OSSA Day 3: Reasoning about counterconsiderations

Trudy Govier, University of Lethbridge

Arguments are often with sequential reasons, each not individually sufficient for the conclusion.  They often include counter-considerations.  These are balance of consideration arguments

The conclusion is supposed to be supported in an inductive form. The commitment is supposed to be that the supporting considerations outweigh the counter-considerations.  Counter-considerations are part of an arguer's case, but objections are not.  Often overtly considering the counter-considerations signals that the reasoner is not rigid or dogmatic.

Pro-con argumentaton is usually dialectical, the model is often a stand in for adversarial argumentation.

Some pragmatics of how counter-considerations are introduced and aknowledged:

"Even though" introduces a less emphasized clause.  E.g., He is a good teacher even though he has a speech impediment.  The first one gets the emphasis. Others: "although" "despite"

"But" introduces a more emphasized clause.  E.g., She is a good teacher but she has a speech impediment.  The second one gets the emphasis. Others: "However" "Nevertheless"

Model 1 (from Hansen):

P1, P2, P3…Pn.(with addition of on-balance-premise OBP)

K even though CC1, CC2. . . CCn

The trouble is that the OBP is effectively the model used as a premise

Model 3 (Hansen, breaking the stages)

P1, P2,….

Even though CC1, CC2, …. CCn, K


Figure 4 (From Govier's Practical Study of Argument)


P1      P2    P3   P4        CC1    CC2

supports (line)                does not support (squiggle line)


Figure 5 (with shunting form)


Figure 6 (Govier's 2011 model)


Q1: Do we need to revise our notion of arguments constituting the collection of two sets of claims – premises and conclusions?  Including counter-considerations seems to be a third set.  Perhaps one set can be put forward as the supporting set, but individual members of the set may themselves not be supporting the conclusion.

Q2: Do on-balance arguments need to use a suppressed on-balance premise?  Ceteris paribus arguments work like this.

Q3: How does one weigh these reasons?

Q4: Don't we often give reasons for why we don't get the counter-considerations to move us?

OSSA Day 3: Inference Claims

David Hitchcock, McMaster University

The organizing question: What does it mean for something to follow?

Tarski's answer- materially adequate notion of logical consequence has one condition such that X follows from some class K when it cannot be the case that all those in K are true and X false.

But what if the truth-preservation is trivial?  E.g.1, X being a necessary truth. E.g. 2, K being a contradiction.

Moreover what about arguments with non-formal support?

Another notion: truth-transmission.  The argument needs to have a form so that it satisfies Tarski's requirement, but also has it so that the premises can be false and the conclusion could be false.

But what about this case? Napoleon ruled France, Napoleon was exiled on Elba. Therefore, Napoleon was short.  The trouble is that it has counter-factual counter-examples (where N gets replaced by Jaques Chirac, who's tall).

Some others: Lincoln became US president in 1861, so he was at least 35 yrs old in 1861.


Lincoln became president in 1861, so he was a man in 1861.

There's a lawlike connection between the first, but not the second.

Ok, so we need to stipulate that there needs to be a lawlike/nomic relation there.  No contingent relation.  We need to revise the schematic articulation counterfactually (which may be indexed to whatever modality is appropriate to the argument — so it's legal possibility with the Lincoln case…)

In these cases, the issue is whether in Lincoln cases, we add the (suppressed) premises to K and test them, too, counterfactually.

But: Hitchcock argues that people don't actually argue that way.  People restrict the variables to some relevant domains. Acceptance is the issue, usually, not truth.  Conclusions aren't always declarative sentences, but other speech acts — so not always T or F.  Finally, people often reason according to rebuttable non-monotonic forms of inference.

The more effective account: an acceptable counter-factual supporting covering the generalization rules within the modally acceptable fields, if the premises are acceptable and the conclusion is acceptable, even though there can be cases where this is not definitive support.

What about gap-filling strategies?  We should supply the coordinate material conditional (again, remember the Lincoln cases).  The question is whether those conditionals are acceptable.  And so in these cases, we have a troubling case where we can't use the conclusion to show that the conditional is true, but it seems that when the conclusion is in question and the first premise is true, we aren't justified in believing the material conditional.  Presumably, this would only be provided by a background generalization, one that is pragmatically justified under the circumstances.

Another example:  AL: what time did we get back to the condo?  Betty: about 9:40.  AL: so it must be just about after 10, now.  (on any vacation day of this context where we arrive at our condo and take our time doing stuff, then it must be a little more than 20 min later….)

Q1: What about this?  Obama lives in the white house, so he lives in Washington DC.  But what about the counterfactual: If Vladimir Putin lived in the White House, he'd have moved it to Moscow?

Q2: Don't the counterfactual considerations make this too messy?  We'd do better to determine it as a feature of pragmatics.

OSSA Day 3: Your argument is valid–NOT.

Second session: Leo Groarke's "Saying 'Not' with Images."  Groarke argued via a very nice set of examples that images can indeed express negation.  Classic example: a crossed out hanger (a pro choice symbol).  Paul van den Hoven raised an interesting point in his commentary, namely whether Groarke has shown rather that images can express refutation, rather than "negation."  This raises the broader question about the verbal dependency of visual arguments; or the visual dependency of verbal arguments.

On this score: cf. the "your argument is invalid" meme.   

OSSA Day 3: methods of informal logic?

First session this morning: Hans Hansen's "Are there Methods of Informal Logic?" (commentary by Dan Cohen).  Great presentation, excellent commentary, and great questions.  Hansen's presentation focused on the illative (premise-conclusion) relation alone and so the idea of method is almost strictly analogous to that of deductive logic.  So, to rephrase the question, are there methods of evaluating informal illation analogous to those of formal arguments?  There seem to be several candidates, and Hansen's paper lucidly covered the alternatives.  This warranted the comment: maybe this proliferation of conceptions of informal logic is very bad PR.  

OSSA Day 3: do we commit or use fallacies?

IGOR Ž. ŽAGAR (Educational Research Institute & Univ. of Maribor, Slovenia)
Fallacies: Do We “Use” Them or “Commit” Them?

Zagar poses two questions . First, an epistemological one: do we (everyone, politicians, the media…) commit fallacies, or do we (intentionally) use them? Second, a methodological one: when we (philosophers, sociologists, discourse analysts…) detect a fallacy, on what conceptual grounds do we differentiate between committed and used fallacies? Is there a difference?

Eg1: "France is hexagonal" is only roughly true.  It's not really true, but roughly so.

Eg2: "Eisenhower won that battle" is only roughly true.  The soldiers won the battle… but it's still acceptable.

So: assessing good arguments (e.g., validity) requires a formal system to be brought in.  They are translated into the system and evaluated according to that system.  The question is whether we are using the appropriate criteria.

Eg3: If A just wants to get B to accept p.  A knows B accepts q, so A gives B the argument: 'q, therefore p.'  Relative to the criterion of rhetorical success, A's argument is good.

Can there be a classification of fallacies? Are they too unruly to classify?  Are there fallacies at all?  If some fallacies seem unavoidable and ever present, then perhaps we should be concerned about classifying it a fallacy.

Eg4: Skepticism about induction becomes acceptance of inductive principles. Asserting from the consequent as abduction.  Vicious circles to coherent systems.

Some conclusions: we don't need to be inflating fallacy theory with more fallacies. Rather, we need to understand the right criteria to understand the various forms of argument we see.  Context-dependence (kn owledge of the speakers, circumstances, purposes of discussion) of fallacy assessments, and once we do that, we see that appraisal and acceptability varies.

Q1: One can evaluate arguments relative to context (e.g. in Walton's work and from the pragma-dialectical perspective) and see lots of fallacies.  Sure, context matters, but we can see fallacies still in the contexts.  Say, they break the conventions of the speech events. Or they are obstructive moves in the contexts.

Q2: Are you really contesting fallacy theory uberhaupt?  Just b/c arg form X is unavoidable in context C, does that really mean that X isn't fallacious? 

Q3: Take Bacon's Doctrine of the Idols.  It's a story of the development of superstitions.  Aren't these observations useful?  We need to cultivate a package of habits that are attentive to these vices.

Q4: Isn't this a false dilemma?  It's either a perfect crystaline form for evaluation or all subjective?  Don't most theories of argumentation work on working out a tertium quid?

Q5: What about equivocation?  Isn't that a fallacy, even on the subjectivist account?

Q6: Isn't reasoning a rule bound excercise?  Fallacies are cases where we break the rules.

OSSA Day Two: how many premises?

Geoff Goddu, U. Richmond

"How Many Premises Can an Argument Have?"

Opening question: Is it possible for an argument to have either zero premises or an infinite number of premises?

Goddu's answer is that regardless of how you conceive of arguments  (as sets of propositions, sentences or speech acts), you should accept that an argument could have an infinite number of premises. Goddu's case: arguments that prove that there is a one-to-one relation between all numbers and even numbers (they can have an infinite number of premises).

The zero premise case is more complicated. On certain conceptions there are good reasons to accept the possibility of zero premise arguments, but on other conceptions there are good reasons to reject this possibility.  Goddu's case: Sorensen arguments of the form:

Is there an argument that there are no-premise arguments? Yes: here's one.


C Therefore, there are arguments with zero premises.


Q1: Can there be arguments with non-denumerably infinite premises?

Q2: Doesn't this misrepresent what arguments are about, namely, making  a transition in thought?

Q3: Aren't demonstrations of tautologies (e.g., with CP or IP) arguments with no premises?

Q4: "Why p?  Just because!"  Can' that be a zero-premise argument?

OSSA Day 2: Fallacy Identification

Last session of the day, Mark Battersby and Sharon Bailin's "Fallacy Identification in a Dialectical Approach to Teaching Critical Thinking," argued for the following three points:

  • Fallacies are arguments whose rhetorical value greatly exceeds their probative value;
  • Fallacy identification plays a prima facie role in eliminating bad arguments;
  • Fallacies are not the end of critical analysis, but open the door to more comprehensive evaluation.

Very helpfully, they set their view against some other common approaches to fallacies (Rescher, Hansen, Pragma-Dialectics, Walton–should do a post on these some day).  Interesting about their definition (immediately called into question by Christoph Lumer), was the idea of "rhetorical value."  He maintained that this would exclude many cases of fallacy.  For instance, absurd arguments which have little probative power; or, relatedly, an argument with lots of probative power and little persuasive power.  Battersby stood his ground that rhetorically powerless arguments can't really be fallacious, as no one would by them.

Some good commentary by van Laar (read by Krabbe).

*edited–thanks mustache man.  I was typing this during the session, trying to be quiet.

OSSA Day 2: Reasonable Hostility

Karen Tracy, University of Colorado-Boulder

"Reasonable Hostility"

Some background questions: Is there such a thing as reasonable hostility?  Is that an oxymoron?  If there is such a thing as reasonable hostility in argument, then are the constraints of civility improper in some cases?

A rough version of reasonable hostility. First, there's a difference between speaker-hostility and listener-perception of hostility (you can get a non-hostile question, but perceive it as hostile).  Second, reasonable hostility must be to a perceived wrong, but not to initiate a wrong. Third, whatever hostility manifested must be from care for the issue, not hating a speaker.  There must be the required face-work in the midst of that hostility.

Some examples of hostility (and reasonable hostility) from the Hawaii Same-Sex Civil Union debates.  Some features: Passionate speech, some attention to face but still causing insult (e.g., calling opponents to Same-Sex Marriage bigots, face-saving by opponents to Same-Sex opposition… "it's not about hatred…",  Opponents to same-sex marriage point out that the proponents don't apologize for their tone, Proponents responding that they can't apologize because they've been the ones who are being wronged)

One thing to remember: to distinguish between what's persuasable and what's not. Reasonable hostility must take account of what can and cannot be argued in a culture at a time. 

Q1: What's the role of critical thinking?  What, other than argument, changed the culture so that gay-rights issues are arguable now?

Q2: What's the tipping point between arguable and non-arguable? Or is it a matter of degree?

Q3: Why so much face-work?  Is it because of the fact that an issue is becoming non-arguable?

Q4: Is reasonable hostility a norm, or is it a description of how folks are actually manifest hostility?

OSSA Day 2: Mannequin

Interesting thing about broad topic conferences such as this is that you'll see people from all sorts of disciplines, places, approaches present papers on all sorts of topics.  This morning, for instance, I heard Emma Engdahl, Marie Gelang, and Alyssa O'Brien's "The Visual Rhetoric of Store-window Mannequinas," the title of which gives you a good idea what the paper was about.  Luckily, the presentation was accompanied by a slide show of mannequins from various times and places.  The authors noted the particular phenomenon of headless mannequins, a fact which inspired much discussion.  There are a couple of more papers on the topic of visual arguments (one, in fact, on visual negation–I hope to see that one tomorrow).   

OSSA Day 2: Epistemic community

Michel Dufor, Univ. Sorbonne Nouvelle

"Epistemic Communities and Arguments for New Knowledge"

Dufor's background presumptions: Communities are epistemic when sharing specific beliefs, interests and arguments. E.g., religious and scientific communities.  The question is how knowledge is produced in these communities.

Dufour's suggestion: Poincare on the difference between justification and intuition in mathematics is a model for mathematical creativity.

Q1: What about Socrates and Meno's slave boy?  Is the slave boy creative, or is the means of demonstration with Socrates only about justification?

Q2: What is the difference between intuition and mathematical induction?  Is there only a difference in modes of presentation?