Project Logicality: Argumentation’s Basic Assumptions


An argument is a connected series of statement...

An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition. (Photo credit: harold.lloyd)

This is the second re-release in my Project Logicality series, and it was posted in its original form in April of 2011. I’ve corrected and re-written this and reposted it here, hopefully clearer and to the point. May all your arguments be rational and all your disputes be resolved. ~ Troythulu

We persuade others through our arguments, to get them to accept the statements and claims we make as likely true of their own free choice, justified on the basis of the reasons we give rather than prove them absolutely. Argumentation contributes to healthy discussion and debate, to let those so arguing find common ground, and to make easier a willingness to compromise.

People argue daily, though seldom with skill, and in my view, argumentation as a well-honed tool of a functional democratic republic is needed more than ever with the increasing decay of social discourse, political polarization and interpersonal conflicts that ever more are seen as irreconcilable.

In this post, I’ll describe the basic assumptions and basic conditions that go into any attempt at constructive argument, and before I do, I’ll note as before that good argument is intellectual in force, not coercive or deceptive. It is an ethical means of influencing others, limiting their freedom of action without imposing on their freedom of will.

First, argument is carried out under conditions of uncertainty: We generally don’t argue about things we think certain, though that doesn’t prevent us from talking about them.

We argue about things because we think it important enough to convince others of them, and things may well turn out to be otherwise. If things were absolutely self-evident, they would be so to all, and there would be no need to convince anyone of them.

These differences may be implied and apparent to an analyst, concealed in the context of an argument, or explicit, obvious to an audience. Bear in mind that even the concept of certainty can depend on the audience addressed and the assumptions they bring to the table as to what it means.

Second, Argumentation must consider the needs of an audience. people argue about things that matter to them, attempting to resolve what they think are conflicting positions that cannot simply be settled by any non-argumentative means; appealing to common knowledge, or widely-shared empirical methods; things they consider to be non-trivial, matters important enough to need resolution.

This is not to pander to their biases, or to say that one claim is just as good as any other, it’s just that in being ethical, we must consider what is likely to persuade a given audience as if they were exercising their critical judgment on the merits of the arguments we give, and the soundness of the justifications we offer for our claims.

The audience is the final judge of whether an argument is strong or weak, justified or not, assenting to it if it is strong or justified, rejecting it if not.

Third, argumentation is both adversarial and cooperative. we make choices in arguments, choices in what arguments to select, and how to arrange and present them, based upon the audience we are addressing.

The adversarial components of argumentation help the rigor of the discussion; they help us avoid hasty generalizations; they reduce omission of important details. Skilled arguers seek first to find common ground which is itself the bedrock upon which they can meaningfully discuss their disagreement. Ultimately, these enhance our confidence of the outcome, a confidence pending better arguments to be made in future.

Fourth, argumentation involves restrained partisanship. It requires a cooperative effort between arguer and audience, despite the contentiousness often associated with everyday argument.

Arguers must share a common system of terms, assumptions, and meanings. This allows resolution of the dispute, and is needed to permit any meaningful argument at all.

Fifth, and finally, argument involves elements of risk. This is the risk of losing the argument, the risk of being shown wrong, the risk of having to alter one’s views and position, and in either case the emotional disruption of wounding one’s self-esteem or losing face with others.

But the cooperative aspect of argument means that in willingly accepting these risks, each arguer is respecting the rights and personhood of the other, and in so doing, claiming that same privilege of respect from the other for him or herself.

I think that these are good situational benchmarks, and are the optimal conditions, I would argue even necessary conditions, under which can be made any serious attempt to argue constructively, for the purpose of reaching the best possible conclusions given the means at hand.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

About Troy Loy

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Wednesday, 15:00, April 16, 2014, in Logic & Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. “People argue daily, though seldom with skill, and in my view, argumentation as a well-honed tool of a functional democracy is needed more than ever with the increasing decay of social discourse, political polarization and interpersonal conflicts that ever more are seen as irreconcilable.”

    Argumentation as a well honed tool of a functional republic, yes, of a democracy, no. Three hundred million people are not going to be able to have meaningful discourse on any subject, that is way beyond a group of seven. We should be teaching that we need to elect representatives that have the best argumentation skills to represent their constituents, but also realize when their constituency isn’t right. Actually, I beleive we should again expand the House so that representatives could again actually be in contact with their constituents on a personal basis, but then go and do their jobs effectively. More parties would dilute the polarization and smaller districts would greatly reduce the funds required to run for office allowing more parties to form.

    “Fifth, and finally, argument implies risk. This is the risk of losing the argument, the risk of being shown wrong, the risk of having to alter one’s views and position, and in either case possibly damaging one’s self-esteem or losing face.”

    One could argue that if losing an argument resulted in the loss of face or self-esteem that the parties previous arguments were based on implied authority from their previous record or from a stand of pride. Either of these are a false stand when presented with fact. This is another common problem in politics today and why some days I find myself mentally screaming at radio talk shows, guests and hosts alike.

    Like

  2. people mostly turn arguments into quarrels.

    Like

  3. exactly. This is why I open my mouth only when I see the other person is discussing with some logic and is ready to listen to something absolutely opposite to his/her views.

    Like

  1. Pingback: A Wee Bit-O Pedantry on My Part: What do I call a ‘Functioning Democracy?’ « The Call of Troythulu – Musings of a Skeptophrenic

  2. Pingback: The Weekly Gnuz & Lynx Roundup: 2014/04/20 | The Call of Troythulu

Commenting below. No spam or trolling, or my cats will be angry.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,082 other followers

%d bloggers like this: