, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 451–460 | Cite as

What Virtue Argumentation Theory Misses: The Case of Compathetic Argumentation

  • Daniel H. Cohen
  • George Miller


While deductive validity provides the limiting upper bound for evaluating the strength and quality of inferences, by itself it is an inadequate tool for evaluating arguments, arguing, and argumentation. Similar remarks can be made about rhetorical success and dialectical closure. Then what would count as ideal argumentation? In this paper we introduce the concept of cognitive compathy to point in the direction of one way to answer that question. It is a feature of our argumentation rather than my argument or your argument. In that respect, compathy is like the harmonies achieved by an accomplished choir, the spontaneous coordination of athletic teamwork, or the experience of improvising jazz musicians when they are all in the flow together. It is a characteristic of arguments, not a virtue that can be attributed to individual arguers. It makes argumentation more than just the sum of its individual parts. The concept of cognitive compathy is brought into focus by locating it at the confluence of two lines of thought. First, we work up to the concept of compathy by contrasting it with empathy and sympathy in the context of emotions, which is then transplanted into epistemic, cognitive, and argumentative soil. Second, the concept is analytically linked to ideal argumentation by way of authenticity in communication. In the final section, we explore the extent to which argumentative virtues are conducive to producing compathetic argumentation, but reach the unhappy conclusion that the extra value of compathetic argumentation also transcends the evaluative reach of virtue argumentation theory.


Virtue argumentation Empathy Sympathy Compathy Argument evaluation 


  1. Blair A, Johnson R (1987) Argumentation as dialectical. Argumentation 1:41–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cohen D (2004) Arguments and metaphors in philosophy. University Press of America, LanhamGoogle Scholar
  3. Cohen D (2013) Virtue, in context. Informal Log 33(4):471–488Google Scholar
  4. Cohen D, Miller G (2008) Gods, gadflies, and bulldog tenacity: in praise of closed-mindedness. In: Conference on open-mindedness and the virtues in education, Halifax, NSGoogle Scholar
  5. Davidson D (1986) A nice derangement of epitaphs. In: Lepore E (ed) Truth and interpretation: perspectives on the philosophy of Donald Davidson. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 433–446Google Scholar
  6. Gardner H (1983, 2011). Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Godden D (2016) On the priority of agent-based argumentative norms. Topoi. doi: 10.1007/s11245-124-9296-x
  8. Goleman D (2006) Social intelligence: the new science of human relationships. Bantam Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Hatfield E, Cacioppo JT, Rapson RL (1993) Emotional contagion. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Johnson R (1999) Manifest rationality: a pragmatic theory of argument. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  11. Merleau-Ponty M (1964a) Sense and non-sense (trans: Dreyfus H, Dreyfus P). Northwestern University Press, EvanstonGoogle Scholar
  12. Merleau-Ponty M (1964b). Signs (trans: McCleary R). Northwestern University Press, EvanstonGoogle Scholar
  13. Merleau-Ponty M (1974) The prose of the world (trans: O’Neill J). Northwestern University Press, EvanstonGoogle Scholar
  14. Moore GE (1903) Principia ethica. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  15. Perelman C, Olbrechts-Tyteca L (1959) The new rhetoric. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre DameGoogle Scholar
  16. Ratcliffe M (2006) Phenomenology, neuroscience, and intersubjectivity. In: Dreyfus HL, Wrathall MA (eds) A companion to phenomenology and existentialism. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Scott-Baumann A (2009) Ricoeur and the hermeneutics of suspicion. Continuum, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Tindale C (1999) Acts of arguing: a rhetorical model of argument. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  19. von Radziewsky K (2014) The virtuous arguer: one person, four characters. In: Mohammed D, Lewinsky M (eds) Virtues of argument. Proceedings of OSSA 10. CD-ROM. OSSA, WindsorGoogle Scholar
  20. Wittgenstein L (1953) Philosophical investigations (trans: Anscombe GEM). Basil Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  21. Zahavi D (2008) Simulation, projection, and empathy. Conscious Cogn 17:514–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Colby CollegeWatervilleUSA
  2. 2.University of Maine, FarmingtonFarmingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations