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.