence between the axiomatic and dialogical methods; and this proof may be taken to suggest (cf. Finocchiaro 2005, pp. 231-45) not only that the monolectical way of talking about arguments can be translated into a dialogical way of talking, but also that the reverse is the case. Here this reverse case will be exploited by discussing arguments and meta-arguments in a relatively monolectical manner, in the belief that this discussion could be translated into one about dialogues and metadialogues. Accordingly, in a few moments I will attempt to reconstruct some of Krabbe’s insights about metadialogues in terms of meta-arguments.
Finally, although the explicitly meta-argumentative, or metadialogical, approach is a valuable step forward, both meta-arguments and metadialogues have been implicitly discussed for a long time in argumentation theory. This has happened primarily in the context of the evaluation or criticism of arguments, which everyone will admit to be a crucial part of argumentation theory. In fact, argument evaluation can be done seriously only if one gives reasons supporting the evaluative claim; such a reasoned evaluation is obviously an argument, and since the subject matter is the original argument, the evaluation is clearly a meta-argument. Thus, it should come as no surprise if much of my analysis will consist of attempts to reconstruct in explicit terms of meta-argument relevant insights that deal with argument assessment.
An important type of meta-argument occurs when a ground-level argument is criticized for having committed a fallacy. As Krabbe (2002, p. 162) has stated, “in fallacy criticism it is upon the critic to show why an alleged move in critical discussion is so completely wrong that it cannot even prima facie be accepted as a serious contribution to the discussion. Thus fallacy criticism leads to a critical discussion on a second level, a discussion about the permissibility of a move in the ground level discussion.”

Krabbe’s thesis about fallacy criticism is in part presented by him as a solution to the problem of the asymmetry between favorable and unfavorable evaluations of arguments. In several challenging papers, Massey (1975a, 1975b, 1981) had asked and answered negatively the question, “Are there any good arguments that bad arguments are bad?” By contrast, Krabbe (1995) asks and answers affirmatively the question, “Can we ever pin one down to a formal fallacy?” Despite the terminological variance, and the opposition of their respective conclusions, the meta-argumentative dimension of the discussion is obvious. What is being discussed is the nature and cogency of meta-arguments to the effect that some ground-level argument is bad, fallacious, or invalid. Let us reconstruct Krabbe’s own argument (a third-level meta-argument!) that it is possible to construct cogent (second-level) meta-arguments to the effect that some ground-level argument is a formal fallacy.
First, what is a formal fallacy? For Krabbe (1995, p. 336), “a formal fallacy, in dialogue, is committed as soon a party presents a formally invalid (i.e., not formally valid) argument that violates the code of conduct of the dialogue.” Here it is important to note that, besides formal invalidity, there is a second element in this definition – code violation; that is, a violation of some rule either agreed upon by the two interlocutors, or arguably relevant in the context of that discussion. Although it is unrealistic to expect prior or explicit agreement about the rules of a particular discussion, learning the contextual relevance of various types of arguments and criticism is a normal part of the education designed to achieve mastery of a given field. For example, historians often argue for chronological theses by means of arguments which, however strong, are formally invalid; and the same happens in the more experimental branches of empirical science when one gives evidence to support some empirical generalization. But everybody knows, or ought to know, that in these contexts such formally invalid argument do not violate the rules of the game. My point here is simply to underscore the fact that, following Krabbe, there are two things and not just one that must done to prove a formally fallacy; and since these two things embody different claims, two distinct meta-arguments must be advanced in effective formal-fallacy criticism. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 – A Pragmatic Analysis Of Critique And Evaluation

logo  2006Abstract: It is generally accepted that a critique (or criticism) gives a more articulated account of the strengths and weaknesses of an argument than an evaluation. It will be argued in this paper that the difference between a critique and an evaluation is not one of depth, but of scope of analysis. An evaluation is concerned with the value of an argument relatively to a set of domain-dependent criteria, whereas a critique is mainly concerned with the claim of that argument with regard to the reality it is about.

1. Introduction
Critique (or criticism) and evaluation are close concepts that have been compared in argument studies (Johnson, 2000) as two means of argument appraisal. Johnson (2000) claims that a critique gives a more articulated account of the strengths and weaknesses of an argument (or a product, to be general) than an evaluation.
The aim of this paper is to show that the difference between a critique and an evaluation is not one of depth, but of scope of analysis. We argue that an evaluation basically consists of the appreciation of a product relatively to its domain, whereas a critique is mainly concerned with the opinion or position underlying the product.
First, we look at the context of use of the two terms (Section 2), then, we make a distinction between the two concepts in terms of objective and approach (Section 3). We distinguish them as two different types of discourse (Section 4), and finally, we discuss the dialectical nature of critique (Sections 5).

2. Meaning distinction
In English, the concepts of ‘critique’ and ‘criticism’ are often confounded, despite the negative connotation of the latter. We will use the term critique here to refer to an intellectually serious criticism that ‘evaluates on the basis of an interpretation’ – this is criticism which judges, but which, at the same time, explains and justifies its judgement (Nowlan, 2001). Moreover, our choice of the term critique is motivated by the fact that a critique, contrary to criticism, can not apply to individuals.
In argument studies, the concept of critique (called criticism) has been opposed to that of evaluation, both being related to argument appraisal. Yet, contrary to critique, the use of the term evaluation is not limited to the realm of argumentation. One can evaluate a person, an object or a situation, etc. in order to decide whether it has certain properties or whether it satisfies certain criteria. For example, one can evaluate the robustness of a system, the performance of an athlete, etc. Any phenomenon or product can be evaluated if there are criteria that allow it to be ‘measured’. Freeman (2000) shows that evaluative statements may have a number of uses, including expressing approval or disapproval of something as a means to some end, asserting that some person or thing satisfies or fails to satisfy certain normative criteria, or judging the merits of some policy.
The object of a critique, on the other hand, can only be the product of a reasoning. Critiquing a product necessarily implies that the structure behind it is traced back to a purposeful opinion or belief. Moreover, a critique can only be addressed to an opinion that seeks the commitment of an audience. One would not critique something that is not a ‘purposive act of communication’ (van Eemeren and Grootendorst, 1992). As a matter of fact, contrary to an evaluation, a critique can only be directed at an argument.

3. Critique and evaluation: two different approaches to argument analysis
Restating the criticism and evaluation distinction made in Johnson’s Manifest Rationality (2000), Govier (2000) writes:
‘We evaluate, say, a movie, if we pronounce it good or bad – and when we do so, we presumably have some standards in mind. But to evaluate a movie is not yet to criticize it. To criticize it, we have to articulate our standards, show evidence as to why the movie did or did not meet them, and put our comments into some kind of coherent perspective. To evaluate something is to pronounce it good, bad, or indifferent – or somewhere along the spectrum. To criticize it is to develop an account of its strengths and weaknesses, an account that shows some discrimination between more and less significant strengths or weaknesses and can give assistance as to how the product might be improved.’ Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 – Actually Existing Rules For Closing Argument

logo  2006Our interest in argumentation is provoked at least in part by the apparent paradox it presents. People are arguing because they disagree, sometimes deeply. But despite their disagreement, their transaction is orderly – at least, somewhat orderly. Furthermore, this orderliness apparently has a normative element, making room for them to critique each other’s conduct as good and bad. So how is this normative orderliness achieved, even in the face of disagreement? – That must be a central question for any theory, especially one that aims to deepen our understanding of the normative pragmatics of arguing (van Eemeren 1994; Jacobs 1999; Goodwin 2004).
In this paper, I want to probe one rather abstract aspect of this question, about what I will call the general “shape” of the account we should be giving of argumentative orderliness. In attempting to understand or explain argumentative talk, how should we represent the activity? What basic model should we be using? In what terms should we explain the affairs? What story should we tell about them? Or, again, to put this generally, what shape should an account of arguing take?

One common approach to this question has been to say that we should account for arguing as a form of following rules. According to an account of this shape, although arguers may disagree about many things, they agree on the rules of arguing. When followed, these rules lend order to a transaction; talk which follows them is good, while talk which breaks them is bad.
There are good reasons to find this shape of account attractive to explain argumentative orderliness, for it has proved attractive for other fields. Consider: A current in social science initiated by Peter Winch takes off from one interpretation of Wittgenstein and holds that we understand any form of life when we know the rules of that particular game. Again, a Searleian approach to speech acts represents them by the rules that constitute them. Again, Chomsky’s model of syntax shows how what on the surface appears complex behavior can be the outcome of the recursive application of a limited number of simple rules. Again, contemporary cognitive science tells us that in acting humans are following “scripts” laying out the basic rules for an activity. And so on; other twentieth and twenty-first century tendencies could be cited, such as the axiom systems of formal logic and the instructions which constitute the activities of computers.
Working in parallel to these diverse projects, argumentation theorists may readily propose that arguing, too, is constituted through rules. The theory of argument should proceed by articulating those rules.
But is this so? Is rule-following the general shape of account we should be giving about arguing? Most of the above rule-following accounts have been criticized, and undoubtedly some of the criticisms bear against an account of rule-following in arguing as well. In this paper, however, I want to explore the very abstract question about the ruliness and possible unruliness of arguing using a very concrete, empirical method, by examining the shape of account arguers themselves give when they talk about their own activity.

Although arguers may be wrong, even fundamentally deluded or lying about what they are doing, there are nevertheless good reasons to take what they say about their activities, in their activities, as presumptively correct. The ultimate desiderata for an account of any shape, for any model, representational scheme or explanatory mode, are what have been termed “problem solving validity” and “conventional validity” (van Eemeren et al. 1993). That is, the account of argumentation must elucidate how arguing does some work, and further the account must be acceptable to the community of arguers. Now, the accounts of argument actually put forward by arguers in their arguing – the “native” theories of argument, of whatever shape – presumably are offered as attempts to get arguing to do its job, better; they are furthermore already “intersubjectively” accepted by them (or some of them). So “native” accounts of arguing meet the two desiderata, and are one good place to start building more sophisticated theoretical accounts (see also Craig, 1996, 1999).
The “natives” I will be studying here are participants in the closing arguments of trials in the United States. Although I do not follow authors such as Toulmin and perhaps Perelman in taking legal argument as the paradigm for argumentation generally, there still can be no doubt that (a) trial “natives” are arguing, and (b) that they’re arguing in a sophisticated fashion. As to (a), the practice I will focus on – the trial advocates’ final address to the jury – is variously called “closing argument, final argument, jury argument” or even just “argument,” and standard training manuals urge participants to “argue!” (Mauet 1996, p. 367), leaving little doubt that much of what is happening in this context is relevant to argumentation theory. As to (b), participants in closing arguments are trained and experienced professionals, inheriting a long tradition of practice, facing complex situations and with strong incentives to perform well; all of which assure us that what is happening in this context is worthy of attention.
Closing argument practice may furthermore provide a good window onto the specific question I’m asking here, about participants’ own accounts of their activities. Legal arguers not only are likely to argue well, they are likely to argue quite self-consciously – to be quite articulate about what they’re doing, thematizing matters that might in more relaxed contexts ordinarily remain implicit. This is in part because of the professionalism of the activity, which renders practitioners more self-aware, but even more because of its adversariality. Practitioners are likely to become very articulate when they can accuse their opponents of failing to perform correctly, and in such accusations they will be pushed to give an account of what went wrong (see also Philipsen 1992). And finally, in legal contexts there are judges – indeed, an entire array of trial and appellate judges – who are empowered to announce what ought to be done. For all these reasons, we can expect participants in closing argument to give us relatively extensive accounts of what they are doing.
Finally, participants in closing arguments are likely to be sympathetic to giving an account of their practice in terms of rules. Lawyers are used to thinking in terms of laws, viz., rules for all sorts of activities, including rules for arguments. If we find that even in closing arguments there are things going on that aren’t conceived of as following (or breaking) rules, then it is likely that arguing in other, less rule-oriented, contexts is at least that unruly, too. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2006 – “Yucca Mountain Will Become Unhappy And Angry” : Culture, Metaphor, and Argument

logo  2006“Yucca Mountain Will Become Unhappy And Angry” – Southern Paiute Edward Smith [i]
Argumentation is a cultural phenomenon. It is a way of thinking and speaking that can vary slightly or vastly between different national, ethnic, regional, gendered, or racial cultures. George Kennedy’s (1998) examination of the rhetorical traditions of a variety of cultures provides support for the argument that the Western Greco-Roman tradition of argumentation that serves as the foundation for most American and European theories of argumentation is not a culturally-universal tradition (see also, Combs, 2004a). An increasing corpus of literature supports this thesis by showing both the similarities and differences in argumentation across cultures, most often defining culture as national culture[ii] (Combs, 2004a; Combs, 2004b; Becker, 1986; Dolina & Cecchetto, 1998; Ellis & Maoz, 2002; Endres, 2002; Garrett, 1993; Garrett, 1997; Lee & Campbell, 1994; Liu, 1999; McLaurin, 1995; Walker, 1987; Warnick & Manusov, 2000). Indeed, the diversity in argumentation across cultures can be categorized into variations of the form (preferred reasoning forms), function (goals of engaging in argumentation), and evaluation of argument (how ought we to judge a “good” argument) (Endres, 2002). However, the field of argumentation still focuses mostly on the Western Greco-Roman argumentation tradition. When non-western cultures are considered, they are often evaluated based in according to the Western tradition of argument and are sometimes considered to be cultures without an argument tradition. Littlefield and Ball (2004) concur stating, “There is a certain presumption in our acceptance of Greco-Roman forms of argumentation as proper, intellectual, even historical. But every society must have accepted forms of argumentation if its members are to solve conflict” (p. 99). The key is recognition that the Western tradition is not the only way of arguing and understanding the world. One goal of scholarship that explores the connection between culture and argument is to better understand the forms, functions, and evaluations of argument as understood and used by members of particular cultures.

Just as important as a focus on argumentation theory and practice in particular cultures is the study of cross-cultural argumentation in particular issues of controversy. In other words, what happens in the interaction of two or more argumentative traditions? In addition to showing how the forms, functions, and evaluations of argument differ across cultures, we must also turn our attention to how the differences and similarities in argumentation traditions play out in public debate and controversy (see Dolina & Cecchetto, 1998; Ellis and Maoz, 2002; Liu, 1999; Walker, 1987). This essay closely examines the arguments in a scientific and environmental controversy over the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, the future site of the first permanent nuclear waste repository in the United States. Though there are multiple participants in the controversy, this essay focuses on the arguments of American Indians from the Western Shoshone, Southern Paiute, and Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone in a situation that demands intercultural communication with non-Indian audiences[iii]. By examining the arguments of these American Indian tribal members in a public hearing session about the Yucca Mountain site, I reveal the forms of argument used by tribal members in this controversy, show how the European-American Western tradition of argumentation interprets these arguments, and examine how these arguments circulate in the Yucca Mountain controversy.
Interestingly, though some American Indian forms of argument can be classified and discussed under the rubric of Western argumentation theory, such characterizations do not tell the entire story of argumentation in American Indian cultures. Attending to role of history, values, worldview, and ritual in American Indian cultures provides a rich understanding of American Indian arguments in an intercultural controversy. For example, American Indian arguers often referred to Yucca Mountain as having living, human characteristics, which can be considered a form of prosopopoeia or of metaphor. Further investigation of the values, spirituality, and worldview of the tribes, however, discloses that what a Western argumentation theorist might classify as prosopopoeia is likely not seen by American Indian arguers as such, but is reflective of a worldview that assumes that mountains speak and feel. This difference in understanding has significant implications for the force of American Indian arguments and the outcome of the controversy.

Because this essay looks at a case of intercultural controversy as opposed to a case of argumentation within a particular culture, this finding has significant implications for the intersection of values, culture, and argumentation in controversy. Moreover, this essay contributes to the scholarly conversation with an improved understanding of American Indian forms, functions, and evaluations of argument, and the importance of considering the intersection of differing cultured ways of arguing in public argumentation over issues of controversy.
This essay begins with an examination of American Indian forms, functions, and evaluations of argumentation in general. This examination includes scholarship focused on individual American Indian nations and on American Indians as a whole. In this section, I identify some of the problems with current understandings of American Indian argument. Next, I investigate the particular case of American Indian arguments in the Yucca Mountain controversy as a way to show specific ways of arguing by the Western Shoshone, Southern Paiute, and Owens Valley Paiute and Shoshone, the difficulty of characterizing these arguments with Western theory, and the implications of this on the controversy. The paper concludes with implications and a call for further research. Read more

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