Is a virtue approach in argumentation possible without committing the ad hominem fallacy? My answer is affirmative, provided that the object study of our theory is well delimited. My proposal is that a theory of argumentative virtue should not focus on argument appraisal, as has been assumed, but on those traits that make an individual achieve excellence in argumentative practices. An agent-based approach in argumentation should be developed, not in order to find better grounds for argument appraisal, but to gain insight into argumentative habits and excellence. This way we can benefit from what a virtue argumentation theory really has to offer.
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I will use the terms “cogent” and “cogency” throughout the article referring to the good quality of an argument according to the standards of informal logic; that is, an argument is cogent if it has acceptable premises, if the premises are relevant to the conclusion, and if the premises are sufficient or provide good grounds for the conclusion (see Govier 2010, p. 87).
The terms “rebut” and “undercut” are defined in Pollock (1992, p. 4).
I must thank an anonymous reviewer for this observation.
Another example that Aberdein presents and that might turn out to be equally problematic is the criticism of intelligent design theorists (Aberdein 2014, p. 87). Aberdein highlights the fact that ID theorists ignore relevant work and evidence, and hence display argumentative vice. But, as an anonymous reviewer pointed out to me, it is the evidence itself that undermines their arguments, not their argumentative vices. The fact that they ignore relevant work and evidence simply makes it more likely that their arguments are wrong.
I owe this observation to Cristina Corredor.
I believe that Aberdein (2014) is right and sometimes the arguer’s character might be relevant when assessing an argument, but I also believe that in general this is not the case.
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The first draft of this paper benefited from discussions with Javier González de Prado, Susana Monsó, Alejandro Díaz, Marco Antonio Joven Romero and Paula Olmos. I also presented it at the 8th ISSA Conference on Argumentation in Amsterdam, where I received valuable comments. I am especially grateful to Luis Vega and Cristina Corredor, who commented on subsequent versions of the paper, as well as to two anonymous reviewers that contributed greatly to sharpen my ideas. Finally, I must thank Daniel Slee for revising my English. This research was funded by a scholarship from the UNED.
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Gascón, J.Á. Virtue and Arguers. Topoi 35, 441–450 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-015-9321-8
- Ad hominem