See you in 2012

The 13th Argumentation Conference is now officially over. Thanks to all the participants and the organization team.

Sunday, 11:00 – Rhetorical genres, Evangelical discourse and Secrecy in the democratic argument

11:00-12:30 Panel 8
Annenberg Forum, Carswell Hall

Seth Mulliken, North Carolina State University

Michael Hoppmann, Northeastern University
‘Genera Causarum and the Burden of Proof’

Kevin Heston, Wake Forest University
‘The Creation Museum: A New Rhetoric for an American Evangelical Movement’

Brandon Inabinet, Furman University
‘Arcana Imperii–Bank Secrets in “Democratical” Argument’

1st speaker: Michael Hoppmann, Northeastern University
Genera Causarum and the Burden of Proof

What reasons justify the need a theory of speech genres in rhetoric?

  • Systematic: organizing and teaching rhetorical knowledge
  • Analytic: understanding speakers obligations and felicity conditions
  • Heuristic: accessing rhetorical knowledge for oratorical praxis

What are the qualities of a good theory of speech?

  • Completeness: cover all rhetoric instances
  • Unambiguousness: each rhetoric instance should fall under only one genre
  • Simplicity: should be preserved

We do not have a clear definition of the genera causarum. Certain specific instances are easy to place (murder trial, eulogy, healthcare debate etc.), but not all of them.

The classical division of genres has three categories:

  1. judicial,
  2. deliberative and
  3. demonstrative.

The distinctions between these categories can be defined with the help of six criteria:

  • Time: past, future, present
  • Place: in court or outside of court
  • Audience: judges or observers
  • Telos: just and unjust; advantageous and harmful; honorable and shameful
  • Activity: accusation and defense; exhortation and dissuasion; praise and blame
  • Certainty: uncertain or certain

An alternative is defining the three genres according to the burden of proof:

  1. Judicial: qualified burden of proof (95%)
  2. Deliberative: simple burden of proof + status quo presumptions (>50%)
  3. Demonstrative: relative burden of proof (to the status quo or to rivaling speakers)

2nd speaker: Kevin Heston, Wake Forest University
The Creation Museum: A New Rhetoric for an American Evangelical Movement

The Creation Museum is more than a wide spot in the road. It is a 68,000 sq ft facility and associated 7 acres of theme park that opened in June 2007 and has since attracted more than 900,000 visitors.

The Museum presents men and women living together with dinosaurs before The Fall.

Graffiti alley: interference of the secular world is what causes problems.

The primary purpose of the Creation Museum: to create an army of apologists.

What does to evangelize mean? Historically used with varying degrees of specificity, but usually taken to mean to promote the Gospel and convert people to Jesus Christ.

Anti-intellectualism and Evangelism: “the more learned and witty you bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee.”

Anti-intellectual sentiment and social dynamics – from the rural perspective, they feel

  • Abandonment,
  • Loss of representative voice and
  • Emergence of religious options

Televangelism induced a false sense of recruiting success.

Pat Robertson’s bid for Republican Nomination in 1988 started a spiral of silence and muted the religious discourse.

Simons’ three rhetorical requirements to become and remain a leader:

  1. Attract, maintain, and mold workers into an efficiently organized unit
  2. Secure adoption of ideology by the large structure
  3. React to resistance generated by the large structure

Inversion of Simons’ three:

  1. Ignore the constitutive needs of the followers of a dominant system
  2. Discard the long established constitutive ideology of their followers
  3. Abandon their followers and join the new order

The Creation Museum is primarily about reinvigorating the Christian voice.

Referring back to Langsdorf’s presentation on Friday and the relation between data and backing:

  • Not under pressure to be articulated (not required to be made explicit)
  • When articulated: not required on the level of scientific rigor
  • Instead the goal is Narrative Harmony

3rd speaker: Brandon Inabinet, Furman University
Arcana Imperii–Bank Secrets in “Democratical” Argument

The presentation centers around authority falling under questioning, especially in relation to banking practices.

Early U.S. bank troubles correspond to certain topics today: corruption and government authority. In such a context, the norms of argument change dramatically.

Dominant communicative form of dialogue: the public letter.

Indirect communication was used to distinguish authority from text (see Kierkegaard).

The exclusive status of the bank and its extent of control over the nation became a subject of criticism.

Print circulation of public letters might provide civic implication (they would visualize themselves as participating).

The greatest threat to a republic is secrecy. Conspiracy theories render leader arguments useless, as they are viewed as insincere.

Where will our contemporary anxiety lead us in the following years?

Sunday, 9:30 – Voice, Imagination, and Argument in Commemorative Sites


Keynote Address 4

Carole Blair and William Balthrop, University of North Carolina

“Voice, Imagination, and Argument in Commemorative Sites: Fleury-devant-Douaumont”

Annenberg Forum, Carswell Hall

William Balthrop

Images play a key role in many types of argument. Arguments employ both images and words. Material objects may have an even greater force.

Commemorative sites of war are exemplars of the political collective response to triumph, defeat, unity, disunity, sacrifice etc.

The most often encountered critique of commemorative sites is that they cannot justifying, sanitizing or aestheticizing the war.

To aestheticize may mean:

  • to depict as being pleasing or artistically beautiful; represent in an idealized or refined manner
  • to make a subject of aesthetic consideration; view or judge with regard to an aesthetic

Fleury-devant-Douaumont is one of the 9 destroyed villages in the Verdun region in France during World War I (villages designated “Morts Pour la France”).

What does the preservation of such a site mean?

The rhetoric of Fleury-devant-Douaumont opposes a sanitization of the war

The Battle of Verdun can hardly be called a victory, even if it was not a loss

  • Verdun is a symbolic site of the struggle for the liberation of France and French soldiers
  • Verdun had strategic implications for all of France
  • Verdun is a metonyme for the war

The 9 villages received military decorations; they each have a mayor and hold annual commemorations. Each of the 9 villages has a small mourning chapel and a Monument-aux-Morts. There are, however, differences between the villages: the extent to which they commemorate individuals or the ammount of “relics.”

Carole Blair

Why focus on Fleury?

  • It is the most visited of the 9 villages
  • It is marked as a memory site, more than the others

How can it represent war without aestheticization? Fleury forces the visitor to imagine the not has happened.

Bizzare topography, even with the restoration of flora. A deeply wounded terrain. It is hardly imaginable as a result of a natural process.

Fleury’s three main streets were remapped recently, and markers of the church, blacksmith shop, town hall or the school were set throughout the place.

We can only imagine the destruction and the horrors of the war.

The chapel is tiny, but it has all the elements of a church. The monument is the same size as other monuments. They stand out because they are ordinary, but the setting is anything but ordinary.

Its remmaping implies the counter-factual: Fleury as if it had not been destroyed. Fleury has not been truly brought back to life.

It is impossible to imagine Fleury being destroyed without imagining Fleury not being destroyed or before being destroyed.

What can Fleury teach us, in its silence, about war comemoration? Its landscape is ugly and the placement of its markers portrays the war as destructive, even though the village is worthy of honor. Visitors are invited to attend not only the destruction, but also what was destroyed. That is Fleury’s rhetorical power.

Saturday, 3:30 – Argument, Debate and Democracy

Panel 7
DeTamble Auditorium, Tribble Hall

Linda Petrou, Wake Forest University

Scott Stroud, University of Texas
‘Mindful Argument, Deweyan Pragmatism, and Democracy’

Gordon R. Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh
‘Useful Frictions: Revisiting Rationales for Public Debate in a Sorted Society’

Frans H. van Eemeren and Bart Garssen, University of Amsterdam
‘Strategic Maneuvering in the European Parliament: Choosing the Line of Defense in Arguing for a Complex Audience’

1st Speaker: Scott Stroud, University of Texas

Mindful Argument, Deweyan Pragmatism, and Democracy

Dewey distinguishes between debate and argument:

  • Debate = winning a battle
  • Argument = reasoning together

For Dewey democracy is not reduced to the process of voting, but a personal way of life. Individuals have a share and need to participate in the group they are belonging to, according to the group’s needs. At the same time, groups ought to interact harmoniously, in order to allow individuals to flourish by taking part in a variety of actions and acting accordingly with a variety of motivations.

There is also a differentiation between association and community:

  • Association = physical force interaction; joint action for the interest of each individual
  • Community = conjoint action;  bolstering the good, minimizing the bad for everyone

Three models of arguers:

  • “Rapist” = violent
  • “Seducer” = deceiving
  • “Lover” = honest and risk-taking

A non-mindful argument is one that non-mindfully engages the present, i.e. it does not fall pray to the temptation of separating the present from the past/future and elevating the past/future.

2nd Speaker: Gordon R. Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh

Useful Frictions: Revisiting Rationales for Public Debate in a Sorted Society

“History never repeats itself but sometimes it rhymes.”

The rationale for public debates in the 1930s seems to echo in today’s rationale for public debates: the “more speech” remedy (speaking more about issues is the best way to “disinfect” ideas). What we see a lot today, however, is that additional rounds of dialogue prompt dynamic shifts, rather than content shifts.

The big sort: “a clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart.” Homogeneous groups interactions tend to exacerbate violence, to polarize opinions and encourage individual to adopt more extreme versions of their existing opinions.

One example is the increasing percentage of “landslide counties” (>20% in presidential elections):

  • 1970s: 26%
  • 2000: 45%
  • Now: 50%

If we look at Internet interactions, we can see that people are looking for echoing opinions (opinion cascading & group polarization). Groups of like-minded people will think the same, but more extreme. The harm done by frictionless spectacles (political talk-shows in the media) thus becomes apparent. Internet functions as an intellectual cul-de-sac.’

Sunstein proposes a correction in what he calls “cognitive infiltration of extremist groups”: government agents or allies openly or anonymously induce uncertainty within extremist groups.

A better solution to solve the problem of cognitive dissonance can be found in the example of students who participate in public debate  from the perspective of a risk-taking, opinion-forming position. Public debate frees debaters from the clock restrictions (more generous preparation time) and allows them to genuinely engage in opinion-forming dialogue.

“Debate can clear the atmosphere.”

3rd speaker: Frans H. van Eemeren and Bart Garssen, University of Amsterdam

Strategic Maneuvering in the European Parliament: Choosing the Line of Defense in Arguing for a Complex Audience

The decision process within the EU parliament is governed by a strict set of norms and sets up a complex environment for making arguments and adopting maneuvering strategies.

Debates in EU Parliament (EUP) are not as interesting as those in national parliaments from the media’s perspective.

Strategic maneuvering within the context of EUP is preconditioned by institutional regulations, but also by the pursuit of specific interests of political groups. Often times this calls for the use of pragmatic argumentation.

Panelists J. Anthony Blair, John Poulakos, David Coates

Craig Allen Smith, North Carolina State University


J. Anthony Blair, University of Windsor, Canada
‘The Ethics of Argumentation’

Guiding question:  Are there moral norms associated with the activity of argumentation?

Three possibilities:

(1) moral normativity

(2) non-normativity

(3) non-moral normativity

We are all familiar with roles in communication (e.g., the repeator, the hog, the interrupter, the open-door pusher).  These people don’t exhibit moral failings, they exhibit lack of etiquette.

One metaphor to ethics in argumentation may be the moral norms of business and medical ethics (e.g., beneficence)

Argumentation is a purposeful activity premised on achieving some objective.

In argumentation it is unethical to use grounds you believe to be false, unethical to deliberately impy fallacious arguments and unethical to deliberately overstate the epistemic standing of your claims.


John Poulakos, University of Pittsburgh
‘The Adversaries, the Discussants, and the Disappointed Lover: Three Dramatic Modes of Argument in Plato’

Guiding issue: Well known antagonism between philosophy of rhetoric.

We should read the ways in which Plato displays arguments in action, rather than his more direct statements about argumentation.  Plato can be read in two ways:

(1) As a straight laced logician interested in rationality of arguments

(2) As a playwright concerned with the integrity of story

Regardless of how we read him, Plato can also be read in one of two modes:

(1) Within (i.e., within a single work)

(2) Across (i.e., a single theme treated throughout several or all works)

Studies of Plato today highlight two works only, the Gorgias and Phaedrus.  This is a confined approach to examining Plato’s understandings of philosophy and rhetoric.  Plato is too expansive to be confined to two works, moreover how he deals with rhetoric extends far beyond merely the Gorgias and Phaedrus.

Three works (Gorgias, Protagorus, and Symposium), taken consecutively, explicate rhetoric in action.

In reading these texts as demonstrations, (1) dialectical argumentation has its limitations, (2) “good discussion” is when cooperation leads to satisfaction and dissatisfaction for both sides of discussion (rather than traditional agonism, which indicates one winner and one loser), and (3) Plato’s argument as merely to destroy rhetoric is severely limited.


David Coates, Wake Forest University
‘Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments’

Discusses recent book, “Answering Back,” its form, content, and critical conversation in which it is a part.

(1) Format: a living, democratic, fighting book.

What is a living book?  A book and blog whose author regularly updates and recontextualizes chapters in book with emergent data.  What is a democratic book?  Represents the liberal responses and conservative alternatives of genuine bipartisanship, raising the quality of political debate.  What is a fighting book?  Outlines the many resources needed to defend in 2010 the progressive political space won in 2008.

(2) Content:

If simple terms speak to the American public (evidenced by corporate and financial support in the public sector, such as Fox News), how do we (i.e., liberalism, political progressivism) communicate complex ideas in simple terms?

Theoretical work in rhetoric and argumentation are absolutely necessary to public debate.

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Saturday, 2:00 – Making the case for argumentation practices in education

Keynote Address 3

Carol Winker, Georgia State University

‘Impacting Argumentation Studies’

Annenberg Forum, Carswell Hall

Carol Winkler gave a presentation on the importance and potential impact of the field of humanities on the general education of middle school students and on society. Drawing from the results of an urban league debate program implemented in middle school, the presentation made the case for defending the relevance of humanistic education within a context that increasingly challenges it.

How do we present the value of our field to the outside world? A model may be offered by a program that has  had quantifiable beneficial effects on school performance and attendance, has  been acknowledged by local and national administrative actors and has managed to bring together two seemingly different areas of education (competitive debate and “drop-out students”).

Step 1: Address societal problems

  • school drop out
  • ability gap (e.g.reading)
  • violence

Step 2: Identify key partners committed to addressing the problem

  • CAD partners: universities, housing authority, urban debate league, public shcool system, community supporters, law enforcement
  • students tell us what they want to learn instead of our instilling with them what we want to teach

Step 3: Identify and include partners’ values when constructing your research agencies

Step 4: Present research findings in ways readily accessible to the audience

  • administrators
  • policy-makers

Step 5: Have those impacted validates the results

  • interviews from CAD participants and their parents

Step 6: Have partners testify about your effectiveness and the results of the program

Step 7: Present your research to decision-makers concerned about your identified problem

Group Picture

Took us a while, but it’s about right. Not all, but a lot of the people who made this conference tremendously enjoyable: