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Associating Ethos with Objects: Reasoning from Character of Public Figures to Actions in the World

Abstract

Ethotic arguments, such as arguments from expert opinion and ad hominem arguments, play an important role in communication practice. In this paper, we argue that there is another type of reasoning from ethos, in which people argue about actions in the world. These subspecies of ethotic arguments are very common in public debates: societies are involved in heated disputes about what should be done with monuments of historical figures such as Stalin or Colston: Should we demolish the building they funded? Should we revere their statues? Should the street named after them be renamed?; and the general public vividly argue about what should be done with the legacy of producers, directors and actors in debates of the #MeToo movement: Should their new movies be distributed? Should their scenes be deleted from motion pictures? Should their stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame be removed? Many arguments in these debates boil down to the character of the public figures: He was a slave trader!—But he is a part of our history; He harassed a young girl!—But he is an important actor. The reasoning step here is legitimised by the association between a person and an extra-linguistic object: the association between a historical figure and their statue or between an actor and their movie. The nature of this association is explained in the paper using Peirce’s theory of signs. We propose to extend an existing approach to patterns of reasoning from ethos that will help us to shed new light on ethotic argumentation and open an avenue for a systematic account of these unexplored argument forms.

Introduction

This paper aims to investigate a new type of arguments from the ethos of a public figure to an action in the world regarding an object associated with this person. For instance, in a debate on cultural heritage an expert may argue that a statue should be taken down, because it commemorates a Confederate who was a slave trader. In reply, another expert may argue in favour of this public figure by stressing that he is a part of our history and we must not erase the collective memory of the nation by removing the statue. In a TV debate, a journalist may insist that a movie should not be nominated for a prize, since it stars an actor who is accused of harassing a young girl. As a response, another journalist can defend the actor by focusing attention on him being one of the most important artists of our times. These debates are crucial for determining the shape of our public space, which has an impact on our lives: if I have to pass a statue every day on my way to work, this means that I am constantly exposed to and confronted with the values it represents. This is why these ethotic pro- and con- arguments in favour or against a statue or a movie are frequently used and attract a lot of emotions on opposite sides of a debate in the practice of communication. Thus, argumentation theory should investigate their reasoning patterns to provide us with an insight and better understanding of the dynamics of public debates.

The classical triad of ethos (character of the speaker), together with logos (argumentation) and pathos (emotions of the audience) is undoubtedly one of the key conceptual frameworks in rhetoric. The importance of ethos has later been recognised across various areas of study such as cognition and communication. Social psychology (Petty and Cacioppo 1986; Cialdini 2001), for example, demonstrates the critical role that the character of a person plays in society with Milgram’s experiment (Milgram 1974) clearly showing the striking power of authority. In the experiment, a person, who pretended to be a scientist, i.e. to posses the authority of science, was prompting participants to apply electric shocks to another person, who pretended to suffer from these shocks. The majority of participants followed the white coat in inflicting the maximum, potentially fatal voltage of 450 volts, and all of them applied a massive 300 volts. Social epistemology, on the other hand, focuses on testimony which is perceived as “the most elementary and universal social path to knowledge” (Goldman 1999, p. 103) and on putative experts who provide layman with intellectual assistance (cf. Leefmann and Lesle 2020): “By verbally querying Q(P/-P), a person tells a potential informant two things: (1) that he is ignorant of Q(P/-P), and (2) that he is interested in Q(P/-P). This indicates that an authoritative report of either P or not-P would yield a substantial veritistic increase for that receiver” (Goldman 1999, p. 107).

In argumentation theory, ethos found its rightful place having been incorporated into ethotic arguments (Brinton 1986). In the comprehensive typology of reasoning patterns (for the clarity of the presentation, in this paper we will refer to this approach as the standard or classic account Walton et al. 2008), two sub-types of ethotic arguments are specified as follows:

The argument from ethos, based on the credibility of the person, has two forms, a positive and negative one. While the positive topic provides a good reason to accept the proposed position, the negative one is closely related to the generic ad hominem argument (...) from the bad character of an arguer it is reasonable to infer his non-credibility, and hence the lack of worth of his argument (Walton et al. 2008, pp. 140–141).

According to this typology, arguments from ethos follow one of two forms. In a positive form of standard ethotic arguments, we reason from the good character of a person to the recommendation that what this person said should be accepted (in this case an argument can fall under the scheme from expert opinion, position to know, witness testimony, etc.). In a negative form of standard ethotic arguments, we reason from the bad character of a person to the recommendation that what this person said should not be accepted (in this case an argument can instantiate schemes such as generic ad hominem, bias ad hominem, guilt by association, etc.).

In this paper, we investigate new types of ethotic arguments which have not yet been explored and which are not covered by schemes and forms available in the literature. In such cases, we reason from a character of a public figure, such as a historical figure or a movie actor, to recommendations about actions in the world, e.g., that a statue of this historical figure should be kept or should not be kept, or that a movie with this actor should be nominated or should not be nominated for a prize, in a positive and a negative form of non-standard ethotic arguments, respectively. Consider an example 1 below taken from our small pilot study that we ran on two Polish Radio 24 programs from 22 July, 2015 and from 11 November, 2017 dedicated to the Palace of Culture and Science (Pałac Kultury i Nauki) (for the preliminary analysis of these data and other similar datasets in Spanish and Polish debates about cultural objects, see (Pereira-Fariña et al. 2019)). The building was erected in Warsaw between 1952 and 1955 as Stalin’s gift “from the Soviet people to the Polish people”. After political transformation in Poland in 1989, it became a topic of a long lasting and emotional debate on whether or not to destroy it. In one of the radio programs, a journalist Michał Rachoń argued against the Palace of Culture and Science, using in this case a negative form of the newly identified type of ethotic arguments (although this particular argument has a negative form, in public debates speakers tend to use its positive form as well, see Example 5 in Sect. 3.2 and Example 7 in Sect. 4.2)Footnote 1:

  1. (1)
    1. a.

      Michał Rachoń: The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw should be demolished, blown up, dismantled – however you wish to call it.

    2. b.

      The Palace of Culture and Science is the building that was created here to demonstrate, to build a palace of Stalin, the biggest criminal in the history of the mankind.

In 1a, Rachoń argues that the Palace of Culture and Science should not be kept (“should be demolished, blown up, dismantled”) what he supports in 1b by saying that this is a palace of Stalin who is the biggest criminal in the history of mankind. As the journalist uses Stalin’s character to construct his argument, we claim that it is an ethotic argument, yet its pattern does not fall under the form of the standard account: the only arguer, who is present in 1, is Michał Rachoń, but neither his character plays a role in this argument (see “from the bad character of an arguer it is reasonable to infer his non-credibility...” in the quotation from (Walton et al. 2008) above), nor the lack of worth of his argument is being inferred (compare to “... and hence the lack of worth of his argument”). Instead, Rachoń reasons from the character of the public figure of Stalin to the action in the world of destroying the object which is associated with Stalin. The reasoning step from 1b to 1a is licensed precisely by this association between ethos and an object. We will use Peirce (1982)’s theory of signs to explain this important feature of the new type of ethotic arguments.

In our empirical study, we found that the new ethotic reasoning was twice as frequent than the standard one (26% vs. 13%).Footnote 2 This demonstrates that arguments such as Example 1 play a significant role in public debates and hence there is a need to explore their form and their dynamics. Interestingly, while non-ethotic arguments and standard ethotic arguments were used on both sides of the debate in these two radio programs with a balanced number of pro- and con-arguments, the type of arguments introduced in this paper were used in this case exclusively in its negative form, i.e. for arguing that the palace should not be kept.

The rest of the paper is structured as follows. In Sect. 2, we describe the standard account of ethotic arguments in more detail. Section 3 explores the association between an object in the world and a person, building upon Pierce’s theory of signs. In Sect. 4, the form of ethotic arguments founded on this association is studied: following the standard approach described above, we analyse two examples of arguments from character of public figures to actions in the world which constitute analogues of negative and positive forms of classic ethotic arguments. In Sect. 5, we specify a scheme for new ethotic arguments, we then reformulate a scheme for the standard ethotic arguments and finally we propose the generalisation of these two subspecies into one scheme. In Sect. 6, three subtypes of reasoning associating ethos with objects are introduced. That is, depending on a type of association defined in Pierce’s theory of signs, we specify argumentation schemes and critical questions for ethotic arguments from indexical, symbolic and iconic association between a public figure and an object in the world.

Standard Approach to Ethotic Arguments

Originally Aristotle (1991) recognised ethos to be a crucial element of oratory, since speakers should begin their speech by establishing their own character in order to justify their right to speak. Ethos is “achieved by what the speaker says, not by what people think of his character before he begins to speak” (Aristotle 1991, 1355b10). According to van Eemeren, in Aristotle’s Rhetoric “[i]n order to make the audience accept true and just standpoints, in particular in legal and political speeches, the orator needs, in principle, to make use of argumentative means of persuasion” (van Eemeren 2013, p. 57). In other words, the study of ethotic aspects of a rhetorical speech consists of linguistic manifestations of how speakers establish their character. Those manifestations have been widely studied by rhetoricians and argumentation scholars (cf. Leff 1993).

A contemporary extension of the Aristotelian account of ethos aims to specify argumentation schemes for ethotic arguments. What is called ethotic argumentation by some argumentation scholars (Brinton 1986; Walton 1999) clearly expands the Aristotelian approach to ethos, because it deals not only with ethos of a speaker which manifests itself through their speech, but it also relates to other speakers. In other words, an ethotic argument does not establish the ethos of the author of this argument, but it aims to use other speakers’ ethos to infer the content of what they said or to infer that the content should not be accepted.

The groundwork in the study of positive ethotic arguments in the standard account was developed by Walton. He proposed the study of appeals to authority and expert opinion (along with such argumentative structures as e.g. argument from position to know or the inductive and presumptive forms of such arguments), a set of argumentation schemes for those appeals, along with matching sets of critical questions (Walton 1997). His study of ethotic arguments can be interpreted as a systematic take on a variety of forms (e.g., deductive, probable, inductive, presumptive, etc.) of a typical argument from expert opinion that consists of inferring A from the premises about E being an expert and E asserting A. Some key ethotic aspects, including a premise about the image of a speaker, were made explicit in (Groarke and Tindale 2008). In addition to the study of epistemic aspects of arguments from expert opinion, Koszowy and Walton (2019) proposed argumentation schemes and critical questions to explore and evaluate deontic aspects of expert opinion arguments about what should be done. Zenker and Yu (2020) proposed a taxonomy of arguments from authority which covers the four sources of authority (epistemic sources, deontic sources, attractiveness and majority) with the speech act types of assertives and directivesFootnote 3 to obtain eight authority-argument types along with a number of sub-schemes (cf. (Budzynska 2010; Witek 2013) for more details on the connection between ethos and non-assertive speech acts). In other work on the standard account of the positive ethotic arguments, the component of dignity was introduced as playing the key persuasive role in these type of ethotic arguments (Goodwin 2011), and a taxonomy of arguments from authority was introduced following the most important features of arguments from expert opinion (Wagemans 2011).

In the literature, ethotic arguments of a negative form are typically referred to as ad hominem arguments. Walton (1998) argues that although ad hominem attacks are generally fallacious, they might be reasonable in some specific contexts. This type of argument can be classified into two basic types: (1) generic ad hominem (also called directive or abusive), where the attack from the speaker points to some specific features of interlocutor’s character (logical reasoning, perception, veracity, cognitive skills etc.); and (2) circumstantial ad hominem, where the attack points to an inconsistency in the interlocutor’s position (past actions, previous declarations, association with groups holding a specific view etc.). A different perspective is adopted by Macagno (2013) who argues that ad hominem is not a simple argument, but a complex strategy or a combination of different moves in order to achieve a specific goal in a dialogue. Thus, a speaker combines explicit attacks with implicit arguments, all of which are based on negative judgements about the interlocutor. In both cases (for both circumstancial ad homimem and ad homimen as a complex strategy), quotations from the interlocutor play a major role, because they are used as demonstrations (Clark and Gerrig 1990) by the speaker who perform the ethotic attack, reproducing an other party’s utterance but with the objective of attacking the person and not attacking what was actually said.

Example 2 was given in (Copi and Cohen 2005, pp. 122–123) and referred to in (Walton 1998, p. 3) to instantiate the pattern of generic ad hominem argument.

  1. (2)
    1. a.

      Sandra Lee Bartky (commenting on Christine Sommers’ argument): It is one thing to be attacked by an honorable opponent in an honorable way. This happens all the time in philosophy.

    2. b.

      But in my view Sommers’ intellectual methods are dishonest.

According to the standard account, Bartky reasons from the bad character of Sommers (“Sommers’ intellectual methods are dishonest” in 2b) to the recommendation of not accepting Sommers’ argument (“Sommers’ argument should not be accepted” in 2a). In 1 on the other hand, Rachoń reasons that the Palace of Culture and Science should be demolished using the bad character of Stalin as a premise. Although at first glance it might seem that this reasoning follows the pattern of ad hominem too, the standard approach does not capture the nature of the association between Stalin and the palace: Stalin is not an interlocutor in the dialogue and as such he did not perform a speech act of arguing which is attacked in this reasoning. Instead, it is a monument (the Palace of Culture and Science) associated with him which is a target of the attack in 1a. Thus, the ad hominem pattern with a premise about a speaker uttering a speech act is not applicable in the reasoning uttered in 1. In the next section, we discuss in detail the association between a public figure and an object in the world, i.e. an element of the new type of ethotic arguments which is entirely missing in the standard account.

Associating Ethos with Objects

In this section, we investigate the nature of association between the ethos of a public figure and an object in the world as well as the variation in the strength of such associations (Sect. 3.1). We will use this association to specify negative and positive forms of the newly identified type of ethotic arguments in Sect. 4 and to define their schemes in Sect. 5. We then distinguish types of these associations, building upon Peirce’s theory of signs (Sect. 3.2). We will apply this typology to specify schemes of subtypes of the new ethotic arguments in Sect. 6.

Nature and Strength of Association

In the type of arguments which this paper studies, the inferential step from the character of a public figure to an action in the world is legitimised by an association which holds between the public figure and an object to which the action should/should not be applied. In contrast to linguistic objects, i.e. propositions described by the standard ethotic arguments, these objects belong to the world (hence the name “extra-linguistic objects”). In Example 1, the association holds between Stalin and the Palace of Culture and Science as the building was a gift from Stalin and it was named after him as the “Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science”.

Such a relation is typically explicitly signalled on the linguistic surface of an argument. In 3 which is an extension of Example 1, the association between Stalin and the palace is marked in bold font in 3b. If we follow the form of standard negative ethotic arguments (Sect. 1), the text in italic in 3a is the conclusion and the fragment in italic in 3b is the premise of bad character. This is precisely by virtue of an object (the Palace of Culture and Science) being associated with a public figure (Stalin) that makes the inferential step from Stalin being bad, i.e. 3b, to not keeping the palace, i.e. 3a, permitted. Notice that 3c and 3d not only constitute a serial argument that justifies the bad character of Stalin, but they are also used to arouse the emotional content of the argument, combining ethotic and pathotic strategies to influence an audience of this argument.

  1. (3)
    1. a.

      Michał Rachoń: The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw

      should be demolished, blown up, dismantled – as you wish to call

      it.

    2. b.

      The Palace of Culture and Science is the building that was created here to demonstrate, to build a palace of Stalin, the

      biggest criminal in the history of the mankind.

    3. c.

      The man, who murdered, depending on the number of victims of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, from several dozen, even up to 150, maybe even up to 200 million people,

    4. d.

      because the number of victims of communism is being estimated more or less around this level.

    5. e.

      Both Joseph Stalin and the Palace of Stalin, which stands in Warsaw until today, is a symbol of enslavement of Polish nation and a symbol of gigantic crimes.

The association between ethos and objects has a different strength in different situations. For some Polish people, it is not possible to not associate the Palace of Culture and Science with Stalin. For them, the palace commemorates and symbolises Stalin, such as when Rachoń speaks about the link between Stalin and the palace in 3e by referring to this building by its original name: “the Palace of Stalin”. The strength of this relation lies in values which are inherited from the character of a public figure to an object. A monument symbolises values that this person represents – values which the monument commemorates. The association is thus transitive in such cases: an object o represents a public figure i; i represents values v; therefore o represents v. Once a political or social system changes and the values depreciate, such monuments become a subject of emotive cultural debates on what should be done with them – whether or not to revere them in the public space. In 3e, Rachoń makes this deepened association explicit: he associates a public figure “Joseph Stalin” through the name with an object “the Palace of Stalin”, and then associates both of them with enslavement and crime.

In Example 4, the association is weaker, even if the situation itself raises equally emotional reactions.Footnote 4 The movie “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” does not commemorate or symbolise Depp. Instead, he is associated with it just through the fact that he plays a title role in this movie. The association is signalled linguistically also quite weakly, but by saying “watch” (in bold in 4b) the speaker makes it still sufficiently clear that Depp acts in this movie, in case the audience did not hear about “Fantastic Beasts”.

  1. (4)
    1. a.

      Tampa Bay Times: \({{{I\, won't\, see\, Fantastic\, Beasts:\, The\, Crimes\, of}}}\)

      Grindelwald later this year

    2. b.

      because I cannot watch Johnny Depp without thinking of the

      bruises on his ex-wife Amber Heard’s face.

The weaker association means that values associated with Depp are not inherited by the object itself, but they are still inherited by the action in the world regarding this object: the bad character of Depp (the premise is in italic in 4b) does not mean that “Fantastic Beasts” is bad, but it does mean that the action of watching this movie is bad (the conclusion is in italic in 4a). It is as to say that by watching the movie, one gives a consent for the violence towards a spouse or a woman. In case of stronger associations such as Example 3, the inheritance works for both cases – a negative value is inherited by both an object and the action towards this object: the bad character of Stalin means that the palace is bad and that keeping it is bad. In cases similar to 4, it is possible that the speaker makes a stronger association between an actor (or a director) and a movie, but it seems to be rather infrequent. If protesters demonstrate at a film festival against awarding a prize to a movie directed by a person accused of sexual assault, then they seem to assume that bad values are inherited from the public figure to the movie itself. In other words, they are making a statement that the movie is bad, since it promotes these values through the association with its director. Yet in Example 4, the link holds only between a person and an action, as if the protesters demonstrated against watching the movie by blocking access to a venue where the move is shown during the film festival.

It should be noted that reasoning patterns licensed by an association are not new in the literature. For example, in the guilt by association scheme the arguer justifies someone’s guilt of having bad character by pointing that this person is associated with a bad group (cf. Walton et al. 2008, p. 153). While in this type of ethotic arguments the association between a group and its member seems to be rather straightforward and intuitive, the association between an object and a public figure requires more elaborated justification and explanation—to which end we use Peirce’s theory of signs in the next section. Arguments from analogy (ibid., p. 56) or from cause to effect (ibid., p. 168) can be also viewed as founded on a specific type of association: association of similarity and association of a sequence of facts. These patterns, however, are not analogues of the standard ethotic arguments: they are not used in public debates to reason from the character of a public figure to an action towards an object associated with this person. This type of reasoning has not been explored yet.

Types of Association

In this paper, we build upon Peirce’s sign theory (1982) to distinguish three different types of association between ethos and extra-linguistic objects. The typology will allow us to classify the new ethotic arguments into their three subtypes with distinctive features which will be introduced in Sect. 6. According to Peirce (ibid.), a basic sign structure contains three parts: a sign, i.e. a signifier, such as smoke when it signifies fire; an object, i.e. what is signified, such as fire which is signified by smoke; and an interpretant, i.e. the understanding of the sign-object relation, such as a person who observes smoke and interprets it as the sign of fire. This structure has then three basic types: icons, when a signifier is related to its signified object through a quality, such as when a portrait and a person portrayed display some common features; indices, when a signifier is related to its signified object in a correspondence in fact, such as when a weathercock is exposed to wind; and symbols, when their relation is in virtue of a conventional connection between a signifier and a signified and therefore what the signifier stands for must be learned, such as the number system, computer code, traffic signs, national flags and so on.

Building upon this account, the association between a public figure (who corresponds to a signified object in Peirce’s sign theory) and an extra-linguistic object (which corresponds to a sign or a signifier) can be thus classified into three types: the association is iconic, if there is a quality or a feature shared by a person and an extra-linguistic object, such as, e.g., in the case of the Confederate Robert Edward Lee and his statue; it is indexical, if there is a physical or factual relation between a person and an object, such as in the case of Johnny Depp and the “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” movie; and it is symbolic, if there is a convention or a norm which allows for interpreting an object as a signifier of a person, such as in the case of the Stalin Palace and Stalin himself.

The strength of the association increases from indexical being the weakest, through symbolic to iconic being the strongest. An indexical association is relatively easy to break, since an object does not inherit the values after the character of a public figure. They are just linked factually or physically. Thus, the attack on such an association “The values represented by actor’s character has nothing to do with the value of the movie” has a high chances of success.

An argument founded on an iconic association is most challenging to attack. In particular, it is difficult to credibly argue that a statue or a portrait of a public figure is not associated with this person (in fact, if a portrait does not resemble a historical figure, such as in the case of abstract art, it becomes a symbol rather than an icon of this figure). Thus, this type of argument requires other strategies in order to successfully attack it: we can try to show that a public figure, who is accused of being bad, has in fact a good character, or that a bad character of a person is not enough to disqualify an object, since, for example, a portrait is a valuable piece of art. In 5, the speaker defends Edward Colston, a Bristol-born English merchant, whose character has been attacked with accusations of him being a slave trader, while his defendants have been endorsing him for being a philanthropistFootnote 5:

  1. (5)
    1. a.

      Richard Eddy: \({Removing\, Edward\, Colston's\, portrait\, was\, outrageous}\) stunt.

    2. b.

      The occupier of this distinguished position [lord mayor Cleo Lake] should know better than to pander to politically-correct partisan opinion.

    3. c.

      \({Edward\, Colston\, was\, a\, great\, Bristolian\, in\, the\, eyes\, of\, many\, of\, us}\)

      and, sadly, Cleo Lake has clearly decided to abandon the impartial role of the lord mayor less than a month into her reign.

A symbolic association also strongly links ethos with an object as it is the case of icons, since a symbol inherits values after a public figure too. However, it is weaker than icons, for an object does not bear a resemblance to a person. In this case, a strategy of breaking the association could be to attack a convention or a norm which links an object with a public figure, that is, to demonstrate that an object is not a symbol of a person any more. This type of counter-argument seems to be persuasively very effective, as a convention or a norm is more dependent on the interpretation than a fact (in case of indices) or a quality (in case of icons).

New Types of Ethotic Arguments

In this section, we reconstruct a form of reasoning from character of a public figure to actions in the world regarding extra-linguistic objects associated with this person. To this end, we take forms of classic ethotic arguments as an exemplar of formalisation which might help us to arrive at a satisfactory description of forms of the ethotic arguments newly identified in the paper. In Sect. 4.1, we take Walton et al. (2008)’s generic ad hominem argument as a point of reference to determine the form of negative arguments founded on association between ethos and objects. In Sect. 4.2, the description of their positive form draws inspiration from a pattern of positive standard ethotic arguments—pro homine argument—which is closer in the form to generic ad hominem than other positive standard ethotic arguments such as arguments from expert opinion or arguments from position to know. This initial analysis of the negative and positive forms of the new ethotic arguments lays the foundations for their formalisation as argumentation schemes in Sect. 5.

Negative Form of New Ethotic Arguments

Sir James Savile was a famous British TV presenter in the 1970s and 80s. He was respected as a philanthropist who raised an estimated £40m for charities and - in recognition - he was knighted in 1990. Shortly after his death in 2011, he was accused of child sex abuse by hundreds of young girls and some boys over a 40-year period. In 2019, The Press and Journal, Scotland’s oldest daily newspaper, cited the Highland Councillor, who shared his opinion about pulling down the cottage in Glencoe where Savile lived from 1998 until his death.Footnote 6

  1. (6)
    1. a.

      Andrew Baxter: Savile has been dead for a long time and his crimes were horrific.

    2. b.

      But leaving his mark in the middle of Glencoe is, in many ways, just perpetuating the memory of what he has done.

    3. c.

      I would rather his connection to Glencoe and Lochaber is

      completely erased.

In order to reconstruct the form of this argument, we follow a reasoning pattern studied in the literature under different names: negative ethotic argument, argument from negative ethos, generic ad hominem, direct ad hominem or abusive ad hominem. We choose a scheme which is widely used both in philosophy of argumentation and in computational models of argument (Walton et al. 2008, p. 142):


Ad Hominem Argument

Premise::

i is a person of bad character.

Conclusion::

Therefore, i’s argument should not be accepted.

Fig. 1
figure 1

The representation of negative ethotic arguments with a single premise: (1a) in the standard approach; (1b) in reasoning associating ethos with objects

We will follow this account in reconstructing the form of Example 6. We identify the ethotic premise to be a linguistic material in italic in 6a, expressing that Savile committed horrific crimes. The conclusion of this argument (in italic in 6c) claims that Baxter prefers Savile’s cottage in Glencoe to be completely erased. In analogy to ad hominem which concludes that an argument should not be accepted, we formulate the conclusion in the new negative ethotic reasoning to be a negation too, i.e. that Savile’s cottage should not be preserved (see Fig. 1b).

Such a reconstruction is not yet satisfactory, since the scheme fails to capture the association between an extra-linguistic object and a public figure. As argued in Section 3.1, it is this association that legitimises reasoning from bad character of a person to not performing an action regarding an object associated with the person. In Example 6, the relation between the cottage and Savile is made explicit in 6b as “being a mark in the middle of Glencoe” (in bold) and then rephrased in 6c as “connection”. Thus, (Walton et al. 2008)’s scheme needs to be adapted in order to capture this kind of a linkage by adding a linked premise expressing the association. In a similar manner, the Palace of Culture and Science is related to Stalin as it is named after him (mentioned in 3b and 3e); and “Fantastic Beasts” is connected to Johnny Depp as he acts in this movie (implied in 4b). The same procedure can be applied in the standard approach, where a linked premise can be added to make it explicit that a person, whose argument should not be accepted, is an author of this argument. As a result of this analysis, Example 2 and Example 6 can be now reconstructed as linked arguments supporting the recommendation that Sommers’ argument should not be accepted (Fig. 2a) and that Savile’s cottage should not be preserved (Fig. 2b).

Fig. 2
figure 2

The representation of negative ethotic arguments with linked premises: (2a) in the standard approach; (2b) in reasoning associating ethos with objects

Positive Form of New Ethotic Arguments

Columbus Day, a national holiday in many countries in the Americas, became a subject of controversy, when Columbus became accused of exploiting and enslaving the indigenous population. Many major US cities decided to rename and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. In 2018, a student newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania published an articleFootnote 7 in support of Columbus:

  1. (7)
    1. a.

      The UPenn Statesman: Why the movement to rename Columbus Day is missing the point.

    2. b.

      Even those who advocate Indigenous Peoples’ Day would have to concede that, in many ways, Columbus was a man ahead of his time.

    3. c.

      He was a skilled captain, who argued that the Earth was a sphere

      and believed in a precursor of Copernican heliocentrism.

    4. d.

      He was a capitalist, in that he sought to open free trade routes

      between Europe and the surrounding world.

    5. e.

      When he discovered the American coast, he made sure to

      document his journey in such a way that those who followed him

      could find it again.

In order to reconstruct the form of this argument, we will consider the standard account of reasoning from good character and consolidate it with the form of the new negative ethotic arguments specified in the previous section. We choose a positive version of ad hominem argument, i.e. pro homine argument which concludes that what a good person said should be accepted (Groarke and Tindale 2008, p. 368)Footnote 8: Pro Homine Argument

Premise::

i says that \(\alpha \).

Premise::

i is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and free of bias.

Conclusion::

\(\alpha \) should be accepted.

Groarke and Tindale (2008) give an example from the New York Times article on the case of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. In 1987, he was the witness in the congressional hearings where the allegations were investigated that the US administration acted illegally (ibid., pp. 368–369):

  1. (8)
    1. a.

      New York Times: Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North testified that the allegations of the US administration to act illegally by selling arms to Iran and diverting the money from the sales to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua are not true.

    2. b.

      He is an underdog, true believer, one man against the crowd: there was a lot of Gary Cooper in him, the lonesome cowboy, a lot of Jimmy Stewart, too, the honest man facing down the politicians, and quite a bit of Huck Finn.

According to the scheme of pro homine argument, the conclusion in 8a, which states that the allegations against the US administration are not true, is supported by linked premises of North’s testimony and North’s ethos (see Fig. 3a). Following this account, we can unpack the form of reasoning from good character to actions in the world such as in Example 7. We assume that its conclusion, identified in 7a (in italic), is not a negated form as it is the case in the standard ethotic arguments. Thus, it is reconstructed as “The name Columbus Day should be kept” rather than “Columbus Day should not be renamed”. This conclusion is supported by an ethotic argument: Columbus was a skilled captain (7c), he was a capitalist who sought to open free trade routes (7d) and he documented his journey for his followers (7e) (see Sect. 6.4 for the full and detailed reconstruction of this argument). The association between the name Columbus Day and Columbus is left enthymematic in 7, since the connection between them seems to be evident. Figure 3b represents the positive form of new ethotic argument.

Let us conclude the section with an observation. The positive form of this reasoning is used as a response to negative arguments of this sort. As statues or days named after historical figures already exist, there is no need to argue in their favour. However, once they become controversial and the public debate starts to consider whether or not to demolish or rename them, some people might try to defend them with positive ethotic arguments. A title of the article discussed in this section: “In Defense of Christopher Columbus”, is a good evidence of the dynamics between the negative and positive forms of new ethotic arguments.

Fig. 3
figure 3

The representation of positive ethotic arguments: (3a) in the standard approach; (3b) in reasoning associating ethos with objects

Schemes for Ethotic Arguments

In this section, we generalise the forms of arguments described in the previous section in order to formulate a scheme for new ethotic arguments (Sect. 5.1). We then reformulate the scheme of the classic ethotic arguments in order to uncover the similarities and differences between the new and standard types of reasoning from ethos (Sect. 5.2). Finally, we argue that these two subspecies of ethotic argument are in fact the realisation of the same general reasoning pattern regarding two different dimensions: associations between public figures and extra-linguistic objects, and associations between speakers and propositions they publicly declare (Sect. 5.3).

Scheme of New Ethotic Arguments

According to the analysis in Sect. 4, the newly identified type of reasoning from character to actions in the world contains two linked premises which express association and ethos. In both its positive and negative form, the first premise states that an extra-linguistic object (the Palace of Culture and Science, the “Fantastic Beasts” movie, the portrait in Bristol lord mayor’s office, the cottage in Glencoe, the Columbus Day name) is associated with a public figure (Stalin, Depp, Colston, Savile, Columbus, respectively). Ethotic premise, on the other hand, has in these forms the opposite polarity: it states that the person has a bad character (in the case of negative form) or good character (in the case of positive form).

As argued in Sect. 4.1, the conclusion of the negative new ethotic argument is formalised as the negation “should not be” in order to make it analogous to the standard ethotic argument. Thus, the conclusion in 3 is reconstructed as “The Palace of Culture and Science should not be kept”, the conclusion in 4 as “The “Fantastic Beasts” movie should not be watched”, and the conclusion in 6 as “Savile’s cottage in Glencoe should not be preserved”. We apply analogous procedure to the scheme of conclusion in the positive new ethotic arguments to match it with the form of pro homine arguments: the conclusion in 5 is reconstructed as “Edward Colston’s portrait should be kept in Bristol lord mayor’s office”, and the conclusion in 7 as “The name Columbus Day should be kept”.

Despite following the schemes of classic ethotic arguments, we still did not obtain a general form of reasoning which associates ethos with objects. In the standard account, the conclusion always expresses that an argument should not / should be accepted (in the negative / positive form, respectively), while in the new account – what should not be /should be done differs: the conclusion recommends that an object should not / should be kept, watched, preserved and so on. Hence, to formalise the conclusion of the new ethotic arguments, we propose to reformulate it, so that its subject denotes an action in the world regarding an extra-linguistic object \(A_w(o)\), while its predicate indicates that this action should not / should be performed. In consequence, the full reconstruction of conclusions in our examples will be as follows: “Keeping the Palace of Culture and Science should not be performed”, “Watching the “Fantastic Beasts” movie should not be performed”, “Preserving Savile’s cottage in Glencoe should not be performed”, “Keeping Edward Colston’s portrait in Bristol lord mayor’s office should be performed” and “Keeping the name Columbus Day should be performed”.

Notice that in real-life practice conclusions in negative ethotic arguments are often expressed in a positive form (“should be”) rather than as a negation (“should not be”), yet they then regard destructive actions (“demolished”, “blown up”, “erased”, “removed”) rather than constructive ones (“kept”, “preserved”, “revered”). That is, the negative form introduces a negation into a polarity of an action or into the recommendation to perform an action, i.e. that a negative action should be performed or that a positive action should not be performed. Following the standard account of ethotic arguments, we choose the second formulation in the scheme of new negative ethotic arguments, yet their instantiations in natural language do follow both of the patterns. A similar tendency holds for the positive ethotic arguments: the ‘positive form’ of ethotic arguments means that we conclude to recommend that a positive action should be performed, still it can be expressed in a double negation form, i.e. that a negative action should not be performed (see Example 5). In our account the scheme of conclusion in the new type of reasoning from character to actions describes a positive action in the world regarding an object, which is denoted as \(A^+_w(o)\).

The argumentation scheme for reasoning which is founded upon the association between ethos and objects in the world can be then summarised as follows (the notation used here does not belong to any formal language and it is used just for convenience and clarity):


Ethotic Argument about Object Associated with Person

Premise 1::

The object o is associated with i.

Premise 2::

The person i has a bad / good character.

Conclusion::

Therefore, the positive action in the world regarding this object, \(A^+_w(o)\), should not / should be performed.

Scheme of Standard Ethotic Arguments

In this section, we go back to the schemes of the classic ethotic arguments and show how they can be reformulated in such a way which allows for juxtaposition and comparison of the new and the classic subspecies of reasoning from character. To this end, we will analyse an example of direct ad hominem argument studied by (Walton et al. 2008, p. 145) (taken from (Engel 1980, p. 130)):

  1. (9)
    1. a.

      We need not consider this piece of social legislation.

    2. b.

      It was, as you know, introduced by Senator Farell, who is just not a very socially enlightened person.

In Sect. 3, we claimed that the association between an object and a public figure legitimises the inferential step from character of the person to an action towards this object (Premise 1 of the scheme of new ethotic argument in Sect. 5.1). In contrast, an analogous premise in the standard approach expresses that a person performed a speech act with a given propositional content, i.e. a person said an argument or \(\alpha \) (in the negative and positive form, respectively). Yet saying something, e.g. introducing a piece of social legislation in 9, can be viewed as a kind of association as well: by introducing a piece of legislation (marked in bold in 9b), Senator Farell becomes associated with this piece. In other words, the association between a proposition and a speaker becomes a perlocutionary effect of performing by the speaker a speech act which contains this proposition as a content. For example, the perlocution of a speech act of introducing a piece of social legislation by Farell establishes an association between this piece of legislation and Farell.

The ethotic premise in standard ethotic arguments is the same as Premise 2 in the new account. In the example above, the fragment in italic in 5.2 contains a premise of bad character, in which Senator Farell is referred to as “not a very socially enlightened person”.

In Sect. 5.1, the conclusion in the new account has been reformulated, so that the reference to an action is moved from a predicate to the subject (a predicate refers now to the performance of this action). If we want to make these two subspecies of ethotic arguments analogous, then we need to reformulate the conclusion of the classic ethotic argument in the similar manner. Thus, instead of reconstructing the conclusion in 9a as “The piece of social legislation should not be accepted”, we can formulate it as: “Accepting the piece of social legislation should not be performed”. Since standard ethotic arguments always describe a positive action of accepting a proposition, we introduce a symbol \(A^{acc}\) which denotes an action, A, of accepting, acc.

The argumentation scheme for reasoning founded upon the association between a proposition and a speaker is summarised below. This association is established through perlocutionary effect of a speech act which: (1) has this proposition as its content, and (2) was performed by this speaker.


Ethotic Argument about Proposition Associated with Speaker

Premise 1::

i performed a speech act with a propositional content p.

Premise 2::

The speaker i has a bad / good character.

Conclusion::

Therefore, the action of accepting this proposition, \(A^{acc}(p)\), should not / should be performed.

Such a formulation of the scheme of standard ethotic arguments makes it easy to demonstrate the difference between the standard account and the new account. It can be argued that the conclusion of the latter can be further reformulated to fit into the scheme of standard ethotic arguments, e.g., as “Accepting that the action in the world of keeping the Palace of Culture and Science should not be performed should be performed”, where “The action in the world of keeping the Palace of Culture and Science should not be performed” is a propositional content p. But this is exactly a problem here: in new ethotic arguments, such as in the Stalin example, a person, whose character we use to reason (Premise 2), did not perform any speech act with this content. In other words, the difference between these two subspecies of ethotic arguments lies in the type of association expressed in Premise 1: Stalin did not perform a speech act with the content p, he is symbolically associated with the object o.

Still we can abstract from the type of association in this premise, if we consider any connection between a person and some x which is a proposition or an object. As a result, we arrive at the most general scheme which covers both the standard and the new subspecies of ethotic arguments. We discuss this scheme in the next section.

Scheme of General Ethotic Argument

The schemes introduced in the previous sections reveal that the standard and the new ethotic arguments are in fact two subspecies of one general pattern of reasoning from an association between x (which is either an extra-linguistic object or a propositional content of a speech act) and i (who is a public figure or a speaker) to a recommendation that a positive action (either in the world or of accepting) regarding x should not or should be performed. Thus, we introduce the following general scheme for reasoning from ethos:


Ethotic Argument

Premise 1::

x is associated with i.

Premise 2::

i has a bad / good character.

Conclusion::

Therefore, the positive action \(A^+(x)\) should not / should be performed.

This general scheme allows us to make a few observations regarding the two subspecies of ethotic arguments. First, their conclusions always describe nested actions: they describe a directive speech act(ion), lets call it sA \(_d\), of recommending, advising, suggestingFootnote 9 that another action, called \(\textit{A}^{\prime }\), should not or should be done. This action can, for instance, be an action of keeping, watching, preserving an object or accepting a propositional content such as a piece of social legislation. In the standard account, however, there is a third action described in Premise 1: a speech act(ion), called sA \(^\prime \), which associates a speaker with a propositional content p. In other words, in standard ethotic arguments the conclusion describes a directive speech act \({sA}_d\) that an action A \(^\prime \) of accepting a content of a speech act sA\(^\prime \) should not / should be performed.

Now it becomes apparent that while standard ethotic arguments fall into the category of theoretical reasoning, new ethotic arguments belong to the category of practical reasoning.Footnote 10 That is, the former type of argumentation supports a recommendation or an advice regarding the knowledge: the recommendation whether or not to accept a proposition p based on testimony (see social epistemology mentioned in Sect. 1). The latter type of argumentation, on the other hand, justifies a recommendation or an advice regarding our lives: the recommendation whether or not to perform an action regarding an object o situated in the public space (see (Fairclough 2016; Macagno and Walton 2018) for the analysis of practical reasoning in public debates).

As a result, standard ethotic arguments are suited for theoretically oriented dialogues such as persuasion, while new ethotic arguments play an important role in deliberation dialogues (Walton and Krabbe 1995). This means that these two subspecies of ethotic arguments will commit the speakers to either opinions (in case of standard ethotic arguments and persuasion) or actions (in case of new ethotic arguments and deliberations). In the latter type of dialogues, an initial need for action is addressed by an attempt to reach a decision (as a main goal) and influence outcome (as a an individual goals of participants). For example, in a debate on cultural heritage one expert may recommend that a statue should be taken down, because it commemorates a Confederate who was a slave trader, and another expert may advocate that it should be preserved, since it glorifies a great general. This debate is initiated by a need for an action: to take down or to preserve the statue, and aimed to reach a decision which action to execute. Of course, individually each expert will have their personal goal to influence an outcome: the first expert will give arguments which might lead to removing the monument, and the second expert will put an effort into convincing to keep the statue.

Both subspecies of general scheme for ethotic arguments can be viewed as an abstraction of a more complex reasoning which involves more than one inferential step. For instance, we could reconstruct that a conclusion, which immediately follows Premise 1 and Premise 2, has a form: “Therefore, x has a bad / good feature”. In the case of new ethotic arguments, this feature can be linked to a goal in favour of which we argue in practical reasoning, i.e. “Therefore, o is desirable / not desirable” (the goal in the practical reasoning is the desired feature in the state of affairs brought about by the action (cf. Atkinson and Bench-Capon 2007, p. 858)). This intermediate conclusion allows us then to infer that “Therefore, action \(A^+(x)\) should not / should be performed” by virtue of the scheme of practical reasoning. In the case of standard ethotic arguments, Macagno (2013) demonstrated that there are more purposes of ad hominem arguments than just to undermine interlocutor’s arguments – they can support different conclusions such as forcing an interlocutor to withdraw a viewpoint or block the dialogue. This paper focuses on the most abstract formulation of schemes for new ethotic arguments which draws a parallel with a standard account of arguments such as direct ad hominem arguments studied in (Walton et al. 2008). Thus, a more fine-grained model, which unpacks detailed structure of reasoning involving ethos, needs to be investigated in the future.

Schemes for Subtypes of New Ethotic Arguments

In this section, we identify schemes for specific subtypes of new ethotic arguments defined in Sect. 5.1, following the distinction of indexical, symbolic and iconic associations introduced in Sect. 3.2.

Ethotic Arguments from Indexical Association

Example 3.1 is founded upon an idexical association between the “Fantastic Beasts” movie and Johnny Depp, which consists in a physical or factual relation between this movie and Depp, who plays a role in it. The arguer reasons from Depp’s bad character demonstrated through bruises on Amber Heard’s face to the recommendation that an action of watching the movie should not be performed. An argumentation scheme for this type of new ethotic argument is summarised below together with critical questions, CQs, which test the strength of the inferential step in the reasoning. We introduce a superscript in for premises, a conclusion and CQs, which denotes indexical association. This allows us to differentiate between components of this scheme and components of schemes for symbolic association (denoted with a superscript s) and iconic association (denoted with a superscript ic).


Ethotic Argument from Indexical Association

Premise \(^{in}_1\)::

The object o is an index of the person i.

Premise \(^{in}_2\)::

i has a bad/good character.

Conclusion \(^{in}\)::

Therefore, the action \(A^+_w(o)\) shouldn’t/should be performed.

CQ \(^{in}_1\) (Association Question)::

Is the object o really an index of the person i nowadays?

CQ \(^{in}_2\) (Ethotic Question)::

Does i really have a bad/good character? (Is it true or well supported?)

CQ \(^{in}_3\) (Balance Question)::

Does i have also some good/bad traits that outbalance or negate i’s bad/good character?

CQ \(^{in}_4\) (Relevance Question)::

Is i’s bad/good character relevant to not performing / performing \(A^+_w(o)\)?

CQ \(^{in}_5\) (Alternatives Question)::

Does the conclusion (absolutely) hold, even if other evidence to support that \(A^+_w(o)\) shouldn’t/should be performed has been presented, or should the conclusion be assigned a reduced weight of credibility, relative to the total body of evidence available?

While CQ\(^{in}_2\) is a direct import from the standard account (see the first critical question of ad hominem argument in (p. 142, Walton et al. 2008), CQ\(^{in}_3\) is a new question which seems to play an important role in arguments associating ethos with objects. In public debates of this sort, arguers tend to weigh or balance good and bad traits of a public figure in order to judge their character, and as a result – make a decision about actions regarding objects associated with them. Next, as Premise \(^{in}_1\) does not have an equivalent in the Waltonian account, there is also no equivalent of CQ\(^{in}_1\). Finally, CQ\(^{in}_4\) is an adaptation of the second critical question, and CQ\(^{in}_5\) – of the third critical question in (ibid.).

We will discuss these CQs on two examples. The first excerpt is taken from the articleFootnote 11 about Depp’s libel suit against British newspaper The Sun. It quotes his two long-term partners who questioned accusations of Johnny being violent or abusive towards his ex-wife:

  1. (10)
    1. a.

      Winona Ryder: I cannot wrap my head around [Heard’s] accusations. He [Deep] was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me. \([\mathbf{CQ} ^{in}_2]\)

    2. b.

      Vanessa Paradis: We’ve been partners for 14 years and we raised our two children together. Through all these years, I’ve known Johnny to be a kind, attentive, generous, and non-violent person and father. \([\mathbf{CQ}^{in}_3]\)

Both of these statements examine Depp’s ethos, i.e. assess ethotic Premise\(^{in}_2\). In 10a, Ryder gives a negative answer to CQ\(^{in}_2\) (a fragment in italic) by testifying from her own experience that Depp does not have a bad character of which he is accused. Paradis’ testimony in 10b is used, on the other hand, as a positive answer to CQ\(^{in}_3\) in order to defeat argument in Example 4. Notice that her description of Depp’s good traits can be treated not only as an attempt to draw attention away from or to outbalance his bad character, but it can be also interpreted as an attempt to fully cancel or negate the accusations.

The second example is taken from an article “MeToo: Do we really need to snub films and TV shows already shot?”Footnote 12 which discusses Ridley Scott’s movie “All The Money In The World” in the context of sexual accusations against Kevin Spacey, one of the leading actors in the movie:

  1. (11)
    1. a.

      GQ Magazine: Spacey’s role in the film wasn’t a large one, but the film was now all about him. No festival would take it; every review would be tainted by it. And so, of course, Scott decided to do what a decade ago would have been unthinkable: he decided to reshoot Spacey’s role, with Christopher Plummer taking his part. \({[\mathbf{CQ}^{in}_1]}\)

    2. b.

      And yes, it’s true that the history of art is, in large part, the history of hideous men. Wagner was a raging anti-Semite; Ezra Pound was a fascist; Caravaggio killed a man; Norman Mailer tried to kill his wife; Picasso was so terrible that, of the seven women in his life, two went mad and two more killed themselves. But none of their art requires our attachment to them. \({[\mathbf{CQ}^{in}_4]}\)

    3. c.

      Spacey, of course, should not be excused. This very much isn’t that piece. But can’t the art be, if it’s unrelated to the man? Even a mid-budget film, after all, is the work of many thousands. You’re not boycotting Spacey’s one-man show. \([\mathbf{CQ}^{in}_5]\)

In 11a, the GQ Magazine reports that the indexical association between “All The Money In The World” and Spacey has been cancelled by replacing him in the movie with another actor. Notice that CQ\(^{in}_1\) might be used to examine either whether or not the connection really exists or whether or not the association established at some point still exists nowadays. The excerpt in 11b questions the relevance of artists’ hideous characters to the appreciation of their art. This question, CQ\(^{in}_4\), corresponds to the second critical question in the classic account specified in (Walton et al. 2008, p. 142): they both aim to scrutinise whether the character can be reasonably taken into account in a given context. Finally, 11c provides an alternative evidence that supports watching “All The Money In The World”, as inquired by CQ\(^{in}_5\). The fact that a movie is a result of work of many people, and not only a person accused of bad character, should result in assigning a reduced weight of credibility to the conclusion in ethotic argument from indexical association.

Ethotic Arguments from Symbolic Association

In this paper, we investigated three examples of symbolic association: between the Palace of Culture and Science and Stalin, between the cottage in Glencoe and Savile and between Columbus Day and Columbus. The second example might seem to fall under indexical association, as there is a clear physical connection between an object and a person who lived in it. Yet the argument in Example 6 points out that the cottage is a mark of Savile that indicates an association deeper than just a physical connection. Notice also that in Example 7 Premise\(^{s}_1\) (see below) is enthymematic, since a conventional connection between Columbus Day and Columbus is too evident to explicitly state it in the argument.

The pattern of reasoning in 6 and 7 is similar to the pattern determined in Sect. 6.1. However as these three arguments are founded upon a stronger association than an indexical one, the scheme for ethotic arguments from symbolic association features additional components. As argued in Sect. 3.1, the strength of this type of association lies in bad or good values which a public figure represents through their character. These values are then inherited by an object associated with the person: o is symbolically associated with i; i represents bad/good values v; therefore o represents v. This means that Premise\(^{s}_3\) in the scheme below is an intermediate step in this reasoning pattern, i.e. it is a conclusion for Premise\(^{s}_1\) and Premise\(^{s}_2\) and a premise for Conclusion\(^{s}\). As a result, an argumentation scheme for ethotic argument founded on the symbolic association will be accompanied with a larger number of critical questions:


Ethotic Argument from Symbolic Association

Premise \(^{s}_1\)::

The object o is a symbol of the person i.

Premise \(^{s}_2\)::

i represents bad/good values v.

Premise \(^{s}_3\)::

Therefore, o is a symbol of bad/good values v.

Conclusion \(^{s}\)::

Therefore, the action \(A^+_w(o)\) shouldn’t/should be performed.

CQ \(^{s}_1\) (Association Question)::

Is the object o really a symbol of the person i nowadays?

CQ \(^{s}_2\) (Ethotic Question)::

Does i really represent bad/good values v nowadays? (Is it true or well supported?)

CQ \(^{s}_3\) (Ethotic Balance Question)::

Does i represent also some good/bad values that outbalance or negate i’s bad/good values v nowadays?

CQ \(^{s}_4\) (Object Balance Question)::

Does o represent also some good/bad values that outbalance or negate o’s bad/good values v nowadays?

CQ \(^{s}_5\) (Relevance Question)::

Are bad/good values v relevant to not performing / performing \(A^+_w(o)\)?

CQ \(^{s}_6\) (Alternatives Question)::

Does the conclusion (absolutely) hold, even if other evidence to support that \(A^+_w(o)\) shouldn’t/should be performed has been presented, or should the conclusion be assigned a reduced weight of credibility, relative to the total body of evidence available?

The critical questions CQ \(^{s}_1\) and CQ \(^{s}_6\) are exactly the same as the critical questions in ethotic arguments from indexical association (i.e. as CQ \(^{in}_1\) and CQ \(^{in}_5\), respectively). The questions CQ \(^{s}_2\) and CQ \(^{s}_3\) correspond to CQ \(^{in}_2\) and CQ \(^{in}_3\) with two variations. First, they refer not to character in general, but to specific values represented by a public figure (this is a simple consequence of reformulation of the second premise). Next, CQ \(^{s}_3\) is now called “Ethotic Balance Question” rather than “Balance Question”, since we can ask an analogous question with respect to an object too (this is a consequence of the inheritance of values from a person to an object). Thus, we introduced CQ \(^{s}_4\) which examines an “Object Balance”. Question CQ \(^{s}_5\) is an equivalent of CQ \(^{in}_4\). This question does not need to be split as it was in case of CQ \(^{s}_3\) and CQ \(^{s}_4\), since the relevance is assessed with respect to values rather than with respect to ethos and object separately. Notice that we directly inspect the truth of Premise \(^{s}_1\) and Premise \(^{s}_2\) only, because Premise \(^{s}_3\) is a conclusion of the first and second premise. This means that a positive answer to CQ \(^{s}_1\) and CQ \(^{s}_2\) will provide an assessment that Premise \(^{s}_3\) is true. Finally, CQ \(^{s}_6\) corresponds to CQ \(^{in}_5\).

We now go back to the Polish Radio 24 program about the Palace of Culture and Science to briefly discuss some of these critical questions. The excerpt below starts with the introduction given by the program’s host in 12a which is then followed up by an expert from a social democratic think tank Centrum Daszyńskiego, Sebastian Gajewski. Arguments in 12b–12e are the response to Rachoń’s arguments in 3b–3e:

  1. (12)
    1. a.

      Grzegorz Jankowski: There is a debate in the media on what to do about the Palace of Culture in Warsaw? Destroy it? Not destroy it? Demolish it? Not demolish it? Build something else in this place?

    2. b.

      Sebastian Gajewski: I don’t think there is a debate on this. I think it has been already a while, when we decided what to do about the Palace of Culture and Science. We decided to leave it and protect it. I would like to remind you that the Palace of Culture and Science has

      been registered as a heritage protected by law. \([\mathbf{CQ} ^{s}_5]\)

    3. c.

      Today the Palace of Culture houses the Polish Academy of Sciences

      four universities, two theatres and other public

      institutions. \({[\mathbf{CQ}^{s}_6]}\)

    4. d.

      Warsaw is certainly being associated with the Palace of Culture and Science, but the Palace of Culture and Science is not a symbol of Joseph Stalin. Besides it has not being called this way any more for a long time. \({[\mathbf{CQ}^{s}_1]}\)

    5. e.

      I was born and raised in Warsaw and I remember the Palace of Culture and Science. I can see it from my windows. My parents were born and raised here too and they also can’t imagine this city without the Palace of Culture.

      \({[\mathbf{CQ}^{s}_4]}\)

In 12b, Gajewski questions the relevance of values associated with the Palace of Culture and Science which provides a response to CQ\(^{s}_5\): he points out that the palace has already been registered as a heritage and as such it is protected by law, therefore any debate on whether or not to destroy it is basically purposeless. In 12c, he tries another strategy to criticise Rachoń’s argument by exploiting CQ\(^{s}_6\): he gives an alternative evidence in support of keeping the palace, i.e. the fact that it houses several important public institutions. Next, 12d aims to challenge the symbolic association as prescribed by CQ\(^{s}_1\): Gajewski emphasises that the palace can be associated with Warsaw but not with Stalin, and that nowadays it is not any more called by its original name, the “Palace of Stalin”, to which Rachoń refers in 3e. Finally in 12e, Gajewski claims that the Palace of Culture and Science represents good values which consist in being a part of history or identity of people living in Warsaw. According to CQ\(^{s}_4\), these good values might outbalance or overcome bad values inherited by the palace from Stalin.

In summary, the Polish Radio 24 program contains a robust critical evaluation of ethotic arguments from symbolic association. Gajewski makes use of most of the CQs identified in this section with the exception of CQ\(^{s}_2\) and CQ\(^{s}_3\). The lack of examination of Stalin’s ethos has a clear reason: in Poland Stalin is perceived as such a bad person that probably nobody would dare to publicly defend his character. These two ethotic questions can be exploited only in the case of public figures whose characters are more ambivalent, which opens room for discussion as to whether they are good or bad. We will investigate such examples in the next section in the context of iconic association.

Ethotic Arguments from Iconic Association

Example 5 contains an iconic association between the signifier, i.e. a portrait in Bristol lord mayor’s office, and a signified Edward Colston. The pattern of reasoning is very similar to the scheme of the ethotic argument from symbolic association with the difference in the strength of the association: because icons have to by default resemble a public figure, it is not possible to question the association in this type of ethotic arguments (thus there is no analogue of CQ\(^{s}_1\) amongst critical questions below).


Ethotic Argument from Iconic Association

Premise \(^{ic}_1\)::

The object o is an icon of the person i.

Premise\(^{ic}_2\)::

i represents bad/good values v.

Premise\(^{ic}_3\)::

Therefore, o is an icon of bad/good values v.

Conclusion\(^{ic}\)::

Therefore, the action \(A^+_w(o)\) shouldn’t/should be performed.

CQ \(^{ic}_1\) (Ethotic Question)::

Does i really represent bad/good values v nowadays? (Is it true or well supported?)

CQ \(^{ic}_2\) (Ethotic Balance Question)::

Does i represent also some good/bad values that outbalance or negate i’s bad/good values v nowadays?

CQ \(^{ic}_3\) (Object Balance Question)::

Does o represent also some good/bad values that outbalance or negate o’s bad/good values v nowadays?

CQ \(^{ic}_4\) (Relevance Question)::

Are bad/good values v relevant to not performing / performing \(A^+_w(o)\)?

CQ \(^{ic}_5\) (Alternatives Question)::

Does the conclusion (absolutely) hold, even if other evidence to support that \(A^+_w(o)\) shouldn’t/should be performed has been presented, or should the conclusion be assigned a reduced weight of credibility, relative to the total body of evidence available?

Example 13 is taken from the same The Guardian article which contained the argument in Example 5 for keeping Colston’s portrait in the lord mayor’s office. Cleo Lake – half-Jamaican Bristol Lord Mayor at the time – was responsible for removing the painting:

  1. (13)
    1. a.

      Cleo Lake: I love art, and the portrait [of Colston] as a piece of art does not resonate. I’d rather something modern and vibrant – a [Jean-Michel] Basquiat or a Banksy, if anyone is offering. Or work by other Bristol artists, Bristol landscapes or other portraits of people of note who are less controversial. \({[\mathbf{CQ}^{ic}_3]}\)

Lake’s reaction is to use CQ\(^{ic}_3\) to explore bad values of the portrait. In focusing on artistic quality of the object, she makes a shift from the moral to the aesthetic system of values which can be viewed as a strategy of reframing (cf. (Fairclough and Madroane 2014; Musi and Aakhus 2019; Goodwin 2019) for the explanation of links between argumentation and framing). In the Stalin example in 12e, Gajewski uses the same technique of reframing – but this time – from moral values to community values by emphasising that for people, who have been living in Warsaw their whole lives (like himself and his parents), the Palace of Culture and Science is an indispensable part of their environment, an indispensable part of their city.

We will now go back to the issue raised at the end of the previous section: ethotic CQs can be exploited only in cases, when reasoning concerns the character which is not perceived as ultimately bad or good in a given society. As mentioned above, in Poland it would be risky to try to publicly defend Stalin by denying his bad ethos or pointing to his good traits. On the other hand, public figures such as Colston or Confederates have both accusers and supporters. Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. A number of his statues have been vandalised during protests triggered by the killing of African American George Floyd, as the Confederacy has been scrutinised in debates in the United States to be associated with slavery of black people. Still in the United States there have been people who advocate Confederates’ good traits:

  1. (14)
    1. a.

      Washington Examiner: But Lee was a great general. Consider the successes that Lee achieved in the summer of 1862 after assuming command of the Confederate Army’s main formation. Seizing the initiative, Lee threw his forces full-tilt in a defensive stronghold strategy against George McClellan.Footnote 13\([\mathbf{CQ}^{s}_2]\)

    2. b.

      Theodore Roosevelt: Lee had extraordinary skill as a General and his courage was dauntless. He stood that hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the gray evening of failure; and therefore out of what seemed failure he helped to build the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life, in which all his countrymen, north and south, share.Footnote 14\({[\mathbf{CQ}^{s}_2]}\)

In 14a, the journalist questions Lee’s bad character (described in the article as “a traitor who served an immoral cause”) by pointing to a good trait of being a great general. 14b shows that CQ\(^{s}_2\) is quite a common strategy of critical assessment of non-extremist characters: we find the similar line of defence in Roosevelt’s speech.

Ethotic Arguments and Argument Structures

In this section, we analyse in detail three examples introduced in the previous sections in order to discuss some characteristics in argument structures of new ethotic arguments. Figure 4(a) unpacks the structure of Example 3. According to the scheme of ethotic arguments founded on symbolic association, Rachoń concludes in 3a that keeping the Palace of Culture and Science should not be performed. This is supported by Premise\(^{s}_3\), where he points to the fact that the Palace is a symbol of the enslavement of the Polish nation and a symbol of gigantic crimes 3e. This premise is supported by linked argument with an association Premise\(^{s}_1\) in 3b and ethotic Premise\(^{s}_2\) in 3e. Stalin’s bad ethos is then further supported by a serial argument which combines ethotic and pathotic elements: in 3b, Rachoń argues that Stalin is the biggest criminal in the history of mankind; in 3c, he offers a reason to believe that Stalin had such a bad character, by pointing to a number of Stalin’s victims; and in 3d the journalist justifies why he gave such a number, as this is the number of victims of communism. Thus, the weight of Rachoń’s argument heavily relies on Stalin’s bad character, aiming at making it absolutely clear and convincing that the palace associated with Stalin should be removed. By talking about victims and by escalating their number, he seems to try to increase the emotional content of the argument, adding pathotic elements to ethotic argument.

Fig. 4
figure 4

The full reconstruction of three ethotic arguments from symbolic association: (4a) with serial argument combining ethotic and pathotic references; (4b) with argument from sign; (4c) with convergent argument

Figure 4b reconstructs in detail the structure of Example 6. In this ethotic argument, Premise\(^{s}_1\) is supported by a premise which emphasises that the cottage is Savile’s mark in the middle of Glencoe 6b: this inferential step can be viewed as an instantiation of argument from sign (cf., Walton et al. 2008, p. 329). Symbolic association rests on conventions and norms which might not be known by an audience of ethotic arguments founded on them. Thus, authors of these arguments might try to indicate, stress or remind the audience about these norms in an additional justification of Premise\(^{s}_1\). The natural argumentative strategy will be to use argumentation from sign, as symbols are conventional signs.

Finally, Fig. 4c reveals the structure of Example 7. In this case, ethotic Premise\(^{s}_2\), which states that Columbus was a man ahead of his time (7b), is supported by convergent argument with three premises in 7c, 7d and 7e. This example and Example 3 evidence the claim made in the abstract of this paper that many arguments in these debates boil down to the character of public figures: in 3 the arguer puts an effort in creating a serial structure mixing ethotic and pathotic elements, while the author of 7 worked hard to prove Columbus’ ethos with the convergent argument structure.

Conclusions and Future Work

In this paper we have proposed to extend the existing repertoire of analytic devices that allow for studying the so far unexplored ethotic arguments the common feature of which is reasoning founded upon an association between persons and objects. These arguments are distinguished from the classic argumentation patterns that capture reasoning from ethos to not accepting the speaker’s argument in case of ad hominem arguments or accepting what the speaker uttered in case of pro homine arguments. We have further shown that inferences of the new kind investigated in this paper work under the assumption that there exists a valid association between a certain public figure (e.g., a historical figure or an actor) and an extra-linguistic object (a statue of a historical figure or a movie in which an actor plays). This association is modelled in this paper building upon Peirce’s theory of signs which enables us to distinguish different types of association between ethos and objects, and as a result – different strength of reasoning from the character to actions in the world. This new take allowed us to define argumentation schemes of new subspecies of negative and positive ethotic arguments, and then to specify schemes and critical questions for their subtypes distinguished according to a type of association on which an ethotic argument is founded: indexical, symbolic and iconic.

This model can contribute in the future to several areas of argumentation study by enabling us to: expand argument schemes typologies such as (Walton et al. 2008) and argument schemes keys (a taxonomic key for the identification of argument schemes, see (Visser et al. 2020)); create corpora for the new type of ethotic arguments used in natural language (cf. Musi et al. 2016, 2019); and develop technologies for mining ethotic arguments in order to automatically collect and analyse argumentation schemes used in public debates (cf. Lawrence and Reed 2016; Duthie and Budzynska 2016). The distinctive character of these new types of ethotic arguments indicates the areas of our communication and reasoning practice, where the character of a person does not have to be restricted to the character of speakers. In other words, since a person is associated with extra-linguistic objects rather than just propositions, she does not have to be an active participant in communication. As a result, these schemes offer guidance on how to reason and decide upon actions in the world, using the character of any participant in our social environment.

Notes

  1. The text in this example is our translation of arguments from the Polish Radio 24 program. We tried to be as close as possible to the original meaning and the linguistic surface used in transcripts in the Polish language. Other examples in the paper are copied from articles or books we cite, or from online articles for which we give urls.

  2. The two radio programs contained an overall number of 23 arguments about the Palace of Culture and Science: 8 arguments in favour of keeping it and 15 arguments against it. The most frequent arguments did not contain references to ethos: 14 instances with the equal distribution between pro- and con-arguments. The second most frequent arguments involved appeals to Stalin’s character: 6 instances of which all of them had the negative form. The least frequent were arguments falling under the standard ethotic arguments: 3 instances with 1 pro-argument and 2 con-arguments.

  3. A speech act F(p) is a linguistic action in which the speaker introduces a propositional content p with an illocutionary force F of arguing, asserting, promising, requesting and so on (cf. Austin 1962; Searle 1969). Assertive speech acts contain actions in which speakers declare their beliefs or opinions. Directive speech acts consist in speakers asking hearers to perform an action.

  4. The example is taken from the Tampa Bay Times article “Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men”, https://www.tampabay.com/features/movies/Why-I-m-done-watching-movies-made-by-bad-men_172202530/.

  5. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/19/slave-traders-portrait-removed-from-bristol-lord-mayors-office?CMP=share_btn_tw.

  6. Available at: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands/1771395/highland-cottage-once-owned-by-jimmy-savile-targeted-by-vandals/.

  7. Available at: https://upennstatesman.org/2018/10/08/defense-columbus-day/.

  8. Note that our aim here is not to discuss the fallaciousness of particular instances of the pro homine arguments (see (Groarke and Tindale 2008, pp. 368–369) for detailed examples), but rather at showing how the existing scheme can turn out to be useful in modelling the type of positive ethotic arguments studied in this paper.

  9. Notice that the illocutionary force of \({sA_d}\) may vary depending on a specific instantiation of this reasoning pattern and can be interpreted differently by analysts as, e.g., recommending, advising, suggesting, but also advocating, proposing, nominating, instructing and so on (cf. Searle and Vanderveken 1985).

  10. Ethotic arguments can be also linked with arguments from consequences (cf. Walton et al. 2008, p. 101), since we reason in them about actions that should (in analogy to arguments from positive consequences) or should not (in analogy to arguments from negative consequences) be brought about. For example, we can reconstruct the conclusion in Example 5 as “Action of keeping Colston’s portrait in Bristol lord mayor’s office should be brought about” and the conclusion in Example 6 as “Action of preserving Savile’s cottage in Glencoe should not be brought about”. Yet, the argumentation schemes from consequences do not refer to ethos and do not capture the link between an action, an object and a person, therefore we do not investigate their form in this paper.

  11. Available at https://apnews.com/article/fbca4d06bada634ee6dcc8b841b81a49.

  12. Available at https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/kevin-spacey-me-too.

  13. Available at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/robert-e-lee-was-a-traitor-and-a-great-general.

  14. Available at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/making-sense-of-robert-e-lee-85017563/.

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Acknowledgements

The work reported in this paper was supported in part by the Polish National Science Centre under grant 2015/18/M/HS1/00620. The first two authors would also like to thank the Warsaw University of Technology for the support of this research. We are furthermore grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their profound comments, to Chris Reed and Jacky Visser for the extensive discussions and to the Centre for Argument Technology (ARG-tech) for insightful feedback.

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Budzynska, K., Koszowy, M. & Pereira-Fariña, M. Associating Ethos with Objects: Reasoning from Character of Public Figures to Actions in the World. Argumentation 35, 519–549 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10503-021-09552-4

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Keywords

  • Ethos
  • Ethotic arguments
  • Peirce’s theory of signs
  • Argumentation schemes
  • Critical questions