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.


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:

Saturday, 11:00 – Argumentation and Health

Panel 4
Argumentation and Health. Overcoming a Less-than-ideal Interactional Paradigm
DeTamble Auditorium, Tribble Hall

Frans van Eemeren, University of Amsterdam

Sara Rubinelli, Jerome Bickenbach and Gerold Stucki, University of Lucerne and Swiss Paraplegic Research, Nottwil, Switzerland
‘Realism and Nominalism: Argumentative Consilience in Doctor-Patient Communication’

Nancy Green, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
‘Biomedical Argumentation: The Challenge of Uncertainty’

Peter J. Schulz, Virginia Tech
Kent Nakamoto, Virginia Tech, University of Lugano
and Dima Mohammed, University of Amsterdam, Virginia Tech
‘Audience Adaptation in Direct-To-Consumer Advertising’

The common thread tying the presented papers in “Argumentation and Health: Overcoming a Less-than-Ideal Interactional Paradigm” is the lack in the medical field’s ability to communicate with patients (whether regarding diagnoses, treatments, etc). All seem to agree there needs to be more patient involvement, more patient education, and the need to fix the argumentation strategies when convincing patients of the best medical treatment available.

Nancy Green’s presentation focused on ways to combat uncertainty in health communication, especially when communicating health risks to patients. Her paper mainly focuses on a critique of Walter et al.’s model of causal argumentation. She suggests a model with more medicine-related critical questions.

Sara Rubinelli’s presentation focused on ways to fix the intrinsic problems in medical practices and diagnoses. She uses Aristotle’s rhetoric to evaluate the doctor-patient relationship, particularly in doctor-patient consultations. She notes the problem arises when there’s a disagreement between doctor and patient in regard to the best possible medical treatment. We need to fix argumentation strategies in these consultations as opposed to possibly changing practices.

The presented paper of Dina Mohammed, Peter J. Schultz’s entitled “Audience Adaptation in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Framework of the concept of Strategic Maneuvering” discusses how pharmaceutical companies adapt advertisements to consumers. The standard belief is that pharmaceutical companies do not educate or inform because they contain emotional appeals in order to target potential consumers. In their paper, Mohammad and Schultz note that pharmaceutical companies are strategic when choosing topics used in their advertising arguments. In the end, they conclude that it’s possible for pharmaceutical advertising to fulfill educational and promotional purposes; however, advertising tends to appeal to potential consumers rather than actual patients.

Saturday, 11:00 – Scientific argument, narrativizing science, mixing scientific and religious discourse

Panel 5
Annenberg Forum, Carswell Hall

Andrew Leslie, Salem College

Rachel Avon Whidden, Lake Forest College
Margaret D. Zulick, Wake Forest University
‘Analytic under Siege: Stealth Dialectics and Rhetorical Deligitimation of Scientific Argument in the Public Sphere’

Atilla Hallsby, University of Iowa
‘Narrativizing Science and Disaster: Story, Discourse, and Possible Worlds in the Supercollider’
Paper read by Liviu Gajora, Wake Forest University

Kelly Congdon, University of Richmond
‘From Expressivist Swords to Deliberative Ploughshares? Mixing the Language of Jesus and Genes and the Constitution of Controversy over Evolution’

1st speaker: Rachel Avon Whidden, Lake Forest College; Margaret D. Zulick, Wake Forest University

Analytic under Siege: Stealth: Dialectics and Rhetorical Deligitimation of Scientific Argument in Public Sphere

The idea that science should not have an agenda of its own leads to a deligitimation of science when the agendas are revealed.

Slide showing overlapping  ground of Analytic, Dialectic and Rhetoric each with distinct functions relative to one another. Dialectic, in part  to refine the analytic, Rhetoric shifts between the other two. The rhetorical voice allows analytical and dialectic to represent themselves in the public sphere.

Rhetoric is, according to Aristotle, the counter part of Dialectic. Science, the analytical,  and ideology, the dialectic can be mediated through

MMR and autism, vested interest in claim that Wakefield put forth in the Lancet that there is a link between the two based upon a few parental claims. Wakefield was contracted by an attorney to investigate what Wakefield had already “determined”, that there was a link between the two. Wakefield was found guilty of multiple scientific misconduct 12 years latter. However, CNN reports and others insist that the scientific community is involved in a conspiracy–they do  not want to open up the “can of worms.” Passions regarding anecdotal sufferings of parents.

Intelligent design, a dialectic, masquerades as an analytic.

Deliberate attempt to disprove existing science and to colonize the realm of science within the classroom.

Questions will follow all papers.

2nd speaker: Atilla Hallisby (paper presented by Liviu Gajora)

Narrativizing Science and Disaster: Story, Discourse, and Possible Worlds in the Supercollider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) received attention early in its planning stage of dystopic (and apocalyptic) warnings, that did not occur according to predicted dates. Shortly after the LHC was started, it suffered a massive failure upon its maiden run requiring shut down and reconstruction of a significant portion of the LHC.

Logics provided by the technical community do not carry sufficient weight to dislodge the dystopic narrative or variants. Especially when some scientists discussed the possibility that the LHC might produce blackholes that could swallow the matter around them.

After the failure, the narrative surfaced that particles traveled back in time to destroy the LHC.

The distinction between the fictional and the non-fictional risks becoming  purely phenomenological. Much like in Culler’s deconstruction of Russian Formalism notions of sjuzhet and fabula (corresponding to notions of story and plot), the fact that a story can be true is sometimes as important as the fact that the story is true (things found in the story actualy happened). Freud illustates a similar idea when saying that psycnoanalysis works to the same extent if the story the patient says actually happened or just thinks happened.

Scientific discourse cannot rely on facts, because there are none (the LHC provided neither the Higs-Boson particle, nor the end of the world), thus it is forced to rely on narratives that have an internal logic, even though their external logic cannot be verified. Within this framework, public (non-technical)  fictional narratives can compete directly with the scientific narratives, because a causal relationship is impossible to support with real world evidence.

3rd speaker: Kelly Congdon, University of Richmond

From Expressivist Swords to Deliberative Ploughshares? Mixing the Language of Jesus and Genes and the Constitution of Controversy over Evolution

Argument as warfare, reduces to two sides and often induces apathy in those uncomfortable with argumentative methods.

Collective deliberation stands against the argumentation methodology so constitutive  of our public debate.

Enter Francis Collins ‘The Language of God: A scientist presents evidence for belief’. Presidential honor, Christian accolades as single most influential contribution to Christian apologetics.

Sam Harris one of Dawkins’ followers on other extreme, critiques Collins: ‘Collins proves that a stellar career as a scientist is not guarantee of being a follower of scientific principles.

Claim that raising your children to be religious as child abuse.

To the public it appears that a choice must be made between either two, false dilemma.

Reviews of Harris’s book–ammunition to arm secularists.

Harris’s book will be read mostly by scientists.

Collins’ deliberative engagement of the subject is tha appeal of Colllins’ book.

Respectful and charitable listening across beliefs.

Rational and irrational polarization precludes a wide range of alternates. Leaving only a scorched earth methodology on each side.

Certain rhetors cordon off communities–those in the middle must choose or “run for your life.”

Fundamentalism a spongable style and system of tropes.

Panel now open for questions.

Saturday, 9:30 – Giving Contextualization its Rightful Place in the Study of Argumentation

Keynote Address 2

Frans H. van Eemeren, University of Amsterdam

‘In Context. Giving Contextualization its Rightful Place in the Study of Argumentation’

Annenberg Forum, Carswell Hall

The busiest day of the Conference just started with Frans Eemeren’s keynote address on the importance of context and macro-context in the analysis of the soundness of arguments in communicative activities.

A reconstructive analysis of the argumentative discourse leads to reconstructive transformations:

  1. Leaving out all speech that does not play a part in the resolution
  2. Rearranging in an insightful way those elements whose order does not help
  3. Making explicit all arguments that are implicit
  4. Reformulating in a meaningful way things that lead to resolution

Only after these transformations have been applied, can we proceed to the evaluation of the discourse.

Analysts have various sources:

  1. The text
  2. The context
  3. The macro-context
  4. Background information

Context is not fixed: with every new argument, the context is changed.

The macro-context focuses on the inter-textual, the other speech events.

Walton introduces the notion of “dialogue types,” each of them having specific soundness norms. The usefulness of dialogue types is to account systematically for the variance of the criteria for identifying fallacious argumentation. Each dialogue type yields a separate norm of argumentation, with specific rules as to when arguments are sound and when they are fallacious. The problem with this paradigm is that certain instances involve more than one dialogue type. Also, whenever there is a dialectic shift (a change from one dialogue type to another in the course of a discourse), it is hard to make the distinction between a licit and an illicit dialectic shift (the latter being a fallacy).

Argumentation is not just a theoretical construct, but an empirical phenomenon observed in communicative practices. Speech events are analyzed as tokens of specific communicative activity type (CAT). Not all CAT are argumentative, but arguments are usually a big part of any CAT. A list of CATs can be empirically compiled, a list that is bound to be incomplete.

Within this framework, a fallacy can be defined as a move that is prejudicial or harmful on the realization of the goal of the CAT.

How do we distinguish between sound and fallacious moves in CATs? Fallacies judgments should be contextual judgments. Has any dialectical norm been violated in this particular context? Let’s take the example of the appeal to authority. Its validity depends on the rules of the CAT. Appeal to a dictionary in a game of scrabble, where the macro-context provided a tacit agreement that the dictionary is the deciding tool when in doubt, is a valid type of argument. Soundness criteria vary from field to field.

In analyzing and evaluating argumentative discourses, we need to take into account the constraints imposed on strategic maneuvering attempts by the macro-context of institutionalized norms of CATs.