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Virtuous Norms for Visual Arguers

Abstract

This paper proposes that virtue theories of argumentation and theories of visual argumentation can be of mutual assistance. An argument that adoption of a virtue approach provides a basis for rejecting the normative independence of visual argumentation is presented and its premisses analysed. This entails an independently valuable clarification of the contrasting normative presuppositions of the various virtue theories of argumentation. A range of different kinds of visual argument are examined, and it is argued that they may all be successfully evaluated within a virtue framework, without invoking any novel virtues.

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Notes

  1. Godden tracks down examples of each, although he finds it much easier to identify normative non-revisionists (who reject IndVis) than normative revisionists (who accept IndVis) (Godden 2017, §3). He notes that Leo Groarke and J. Anthony Blair have each asserted the continuity of evaluative methods for visual and verbal arguments, making them non-revisionists (Blair 1996; Groarke 1996). In general, it seems that IndVis is more frequently attributed to others than it is personally embraced. Johnson, who seems first to have formulated IndVis, did so to reconstruct a view he did not himself endorse (Godden 2017, 10). Blair reads Groarke’s early non-revisionism as a tactical gambit intended to head off the charge that visual arguments are not arguments, and suggests that Groarke might now accept IndVis (Blair 2015, 219). Godden also proposes Michael Gilbert as someone to whom IndVis might be congenial, even if he has never explicitly endorsed it. However, this may turn on Gilbert’s use of ‘multimodal’ which, as Blair observes, is quite different from the use the term has in the context of visual argument (Blair 2015, 218). Elsewhere, Amy Anderson observes an implicit revisionism amongst advocates of ‘multiliteracies’, such as Gunther Kress, who regard texts and images as requiring different sorts of literacy (Anderson 2015, 110). Although such projects may be primarily descriptive rather than normative, any evaluation based therein would seem committed to IndVis.

  2. The programmes defended by Tracy Bowell and Justine Kingsbury or Benjamin Hamby, in which virtues are confined to a higher-order, regulatory role, appear to be examples of the former alternative (Bowell and Kingsbury 2013; Hamby 2015).

  3. A similar argument is distributed over several pages in (Godden 2017). I quote the earlier, more compact version here for convenience. I note the (minor) revisions to wording below.

  4. In Godden’s later article, P2 appears in slightly different form as ‘Rational appraisal of argument: The evaluation of argument involves assessing the probative or rational support claims are provided with by reasons’ (Godden 2017, 7). However, this version still exhibits the same ambiguity.

  5. For a critique, see (Dove 2014, 2 f.).

  6. Godden revises P3 somewhat more extensively than the other premisses; it appears in his later article as ‘Trans-modal evaluative equivalence (EE): The same content-defined argument, no matter how it is presented, should receive the same rational or probative evaluation, ceteris paribus’ (Godden 2017, 13). He also acknowledges that EE is stronger than needed, observing that its contradictory is consistent with normative non-revisionism (Godden 2017, 14).

  7. Hence my revision of Godden’s argument is unlikely to be acceptable to Godden himself, since he explicitly rejects immodest virtue argumentation theory (Godden 2016, 355).

  8. This statement of TMV is restricted to two modes, the verbal and the visual. An unrestricted version of TMV seems plausible, but I shall not attempt to defend it here.

  9. I am grateful to an anonymous referee for this journal for stressing this point.

  10. The distinction has been discussed extensively in aesthetics (see, for example, Kulvicki 2006). It has attracted much less attention in visual argumentation, perhaps surprisingly. Indeed, in the context of multimodal argumentation, one could make a case that diagrams and pictures should be understood as distinct modes.

  11. See also (Geddo 2009, 67). This example is discussed by Douglas Walton, but as the basis for a subsequent appeal to expert opinion (Walton 2013, 516 f.).

  12. Specifically, a failure of intellectual empathy (Aberdein 2016, 415).

  13. For an analysis of narrative argument in virtue terms, see (Al Tamimi 2016).

  14. These vices may be seen as subtypes of unwillingness to listen to others and undue willingness to modify one’s own position, respectively (Aberdein 2016, 416).

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Aberdein, A. Virtuous Norms for Visual Arguers. Argumentation 32, 1–23 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10503-017-9424-z

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Keywords

  • Arguers
  • Normativity
  • Vices of argument
  • Virtues of argument
  • Visual argument