Argumentation

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 395–431 | Cite as

On the Norms of Visual Argument: A Case for Normative Non-revisionism

Article

Abstract

Visual arguments can seem to require unique, autonomous evaluative norms, since their content seems irreducible to, and incommensurable with, that of verbal arguments. Yet, assertions of the ineffability of the visual, or of visual-verbal incommensurability, seem to preclude counting putatively irreducible visual content as functioning argumentatively. By distinguishing two notions of content, informational and argumentative, I contend that arguments differing in informational content can have equivalent argumentative content, allowing the same argumentative norms to be rightly applied in their evaluation.

Keywords

Argument appraisal Argumentative content Autonomy thesis Entitlement preserving inference Incommensurability Information Normative independence of the visual Normative revisionism Normative non-revisionism Visual argument Visual-verbal evaluative equivalence Visual-verbal incommensurability 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Excerpts from previous versions of this paper were presented at: (1) Virtues of Argumentation, Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation (OSSA) 10, on May 24, 2013, at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, under the title “On the norms of visual argument,” and (2) Argumentation and Reasoned Action, 1st European Conference on Argumentation (ECA), on June 11, 2015 at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in Lisbon, Portugal, under the title “Visual argument: Content, commensurability, and cogency.” Each paper subsequently appeared in the conference proceedings (Godden 2013, 2016). Research and travel for each paper presentation was supported by Old Dominion University (ODU), in Norfolk, Virginia; the first paper was further supported by a Summer Research Fellowship Program grant from ODU’s Office of Research. The present paper was supported by a Faculty Summer Fellowship Program grant from the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University. Other than from audience feedback at these events, the paper has benefitted from exchanges with several others who deserve my recognition and thanks. First among these is J. Anthony Blair whose pioneering work in the informal logic of visual argumentation exhibits an incisiveness, acuity, and lucidity that should serve as a beacon to all working in the field. My intellectual debt to him is vast, and his influence on my thinking, I trust, readily apparent. Second is Ian Dove, whose generous and insightful comments on the OSSA presentation (Dove 2013), as well as our extensive subsequent discussions, were invaluable to me in formulating the position I offer in the paper. I am also indebted to Ian for making me aware of several pivotal sources (e.g., Kitcher and Varzi 2000), and for his ever expanding repertoire acutely incisive conceptualizations and examples, which should be of value to any theorist hoping to come to terms with the subject area. Next is Jens Kjeldsen, first for his conversations and extensive published work which have been especially informative to my own work and thinking, and secondly for the opportunity he afforded me by inviting a commentary, “Images as arguments: Progress and problems, a brief commentary,” (Godden 2015b) on the special issue of Argumentation he guest-edited (Kjeldsen 2015b), which allowed me to formulate and crystalize some of the ideas articulated in this paper. Also deserving of my special thanks are Leo Groarke and Catherine Palczewski, my co-editors of a special issue of Argumentation and Advocacy, “Twenty Years of Visual Argument,” 2016, volume 52(4), pp. 217–299 (Groarke et al. 2016). In addition to the extensive and groundbreaking contributions to the literature made by each of my co-editors, our discussions throughout the editorial project were an invaluable source of knowledge, perspective, and inspiration for me. And nor should I forget Robyn Bluhm, who put(s) up with a lot of ramblings from the author. Finally, I am indebted to the anonymous referees who reviewed the paper for their insightful and constructive comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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