, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 437-446
Date: 23 Apr 2008

Black Box Arguments

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Abstract

“Black box argument” is a metaphor for modular components of argumentative discussion that are, within a particular discussion, not open to expansion. In public policy debate such as the controversy over abstinence-only sex education, scientific conclusions enter the discourse as black boxes consisting of a result returned from an external and largely impenetrable process. In one way of looking at black box arguments, there is nothing fundamentally new for the argumentation theorist: A black box argument is very like any other appeal to authority, and what might be said about any particular form of black box will turn out to be a particularized version of what might be said about evaluating arguments based on authority. But in another way of looking at black box arguments, they are a constantly evolving technology for coming to conclusions and making these conclusions broadly acceptable. Black boxes are to argumentation what material inventions are to engineering and related sciences. They are anchored in and constrained by fundamental natural processes, but they are also new things that require theoretical explication and practical assessment.