Snoeck Henkemans, of the University of Amsterdam, argued that hyperbole can have a function in an arguer’s strategic maneuverings during the argumentation stage of a discussion. This is a topic close to our heart here at the NS, as our paper at OSSA (see later post on that) dealt with the closely related topic of the straw and iron man.
In any case, SH argued that hyperbole, especially aggrandizing hyperbole, can play a legitimate, i.e., ,non fallacious, role in sharpening the focus on elements of someone’s argumentation. Naturally, this comes from the perspective of pragma-dialectics, which enlarges the forum of argumentation beyond individual propositional moves, giving play to rhetorical elements, like hyperbole.
Problematically, or so people noted, there wasn’t a systematic principled distinction between legitimate and illegitimate hyperboles, as well as a general account of other related distortive speech acts.
Andrew Aberdein, of the Florida Institute of Technology, argued that if good arguments are virtuous, then bad arguments are vicious. The problem is that arguments are tokens, not dispositions. Side note: we here at the NS stress this fact in our general disclaimer on bias. We diagnose individual argument tokens, not ideologies.
Back to Aberdein. After dispensing with the idea that the ad hominem is always fallacious that the concept of virtue in argument was a self refuting ad hominem, Aberdein built what I thought was a good case for taking fallacies as argumentative vices–these include dogmatism, reliabilist problems, and failures of diligence in investigating evidence. All good so far, I think.
Dan Cohen (see Scott’s post on his awesome keynote) raised a key question. Argumentative vices seem to provide good reason for discounting arguers, but do argument virtues do the same for individual arguments?
The last paper of the day for me was Donald Hatcher's "Should Critical Thinking Courses Include the Critique of Religious Beliefs?"
Hatcher argued for various reasons that religious beliefs ought to be subject to critical scrutiny. He ran through about eight potential objections to critiquing religious beliefs (I'll try to get a copy of the handout if not the paper), answering them all and concluding that indeed religious beliefs ought to be subject to critical scrutiny in critical thinking courses.
So far so good. One questioner wondered, however, whether there are special considerations in college courses. Most of Hatcher's arguments concerned the general question of scrutiny of relgious beliefs, not, as advertised, the particular question of classroom critique. The paper commenter had similar intuitions, pointing out that some religious views might best be considered in opposition to certain scientific views (such as for instance evolution).
In hte 2 O'Clock Daniel Cohen read a paper called "academic arguments." Simply put, an academic argument is one that really matters not–a knowledge for its own sake argument in other words. The question raised was basically whether one has any justification for engaging in such an argument. Though Cohen is skeptical that any such purely academic arguments exist (he didn't give any examples), he argued nonetheless that it would be worthwhile, on ethical grounds, to engage in them.
One interesting objection, the last one made at the end of the session, concerned whether we can really abstract the question from other ones: in particular, though knowledge may be intrinsically valuable, it is the least of intrinsic goods, so there will likely always be something better to do than argue for the sake of it.
So begins our "live blogging" exercise from the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation conference. I won't comment on the beer store, the Vietnamese restaurant, or Detroit Coney Island style hot dogs, or the
2.50 3.00 dollar Rye.
Scott will comment on Doug Walton's paper on argument schemes are dialogue; here a quick note about this morning's keynote by Paul Thagard's, "Critical Thinking versus Informal Logic."
Always interesting about papers like these are the examples of motivated reasoning, which Thagard might call "inference." Argument, by constrast, is the stuff you do in logic class. The problem Thagard points to is that argument has little cognitive value; we arrive at most of our beliefs by a process of inference, which, is unfortunately susceptible to various motivational distortions (fear, hope, etc.). So what of argument? Argument can at best be a corrective, used in the best of circumstances to influence inference, perhaps overnight, asleep, or while dreaming.
A puzzle for the readers of the NonSequitur.
Colin, John and I will be attending the upcoming Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation (OSSA) conference in the coming weeks. We're presenting a version of the Subjunctive Tu Quoque argument (Colin blazed the trail here).
To the point, I'm slated to comment on a paper with the thesis that there are virtuous circular arguments. I've posed a challenge to the author, with the following argument:
P1: There are no virtuous circular arguments.
C: Therefore, there are no virtuous circular arguments.
The challenge is to explain, if there are virtuous circular arguments, what is wrong with P1 being used to support C. Of course, the author doesn't get to say that P1 begs the question.
Is this out of bounds? Moreover, if the challenge can't be met, what follows?