Communication Studies and Rhetoric
This chapter is devoted to the American tradition of communication studies and rhetoric. In Sect. 8.2, the overview of the state of the art starts with a discussion of the role of argumentation in the debate tradition. Although argumentation theory is not yet part of this tradition, all kinds of concepts that were central in the early textbooks still play an important role in argumentation studies in the United States. This justifies paying attention to some of the pre-theoretical notions introduced in these textbooks.
In Sect. 8.3, the starting points for theorizing about argumentation are discussed that later on have been developed in communication studies. The literature concerned is characterized by much reflection on the issues considered to be most crucial to dealing with argumentation: What is argumentation? How does argumentation manifest itself? What is the relation of argumentation to logic, dialectic, and rhetoric? The answers to these questions serve in fact as preambles to the theorizing.
Sect. 8.4 concentrates on the first of the two branches that traditionally can be distinguished in communication studies: historical-political analysis, also known as rhetorical criticism. Sect. 8.5 provides an overview of the other branch, rhetorical theory, again with an emphasis on argumentation and rhetorical phenomena closely related to argumentation.
Sect. 8.6 discusses “argument fields” and “spheres of argumentation” – two important concepts that have been further developed after Toulmin first introduced the notion of argument fields. Sect. 8.7 concentrates on the relatively new research perspective of “normative pragmatics,” an approach that examines the norms playing a part in dealing with argumentation in actual argumentative practices. In Sect. 8.8, the role of argumentation in persuasion research is discussed. Finally, in Sect. 8.9, attention is paid to the study of argumentation in interpersonal communication.
KeywordsPublic Sphere Argumentation Theory Argumentative Discourse Felicity Condition Normative Pragmatic
8.1 The Development of Communication Studies and Rhetoric
Communication studies and rhetoric are, broadly speaking, concerned with the process of creating meaning by means of symbols.1 The scope of communication studies and rhetoric is broader than just argumentation, but in the American tradition, argumentation has from the early beginning been one of the central objects of study.2
The American tradition of communication studies and rhetoric encompasses different types of approaches to the study of argumentation. They have joint academic roots in debate and classical rhetoric, but do not share one specific theoretical perspective. There is neither a conceptual framework for the study of argumentation all scholars concerned use nor common agreement on definitions and methodology. In this chapter, we shall make clear that there are nevertheless a great many commonalities among the various approaches. These commonalities reflect the strong desire for shared starting points in the theorizing that is noticeable throughout the long history of reflection on the defining properties of argumentation and rhetoric in articles and books published in the field.
Communication studies and rhetoric both developed strongly in the early twentieth century, when there was a growing interest in the practical skills of debating and public speaking. This interest had two sources. First, there already existed a flourishing debate and eloquence tradition that was inherited from the precolonial British past. Second, there was a growing realization among leading intellectuals such as John Dewey (1859–1952) that public speaking is essential to effective citizenship (Dewey 1916). The transformation of the United States to a mass democratic society at the beginning of the twentieth century called for the education of citizens in rhetoric and argumentation that is required for active participation. Academic debate (intracollegiate at first, then intercollegiate) was seen as an important pedagogical device for practical training for careers in law, government, and politics. Argumentation was, more generally, seen as representing a body of vital citizenship skills.
In the early years of American communication studies, the interest in argumentation was purely practical; not much theory was developed. In defining argumentation in the textbooks, the authors often referred to the conviction-persuasion duality, a distinction appropriated from Enlightenment rhetorical theorists such as Campbell, Whately, and Priestly. Under the influence of what was then called faculty psychology, the human mind was thought to be divided into different domains with discrete functions. Reason and emotion were thus dichotomized, and even seen as hostile forces, contending for supremacy. Convincing was conceived as pertaining to beliefs acquired by logical reason and considered to be rational; persuading as pertaining to beliefs based on appeals to emotion and considered to be irrational.
In an early American journal essay on argumentation – one of only a handful of essays specifically focused on argumentation that was published between 1890 and 1960 – Mary Yost (1881–1954) challenged this dualism by arguing that it was abandoned by psychologists in favor of more holistic views (Yost 1917). Logic and emotion cannot be separated, she argued: they are interdependent cognitive processes. Perhaps due to Yost’s influence, the dualism between conviction and persuasion in the textbooks underwent an important change. Some textbooks dropped the dualism, concentrating primarily on “rational appeals” addressed to reason and considering “psychological appeals” as secondary (e.g., Winans and Utterback 1930).
From the 1920s onwards, there appeared to be a growing interest in more theoretical issues. The articles on argumentation and rhetoric published in journals can be divided into two separate categories, which continue to exist to this day. On the one hand, there is rhetorical criticism , which seeks to develop and apply standards for critical judgments or concentrates on judging specific works of oratory; on the other hand, there is rhetorical theory which seeks to describe and define the nature of rhetoric, often from a historical perspective (Cohen 1994, p. 159).
In Sect. 8.2, we will start our overview of the state of the art in communication studies and rhetoric with a discussion of the role of argumentation in the debate tradition. Although argumentation theory is not yet part of this tradition, all kinds of central concepts discussed in the early textbooks still play an important role in argumentation studies in the United States. This justifies paying attention to some of the pre-theoretical notions that are introduced. In Sect. 8.3, we discuss the starting points that have been developed later on in communication studies for theorizing about argumentation. The studies concerned are characterized by much reflection on the issues considered to be most central to dealing with argumentation: What is argumentation? How does argumentation manifest itself? What is the relation of argumentation to logic, dialectic, and rhetoric? The answers to these questions serve in fact as a preamble to the theorizing. In Sect. 8.4, we concentrate on the first of the two traditional branches of communication studies: historical-political analysis, also known as “rhetorical criticism.” Next, we focus in Sect. 8.5 on the other branch, rhetorical theory, again with an emphasis on argumentation or rhetorical phenomena closely related to argumentation. In Sect. 8.6, we discuss “argument fields” and “spheres of argumentation” – two important notions that have been further developed after Toulmin first introduced the notion of argument fields. In Sect. 8.7, we concentrate on the relatively new research perspective of “normative pragmatics,” an approach that examines the norms actually playing a part in argumentation by exploiting Gricean insights. In Sect. 8.8, we focus on argumentation in persuasion research. Finally, in Sect. 8.9, we discuss the study of argumentation in interpersonal communication.
8.2 The Debate Tradition
During the nineteenth century, debate was practiced in American universities and colleges, but only late in the nineteenth century did argumentation and debate become part of the curriculum. Debating was generally used as a pedagogical device for training future lawyers, public servants, and politicians.3
With the growing popularity of debate, textbooks devoted to argumentation were needed. The most influential was probably Principles of Argumentation by George Pierce Baker (1866–1935) (Baker 1895). Baker was heavily influenced by Aristotle, Whately, and Mill. Contemporaries of Baker claim that his textbook dramatically transformed the teaching of argumentation and debate in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. According to his former student William Trufant Foster (1879–1950), Baker was “the first man to develop systematic courses of instruction in argumentation and debating” (Gray 1954, p. 428).4
The revised version of Baker’s textbook, which he published together with Henry Huntington (1875–1965), is more elaborate. Baker and Huntington define argumentation as “the art of producing in the mind of another person acceptance of ideas held true by a writer or speaker, and of inducing the other person, if necessary, to act in consequence of his acquired belief” (Baker and Huntington 1905, p. 7). In their view of argumentation, both conviction and persuasion are central5: “Conviction aims only to produce agreement between writer and reader,” they say, while “persuasion aims to prepare the way for the process of conviction or to produce action as a result of conviction” (p. 7). Pure conviction appeals only to the intellect of a reader by clear and cogent reasoning. Persuasion may produce desired action either by arousing emotion regarding the ideas set forth or by adapting the presentation of a case partly or wholly to the special interests, prejudices, or idiosyncrasies of the reader. Whereas persuasion in the sense of emotional appeal may appear alone, conviction only very rarely takes place without persuasion.
Baker and Huntington’s work set an example for other textbooks. Most older textbooks (but also some modern ones) have sections with titles such as Phrasing the proposition, Analysing the proposition, Proving the proposition: evidence, and Proving the proposition: inductive and deductive argument .
Foster’s (1908) Argumentation and Debating is one of the textbooks in the tradition instigated by Baker. It contains additional practical chapters on debating contests and provides guidelines and step by step procedures for preparing a debate. Unlike Baker, Foster considers the burden of proof central. He also introduces the notions of an affirmative side and a negative side.
Foster starts with a chapter on phrasing the proposition . He stresses that the phrasing should be as clear as required in a law court, since unclear phrasing leads to lifeless quibble (1908, p. 2). In his view, argumentation also requires a complete proposition, “not a mere name” (p. 1). The proposition should be phrased in the form of a resolution (“resolved that…”). It should also be debatable. This means that it should not be obvious that the proposition is true or false. Furthermore, the proposition should neither be too broad nor ambiguous, and it should be interesting as well. The proposition should give the burden of proof to the affirmative: “For any argument, the subject should be so phrased that the affirmative makes the attack, advocates something new, or attempts to overthrow something which is established; in other words, so that the affirmative has the burden of proof” (p. 9).
After discussing the phrasing of the proposition, Foster shows how it should be analyzed (1908, p. 16). This analysis includes establishing the origin of the question at issue, the history of the question, defining the terms of the proposition, excluding irrelevant matters, stating admitted matters, and listing the points which, if proved, directly support the proposition. An analysis provides the arguer with a clarified proposition and the main arguments needed for its successful defense. Practically speaking, the analysis is helpful to finding the content of the affirmative’s introductory arguments.
After the analysis of the proposition has taken place, the arguer has to find evidence to prove the proposition. Foster defines such a proof as “sufficient reason for assenting to a proposition as true” (1908, p. 51). Following Baker, he distinguishes two main types of proof for a proposition: evidence from authority and reasoning about facts, the latter being the larger category of the two.6
In a great many cases, we need to appeal to authorities to vouch for the facts that we use in our reasoning. In support of the reasoning itself, citation of authority is useless. An authority differs from a witness: an authority is a person “competent to give judgment as to principles of other inferences from fact,” while a witness is a person “giving testimony concerning a disputed fact” (1908, p. 57). For both appeals, Foster provides a series of tests. They are phrased as questions, including inquiries about the definiteness of the authority (is the authority not just a vague group?) and the expertise of the authority. In addition, the authority should not be merely based on hearsay and should not be prejudiced, and the opinion of the authority should be shared by other authorities. Further questions Foster asks are of a more rhetorical nature: Is the authority used by the opponents and is the audience likely to accept the authority?
Foster set forth three types of reasoning about facts: (1) deductive and inductive argument, (2) the argument from example, and (3) argument from a causal relation. His explanation of deduction is quite rudimentary and remains limited to a sketchy outline of the classical syllogism. His treatment of induction, based on Mill, is also quite short. Moreover, the types of argument in this classification are not discrete: the argument from example, for instance, is a subtype of inductive argument . Because of the lack of examples, evaluation rules, and any further explanation, it is doubtful whether this account of logic will have been really useful to the debater.
In addition to induction and deduction, Foster discusses a series of argument forms that are clearly not logical in nature.7 For each argument form, he adds a series of tests, again in the shape of evaluative questions.
The argument from example may fall under two heads: generalization and analogy. Generalization must be seen as an imperfect induction: it makes a jump from the known to the unknown. The “safety” of a generalization should be established by way of four tests: Is the relative size of the unobserved part of the class so small as to warrant the generalization? Are the members observed fair examples of the class? Are we reasonably sure that there are no exceptions? Is it highly probable that the general rule or statement is true?
The category of argument from analogy includes all arguments from resemblance. This means that relations that exist in one sphere of life or experience are taken as indications of what may be regarded as true of another sphere in which relations are similar. However, arguments based on similarities between objects also belong to this category.8 To test an argument from analogy, we must show that the cases indeed agree on essential points, that these points of likeness outweigh the points of difference, that the conclusion reached by the analogy is not discredited by other kinds of proof, and that the alleged facts on which the analogy is based are really true.
Causal arguments proceed from effect to cause, from cause to effect, or from effect to effect. The first two kinds deal with processes from the known to the unknown. The argument from effect to cause attempts to prove that a given cause operates (or has operated) by pointing to an observed effect which could not be due to another cause. Test questions for this kind of argument are: Could any other cause have produced the observed effect? Is the assumed cause sufficient to produce the observed effect? And, finally, was the operation of the assumed cause prevented by other forces? Using argument from cause to effect, one can show that an event is probable or possible for the reason that there are known antecedent circumstances which are sufficient to bring about that event (Foster 1908, p. 131). To test arguments from cause to effect, the arguer should inquire whether the known cause is adequate to produce the effect in question, whether there may be other causes that are sufficient to prevent the known cause from producing the effect in question, and whether there is any positive evidence verifying or refuting the presumptions furnished by the argument from cause to effect.
Argument from effect to effect is “an argument from effect to cause fused with an argument from cause to effect” (Foster 1908, p. 135). The arguer reasons from the one effect to the other referring to a cause not mentioned in the argumentation. Since this is a combination of the first two forms, no test questions are provided. Unlike other authors, Foster does not consider the argument from sign to be a distinct class because it comes either as an argument from effect to cause or as an argument from effect to effect.9
In the chapter “Refuting opposing arguments,” Foster describes a series of fallacies as possible flaws in the reasoning of the opponent. There are two ways by which opposing arguments can be refuted: by questioning the truth of the alleged facts on which the argument is based or by questioning the validity of the reasoning process. In the latter type of refutation, knowledge of the fallacies is important because “a fallacy is an error in the reasoning process, an unwarranted transition from one proposition to another” (Foster 1908, p. 143). Judging by his categorization and treatment of the fallacies, Foster’s ideas about fallacies are Aristotelian. He starts with a broad category of fallacies of definition (ambiguity) and continues with hasty generalization, false analogy, mistaken causal relation, ignoring the question (irrelevant argumentation, including the fallacies of argumentum ad hominem and argumentum ad populum ), and begging the question.
Besides pointing at fallacious reasoning, according to Foster, the arguer can also employ special techniques to refute the opponent’s reasoning: reductio ad absurdum , the method of residues (mention all possible conclusions and destroy all but one), the method of the dilemma (force the opponent to choose between two possibilities, so that the opponent is driven to absurdity or contradiction, whichever possibility is chosen), exposing inconsistencies, turning the tables (taking over the opponent’s argument and showing that it proves not the opponent’s case, but your own). The remainder of Foster’s textbook is about constructing the brief (a written outline of the debate, including the affirmative and negative side of the argument), stylistic issues, arousing the emotions (persuasion), and formal debate and the burden of proof.
Judging from the textbooks coming after Foster, there is hardly any progress in the thinking about argumentation. Nearly all textbooks keep following the general outline just described. Even when we look at the more popular modern debate handbooks, not much seems to have changed when it comes to the theoretical conceptualization of argumentation. In Freeley and Steinberg’s (2009) popular Argumentation and Debate, for instance, the traces of Baker and Foster are still clearly visible. The same kind of elements is explained and even in the same order of presentation. First, there is an analysis of controversy. The nature and evaluation of evidence is explained, the types of reasoning (including reasoning by example, reasoning by analogy, causal reasoning, and reasoning by sign) are distinguished, and their tests are explained.10 A list of fallacies is offered, advice is given about presentation, and various debate formats are discussed.11
However, over the years, debate textbooks have become considerably more sophisticated in their analyses. They could, of course, rely on a growing body of experience, which allowed for a more textured and nuanced discussion, based on the conventional categories. Another remarkable change is that connections were made with classical rhetorical theory, particularly with the concepts of “common topics,” “issues,” stasis , and logos , ethos , and pathos as modes of proof. Still, the textbooks retained a fairly straightforward emphasis on practice, without much reflection on goals, methods, and underlying assumptions. Other kinds of innovations in the textbooks were the introduction of the stock issue model 12 for defining the main point of controversy in policy debates13 and the introduction, in the 1960s, of the Toulmin model, which became an alternative to the classical syllogism.14
From the early 1960s onwards, the literature on debate shows a series of clear departures from the tradition. Perhaps the most influential publication was Decision by Debate by Douglas Ehninger (1913–1979) and Wayne Brockriede (1925–1988), which appeared in 1963. In embryonic form, this book offers a broader perspective on the debate activity. Debate is seen as a means of making decisions critically. It is described as being fundamentally a cooperative rather than a competitive enterprise. Ehninger and Brockriede incorporate the Toulmin model (see Chap. 4) in their approach.15 By portraying his model as a diagram, Ehninger and Brockriede may also have reinforced a more “formalistic” understanding of reasoning. More importantly, the use of the Toulmin model undercut the analytic ideal of argument as applied formal logic.16 From now on, inferences were seen as fallible and conclusions as uncertain. The warrants authorizing inferences were not considered to come from logical form but from the substantive beliefs of an audience.
A notable aspect of Decision by Debate is the treatment of the intertwined concepts of “presumption” and “burden of proof.” The notion of burden of proof had already been introduced by Foster but was hardly developed further. Ehninger and Brockriede distinguished different kinds of presumption and different kinds of burden of proof.
Subsequently, theorists of debate began to explore alternatives to the received tradition. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a great many pages of the Journal of the American Forensic Association (now Argumentation and Advocacy) were filled with articles on alternative patterns of case construction – e.g., the comparative advantage of the affirmative case, the goals/criteria case, and the alternative justification case – as well as essays identifying underlying consistencies amid all the differences.17 The counterplan, a negative debate strategy that was traditionally dismissed as weak, was revived and theoretically anchored.18
Various authors began to focus their attention on the underlying nature and goals of the process of debate, believing that the emerging differences between theory and practice reflected different root assumptions about debate. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw essays explicating different paradigms or models of debate – the policy-making model, the hypothesis-testing model, the game-theory model, the critic-judge model, and the tabula rasa model, to name just a few of these. The traditional perspective on debate, now renamed the stock-issues model, took its place among these alternatives.19
One of the major trends emerging in the 1970s is to stress the links between debate and argumentation. Recognizing that debate involves specific applications of more general principles, educators began to develop courses in argumentation theory and practice that were no longer geared specifically to debate. These courses introduce growing numbers of students to a broad view of argumentation theory. To meet the newly emerged needs, new kinds of textbooks were also published. Among the most prominent of them are Richard Rieke and Malcolm Sillars’s (1975) Argumentation and the Decision-Making Process, Barbara Warnick and Edward Inch’s (1989) Critical Thinking and Communication, and Robert Branham’s (1991) Debate and Critical Analysis: The Harmony of Conflict. Even books oriented primarily towards debate, such as J. W. Patterson and David Zarefsky’s (1983) Contemporary Debate, now portrayed debate as a derivative of general argumentation.
The linkage between debate and argumentation has been explored in both directions. Not only has debate drawn insights from a general understanding of argumentation, it has also contributed to such understanding. In 1979, G. Thomas Goodnight (1980) delivered a paper on “the liberal and the conservative presumption,” which demonstrates that presumption is not just an arbitrary concept or a tie-breaking rule but a substantive concept, which can be helpful in distinguishing political positions and understanding political disputes. Later, Goodnight (1991) drew attention to the dynamics of controversy. Controversy can be described as debate conducted over time, but without a priori rules, boundaries, or time limits. Scholars trained in debate have employed this understanding of controversy to provide new insight into cultural and political disputes, especially related to military policy and international relations.20
Gordon Mitchell (1998) proposes in an essay to stop the “decertification of the public sphere.” He argues that a successful translation of argumentation skills into tools of democratic empowerment “requires affirmative efforts to clear spaces that free scholars to exercise and develop senses of argumentative agency.” With greater room to maneuver for inventing strategies for action, taking risks, making mistakes, and affecting change, scholars can begin to envision how to do things with arguments not only in the cozy confines of contest round competition but in the world beyond as well.
According to Mitchell, in both theory and practice, evolution of the idea of argumentative agency is generally driven by the idiosyncratic and often eccentric personal sentiments and political allegiances of teachers and students of argumentation. Those interested in seeing debate skills become tools for democratic empowerment tend to cultivate argumentative agency in their own pedagogical and political milieu. This might involve supporting and encouraging efforts of students to engage in primary research, organize and perform public debates, undertake public advocacy projects, and/or share the energy of debate with traditionally underserved and excluded student populations through outreach efforts.
8.3 Starting Points for Theorizing
In the traditional debate and argumentation textbooks, theoretical reflection on argumentation is not strongly developed. For theorizing about argumentation, clear, univocal, and widely accepted definitions are needed, but central notions such as argument, argumentation, and rhetoric are not well defined. Only in the second half of the twentieth century did communication scholars start to reflect more deeply on the theoretical starting points of argumentation studies.
In a paper presented in 1974, Brockriede (1992b) made a serious effort to delineate the concept of argumentation. He stresses the fact that the field of argumentation studies was for a long time dominated by the image of argument as public speech: the term argument referred to the content of a public address or a public debate. Brockriede points to the fact that arguments are not only used in law courts or debate tournaments but also in interpersonal transactions, in the construction of scientific theories, and in reporting about research studies. For him, argumentation is a human activity rather than a “thing” that appears in texts.
Brockriede (1992b) clarifies this view by listing a series of characteristics of argumentation. Although these characteristics do not represent a series of necessary or sufficient conditions of argumentation, let alone a “final” definition, arguments can be found in particular where these “six characteristics are joined” (p. 77). First, argumentation involves an inferential leap from existing beliefs to the adaption of a new belief.21 Second, there should be a rationale to support this leap. If this rationale is too weak, there is no argument, but a mere quibble. If the rationale is so strong that the conclusion is entailed, there is proof, instead of an argument. Three, there should be a choice between two or more competing claims. Four, argument involves a regulation of uncertainty. If certainty existed, then there would be no need for people to engage in argument. When uncertainty is high, the need for argument is also high. Five, argument involves a willingness to risk confrontation of a claim with the views of peers. Arguers can regulate uncertainty if their claim meets certain tests of confrontation. When two persons engage in mutual confrontation to make a rational choice, they share the risks of what that confrontation may do to the maintenance of their ideas. Six, argument involves a joint frame of reference. Arguers must share one another’s world views or frames of reference to an optimal degree (1992b, p. 77).22
In an essay entitled “Two concepts of argument,” first published in 1977, Daniel J. O’Keefe (1992) reacts. He distinguishes between two different concepts of the word “argument”: argument can refer to a sort of communicative act (denoted by argument 1 ), and it can also refer to a particular kind of interaction (argument 2 ) . According to O’Keefe, “Arguments1 are thus on a par with promises, commands, apologies, warnings, invitations, orders, and the like. Arguments2 are classifiable with other species of interactions such as bull sessions, heart-to-heart talks, quarrels, discussions, and so forth” (1992, p. 79). The distinction is evidenced in everyday talk by the difference between “arguing1 that” and “arguing2 about.” For instance, one may argue that financial cuts are necessary, and two roommates may argue about who is going to do the dishes. O’Keefe claims that Brockriede’s analysis confuses arguments1 with arguments2. He indicates that prescriptive approaches merely deal with argument1 while descriptive approaches tend to deal with argument2. This distinction is in the American communication and rhetoric community commonly seen as the basis for further defining argumentation and determining its characteristics.23
The distinction between argument1 and argument2 challenged the assumption that the first of these two senses is the more foundational one. In this sense, O’Keefe’s distinction can be seen as an attempt to clarify the dispute between those who insist on the importance of nondiscursive elements in argument and those who insist that every element of an argument must either be linguistic or linguistically explicable (Burleson 1979, 1980; Kneupper 1978, 1979). Charles A. Willard (1976) had earlier argued that argument diagrams are not only poorly suited to cover psychological processes but also inadequate for describing messages because they cannot depict irony, ambiguity, and other nondiscursive aspects of messages. Defenders of diagramming argued that if Willard’s point is carried to its logical conclusion, it makes important aspects of arguments resist analysis. O’Keefe’s distinction suggests that arguments1 are diagrammable while arguments2 are best studied as instances of communicative acts. Though arguments may trade upon multiple modes of communication, verbal and nonverbal, and different motives, discourse organization, and relational considerations, O’Keefe argued that they are best defined by appealing to paradigm cases – the most clear-cut, uncontroversial cases.
At about the same time, Willard started the project that would lead to the constructivist theory of argumentation he developed in his monographs Argumentation and the Social Grounds of Knowledge (1983), A Theory of Argumentation (1989), and Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge (1996). He defined argumentation as an interaction in which two or more people maintain what they construe to be incompatible claims. In Willard’s view, researchers should explore what actually takes place in such interactions.
In 1995, Zarefsky proposed a general definition of argumentation “as the practice of justifying decisions under conditions of uncertainty” (1995, p. 43). This definition has four key elements. First, argumentation is a practice: it is a social activity in which people engage. In the course of this practice, people make and examine texts, which are to be studied as products of the practice. Argumentation, however, is not a practice that can be easily isolated from other practices. According to Zarefsky, it has no unique subject, and people who engage in argumentation are also doing other things. They may not even recognize what they are doing as argumentation. Argumentation is not only something people naturally do, it is also a concept analysts use in examining all kinds of social practices with a critical attitude. The view of argumentation as a practice contrasts strongly with the view of argumentation as a textual or logical structure.
Second, in Zarefsky’s definition, argumentation is a practice of justifying. The word “justifying,” standing in contrast to the word “proving,” is crucial. It expresses the recognition that the outcomes of argument cannot be certain, which inspires the dethronement of the analytic ideal. On the other hand, these outcomes are neither capricious nor whimsical. They are supported by what the audience would regard as good reasons warranting belief or action.
To say that a claim is justified immediately raises the question, justified to whom?
Depending on the situation, several answers can be given to this question. One can justify claims for oneself, for one’s family or friends, for the particular audience present on the occasion, for a broader audience defined by some special interest, for the general public, and even for an audience of people from diverse cultures. The question then becomes whether the practical meaning of justify varies among these different audiences and whether the process of justification is different as well.
Much of the literature on argument fields, spheres, and communities (see Sect. 8.6), as well as a great many of the discussions of what counts as evidence for claims, can be seen as addressing the basic question of justified to whom. In any case, this question immediately calls attention to the fact that argumentation is addressed to people. Argumentation is a practice that occurs in the context of an audience, not in vacuo. Since it is concerned with the nexus between claims and people, it clearly is a rhetorical practice.
Third, argumentation is a practice of justifying decisions. Decisions involve choices, for if there were only one possibility there would be nothing to decide. But decisions also presuppose the need to choose because the alternatives are perceived as being incompatible. Making a decision is like standing at the proverbial fork in the road. One cannot stand still, one cannot take both forks, and one cannot be sure in advance which fork will prove to be the right path. Sometimes, decisions are bound to a particular moment in time. In 1992, for instance, each of the nations in the European Union had to decide whether to approve of the Maastricht Treaty, just as in that same year the US Congress had to decide whether to ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement. Taking these decisions was in both cases accompanied by attempts to justify the one decision or the other. Sometimes, however, a decision evolves over a long period of time, and the process of justifying is likewise longitudinal. For many years, for instance, we have witnessed an ongoing controversy about whether the national or the global economy should be the unit of analysis in dealing with policy choices. From a longer term perspective, Maastricht and NAFTA might be seen as moments in such an ongoing controversy.
Decisions involve choices, but they are not always so final that they obliterate the alternative that is not taken. The same forks in the road may present themselves repeatedly, even if in a slightly altered guise. In the United States, for example, the controversy about how best to pay for health care is largely a reenactment of arguments that go back 60 or 80 years, even though various specific decisions have been made along the way. The minority position is seldom vanquished completely; someday it may come back and win. Recognition of this fact leads to the awareness that making decisions should involve respecting all the proffered alternatives, even if only one is selected at a given time.
Fourth, argumentation is the practice of justifying decisions under conditions of uncertainty. The defining feature of a rhetorical situation is the need to make a choice when not everything can be known. We might have to act in the face of incomplete information, the universe affected by the decision might be so large that only a sample can be considered, or it might depend on other choices or outcomes that cannot be known what decision is the best to take. Alternatively, the situation may be uncertain because of an inferential gap between data and conclusion. The data might be factual, whereas the conclusion is a matter of belief, value, or policy. Or perhaps the information relates to present conditions, whereas the decision involves predictions for the future. For whichever reason, people argue to justify decisions that cannot be made with certainty. Hence, according to American communication scholars such as Zarefsky, argumentation is situated in the realm of rhetoric, not of apodictic proof. This does not mean that the outcomes are irrational but that they are guided by rhetorical reason: warrants are evoked from the cumulative experience of a relevant audience, not from a particular structure or form.24
Another issue that has been discussed frequently is the status of perspectives on argumentation and the way in which these perspectives relate to each other. Joseph Wenzel (1992) explains that there are three perspectives which should be seen as distinct points of departure for theorists. The three perspectives on argument are (1) the rhetorical, which examines the process of persuading; (2) the dialectical, which focuses on the procedures used in arguing; and (3) the logical, which critiques the product of arguing according to the standards of logical validity. Traditionally, these perspectives are correlated to three senses of argumentation: argument as a process, argument as a procedure, and argument as a product.25 The term argument is used in the process sense “whenever we apply the name argument or arguing to the phenomena of one or more social actors addressing symbolic appeals to others in an effort to win adherence” (Wenzel 1992, p. 124). Argument in the procedure sense means argument as a procedure or methodology for bringing the natural process of arguing under some sort of deliberate control. Argument in the product sense may be thought of as a set of statements (premises and conclusions or evidence and claim) by which someone chooses to represent “meanings” abstracted from the ongoing process of communication. This division means that there can be different answers to the question “What is argument?” For a rhetorician, the answer is as follows: an argument is “a mode of appeal, a means of persuasion, a behavior typical of symbol users communicating” (p. 125). For a dialectician the answer is as follows: an argument is “a disciplined method of discourse for the critical testing of theses” (p.125). A logician may answer: an argument is “a set of statements consisting of premises and conclusion or claim and support” (p. 125).26
8.4 Historical-Political Analysis
One of the main branches of the American rhetorical tradition is rhetorical criticism: the analysis and evaluation of public speeches or texts that are meant to be persuasive. Rhetorical criticism emanated from two sister disciplines: history and English. Originally, rhetorical criticism tended to be more or less Aristotelian. The typical criticism offered a description of the historical setting and a biographical sketch, followed by the application of Aristotle’s and Cicero’s canons to the discourse under study (Cohen 1994, p. 181). During most of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, public address was the dominant subject in the field of rhetorical scholarship. However, argument analysis was usually not a major part of the analyses.
Although never systematically based on theory, hardly any study of public address was published which did not contain some reference to the arguments of the speakers. According to Brockriede (1992a, pp. 36–37), these studies were “castigated” by Edwin Black and others as “neo-Aristotelian,” making use of classical constructs and terminology, all of which carried with them the baggage of assumptions that worked wonderfully well in understanding classical oratory, but less well in dealing with differences in people, issues, situations, and cultural norms. Black argues that neo-Aristotelians operate with a restricted view of context: they confine themselves to a discussion of the immediate audience and occasion. In addition, their judgment consists of determining the persuasive effect of a speech on its immediate audience, but they do not give a judgment.
An example of a rhetorical critique that has remedied these problems is offered by Michael Leff (1941–2010) and Gerald Mohrmann (Leff & Mohrmann 1994), who made an analysis of Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Cooper Union on February 27, 1860. Leff and Mohrmann complain about scholars who conclude that Lincoln was very convincing during that occasion but do not provide supporting evidence for this claim. First, they observe that the text concerned is an example of a specific genre: a campaign oration, a speech designed to win nomination for the speaker. Leff and Mohrmann point at specific argumentative strategies and stylistic means that are directly aimed at achieving this goal. In this case, both policies and character are in question, but the general objective is ingratiation (p. 175). Lincoln tries to become spokesman for his party by demonstrating that he is a man of reason. In the address, he deals exclusively with slavery – a good choice, according to Leff and Mohrmann, since it was a paramount issue of the day, which had spawned the Republican Party, and an issue with which Lincoln was closely identified (p. 176). Lincoln chooses to follow a specific tactical line of argument. He quotes his main opponent, follows his logic, and then turns it against him via an ad hominem attack. Leff and Mohrmann show Lincoln’s effective use of the stylistic element of repetition. In the second part of the speech, Lincoln makes successfully use of the form of prosopopoeia, creating a mock debate between Republicans and the South (p. 181).27
John Campbell (1993) shows that in The Origin of Species, Darwin had to overcome specific difficulties related to different audiences with conflicting viewpoints. Darwin was able to derive a clever synthesis. According to Campbell, Darwin’s ability to adopt many of the arguments of his opponents as his own made The Origin of Species equally elegant from a rhetorical and a scientific point of view. The rhetoric of the geological catastrophists and the rhetoric of the geological uniformitarians involved two mutually opposed legacies. Darwin had to deal with the catastrophists, who believed in evolution but vehemently denied the ability of natural causes to bring about evolution. The uniformitarians denied that there had been any cumulative progress in a particular direction, but affirmed that natural forces could bring about random change. In his exposition of the mechanism of natural selection, Darwin employed the uniformitarians’ manner of explanation to establish on naturalistic grounds the evolutionary conclusions of the catastrophists. Darwin thus presented natural selection under the metaphor of a conscious, choice-making intelligence to a public brought up in a theological tradition teaching men to view the reality of the organic world as artifacts of a conscious designer (Campbell 1993, p. 158).
When it comes to argumentative analysis of historical and contemporary political discourse, Zarefsky is without any doubt the most prolific American scholar. In his analyses of public argumentative discourse, he supplements classical rhetorical insights with modern rhetorical insights whenever this seems functional. In President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Zarefsky (1986) examines how public policy can be put in a strategic perspective by discursive means. He concentrates on President Johnson’s efforts to promote his Great Society by declaring “unconditional war” on poverty. The central question is how Johnson’s antipoverty program, as laid down in the Economic Opportunity Act, gained first such strong support and fell so far later on. Instead of blaming the war in Vietnam for this negative effect, as others did, Zarefsky looks for the answer to this question in the discourse concerning the war on poverty.
Zarefsky’s thesis is that the rhetorical choices ensuing from the decision to call striving for abolishing poverty a “war” were instrumental in obtaining the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act but also in its destruction. In his monograph, he focuses primarily on the executive branch’s attempt to persuade the Congress to initiate and sustain the antipoverty program. The symbolic choice made by calling the antipoverty policy a “war” and the symbolic choices that go with it (“soldiers,” “enemy,” “battle plan”) suggest a view of the world that puts all measures proposed in a specific perspective. This is why these choices play an important role in the process of public persuasion: since the symbols used define the issues in a way that highlights some aspects of the issues while diminishing others, they “evoke support or opposition by virtue of their association with an audience’s prior experience and belief” (1986, p. 5). As Zarefsky explains in his analysis, in the case of the “unconditional war on poverty,” the rhetorical choices that were made stimulated by their symbolic value both short-term rhetorical success and long-term rhetorical failure.
In Lincoln, Douglas and Slavery, Zarefsky (1990) analyzes the seven 1858 encounters between Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the Republican party for a US Senate seat from Illinois, and Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent senator seeking reelection, which have become known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The later President Lincoln was glorified after his assassination and the Lincoln-Douglas debates came to be seen as the paradigm case and model of what political debate ought to be. Zarefsky considers this a “generally implausible” judgment, which is “not supported by the record” and blinds us to “the true genius” of the debates (p. 221). He provides a rhetorical perspective on these debates as public arguments, “focusing on how gifted advocates selected their arguments and appeals from the available means of persuasion and how they shaped and fashioned the arguments to meet the needs of the audience and situation” (p. xi). This perspective helps to explain “how linguistic and strategic choices both reflected and affected the course of the deepening controversy over slavery” (p. xi).
According to Zarefsky, in the debates, four patterns of argument can be distinguished: constitutional argument, historical argument, conspiracy argument, and moral argument. Concentrating on the relations between arguments and audiences, he traces each of these argument patterns across the debates and explains and assesses them. In the face of the contextual constraints the debaters had to deal with, the debates “reveal two accomplished politicians jockeying for advantage by carefully selecting and effectively using the weapons in their rhetorical arsenal” (Zarefsky 1990, p. 222). As the analysis reveals, the debates were often repetitive, charges were often traded without evidence, “and the candidates’ remarks often veered down the byways of local politics” (p. 224). In Zarefsky’s view, because they so clearly demonstrate what the possibilities for discussion are “when a fundamental issue is transformed in the crucible of public debate” (p. 222), they nevertheless deserve their exalted historical position.28
Edward Schiappa (2002) explicates his rhetorical approach to arguments about definitions by presenting a case study about arguments concerning the definition of person and human life in the context of the constitutional disputes on abortion in the United States in the wake of the Roe v. Wade case. In his view, “definitions always function to serve particular interests,” and “the only definitions of consequence are those that have been empowered through persuasion or coercion” (2002, p. 75). Schiappa provides a rhetorical analysis of the way in which the Supreme Court treats the questions of definition. He shows that the questions “What is a person?” and “What is human life?” – which allow for infinite answers – are sidestepped. They are turned into a “more productive and answerable” question or the parties are left room “to offer – through persuasion but not coercion – competing answers” (p. 78).
Robert Newman (1961) analyzed much earlier the public debate over the question whether the United States should extend diplomatic recognition to the communist government of China. He considers three kinds of issues that are central in this controversy. First, the moral: Does the communist regime “deserve” recognition? Would American recognition of that regime betray the nationalist Chinese on Formosa? Second, the political: Would recognition aid the prospect for disarmament and improve communication and negotiation with China? Third, the legal: Does recognition signify approval and does the communist government represent “the will of the nation”?
Many contemporary theorists would have the critic abandon traditional forms of argument analysis and evaluation: instead, they endorse an audience-centered perspective that focuses on explanations of how argumentative discourse operates in a given context. Walter Fisher (1987), for example, advocates using narrativity , focusing on coherence and fidelity of argumentation as measures of its worth. He conceptualizes human communication, and by extension public moral argument, as the function of a “narrative paradigm.” According to Fisher, humans are storytellers by nature, and the “reason” of public moral deliberation or argumentation is therefore better understood in and through the narratives.
Marilyn Young and Michael Launer (1995) choose to combine an audience-centered approach with making use of the possibilities formal approaches offer to assess logical structure and evidentiary strength. An example is their analysis and evaluation of an instance of conspiratist rhetoric by David Pearson, writing about the alleged American involvement in the 1983 destruction of Korean Air Lines’ Flight 007. Young and Launer conclude that Pearson’s article is “persuasive simply because he tells a better story, successfully exploiting a confluence of public knowledge about past espionage activities, traditional American distrust of government, a concomitant faith in technology, and the administration’s willingness to reveal sources and methods of intelligence” (1995, p. 25). In addition, they notice that Pearson makes ample use of quasi-logical argumentation and the false dilemma, strategies that are often used in presenting conspiracy theory.
David Williams, John Ishiyama, Marilyn Young, and Michael Launer (1997) study the argumentative strategies used in the 1993 Duma elections. They argue that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), led by Gennady Zyuganov, incorporated rhetorical values and audience adaptation into its campaign strategy. Finding its discursive ground limited by history, the CPRF gradually shifted its rhetorical posture and argumentative strategies, redefining itself in the process. This evolution allowed the CPRF to employ the ideographs of “democracy,” “will of the people,” “citizen,” and other key terms of Western-style democracy, while retaining, albeit in a transformed meaning, traditional communist ideographs such as “justice” and “spirituality.” In addition, the CPRF was able to borrow selectively from the history of the USSR between 1917 and 1989, thereby imbuing their political appeals with historical force and cultural memory.
8.5 Rhetorical Studies of Argumentation
Scholars of rhetoric writing about the theoretical foundations of their discipline wonder what rhetoric really is, what the relation is between rhetoric and truth, or what its moral value is. These reflections sometimes lead to quite abstract theoretical investigations whose relationship with argumentation theory is not at all clear. However, there are also rhetorical studies that relate directly to argumentation. Even when they are not inherently argumentative in orientation, in some way or another, theories of rhetoric always relate to argumentation.
Three general stages can be distinguished in the development of rhetorical theory in speech communication. In the first stage, which began in the early twentieth century, rhetorical scholars focused on the interpretation and explanation of ancient rhetoric.29 In the second stage, which starts in the 1950s, some scholars aimed at developing new ideas about rhetoric, within the traditional range of topics, but from a modernist objectivist perspective. In the third stage, which starts in the 1960s, the scope of rhetorical theory is widened to a large extent.
In the first stage of this development, the authors focused on classical rhetoric and turned to British rhetorical theory from the eighteenth century to a lesser extent. Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as the faculty “of discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion” is then the starting point of the theorizing. Until 1960, the focus remained primarily on classical rhetoric.
Edward Schiappa and Omar Swartz (1994, p. xi) distinguish two goals in the early scholarship: historical reconstruction to understand the contribution of past theorists and contemporary appropriation to utilize the insights of past theorists or practitioners to inform current theorizing or criticism. In an influential article on the Aristotelian enthymeme published as early as 1936, James McBurney (1905–1968) pursues both goals (McBurney 1994). He wants to clarify the classical notions of the enthymeme and attempts, at the same time, to show how the enthymeme can be used in contemporary argumentation and speaking classes. He turns against the received understanding of the Aristotelian enthymeme as a syllogism of which one premise is suppressed. According to McBurney, this understanding of the enthymeme is wrong; he believes that Whately is partly responsible for this narrow interpretation (1994, p. 90).
McBurney maintains that, in spite of the fact that it happens quite often, the omission of a proposition is purely accidental. He believes that Aristotle meant that the enthymeme usually lacks one or more propositions (1994, p. 85). However, when examining the makeup of an enthymeme, it is not so much the fact that a proposition is left unexpressed, but the contents of the premises that are to be considered. Aristotle called the rhetorical syllogism, which existed next to rhetorical induction (example), the enthymeme . When he defines an enthymeme as “a syllogism starting from probabilities or signs,” he appears to have had this distinction in mind. A general principle here is probability, which, when applied in argument, is not used to prove the existence of a fact (that is already established), but to explain it. In the argument, a certain cause is attributed to an already accepted effect. When Aristotle talks about “signs,” he refers, according to McBurney, to propositions that establish a conclusion by pointing at signs that are not causal in nature. McBurney sustains this interpretation by pointing at a similar distinction made in the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle’s treatment of scientific demonstration: the ratio essendi and the ratio cognoscendi. A ratio essendi is an argument to account for the fact or principle maintained, taking its truth for granted: it mentions a cause or a reason for the existence of a fact. A ratio cognoscendi , on the other hand, is a reason for acknowledging the existence of a fact: it supplies a reason establishing the existence of a fact without making any effort to explain what has caused it. A correct view of the enthymeme is, in McBurney’s view, a necessary starting point for any significant attempt to evaluate this concept and the theory of argument in which it plays a part.30
as a natural context of persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance; this invited utterance participates naturally in the situation, is in many instances necessary to the completion of the situational activity, and by means of its participation with situation obtains its meaning and its rhetorical character. (1999, p. 219)
Thanks to Bitzer, more and more rhetorical theorists began to realize that their analyses should take the context of the discourse into account.
According to Bitzer (1999), any rhetorical situation has three constituents: the exigence , the audience constrained in decision and action, and the constraints which influence the rhetor and can be brought to bear upon the audience. The exigence should be seen as an imperfection (a problem, a defect, or an obstacle) – something that can and should be changed by the discourse. A problem that cannot be removed by way of discourse is not a rhetorical exigence. Rhetoric always requires an audience because rhetorical discourse produces change by influencing the decisions and actions of persons who function as “mediator of change” (Bitzer 1999, p. 221). The audience is rhetorical exactly because it is supposed to function as a mediator of change. Every rhetorical situation contains a set of constraints made up of persons, events, objects, and relations which have the power to constrain the decisions and actions needed to modify the exigence. The rhetorical situation may therefore be defined as “a complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence” (Bitzer 1999, p. 220).
Henry W. Johnstone Jr. (1920–2000) analyzed the relation between argumentation and selfhood (1959). To engage in argumentation, he writes, is to accept risk – the risk of being proved wrong and having to alter one’s belief system and self-concept. But the very act of person risking proves to be person making, constitutive of one’s sense of self.32
The third stage of rhetorical theorizing was initiated in 1967 by Robert L. Scott. Scott’s (1999) article “On viewing rhetoric as epistemic” presented a philosophical challenge to the understanding of the substance and sociopolitical significance of rhetoric. This essay was the starting point of significant debates in the 1970s and 1980s on the role of rhetoric in the construction of truth. Scott argued that rhetoric is not simply a means of making the truth effective, but quite literally a way of knowing, a means for the production of truth and knowledge in a world where certainty is rare and action must be taken. In advancing this view, he reacts to the broadly accepted notion of rhetoric as “making the truth effective in practical affairs.” According to Scott, viewing rhetoric as only instrumental in making (true) messages persuasive is not only a very limited but in fact also a wrong position. He agrees with Ehninger and Brockriede’s conception of debate as a cooperative critical inquiry which can result in truth. Because rhetoric may be viewed as creating truth, instead of just giving effectiveness to truth, rhetoric can be seen as epistemic.33
The only sort of arguments which is supposed to answer the demands of certainty made in epistemological speculation consists of the arguments which Toulmin calls analytic (see Chap. 4). Scott, however, finds it questionable whether analytic arguments should be called arguments at all, since the word “argument” suggests the drawing of conclusions that are new. Analytic arguments are tenseless: they cannot exist in time. Substantial (universal) truths are a logical impossibility because in substantial arguments, “a shift in time [between premise and conclusion] always occurs.” If there is no shift in time, then one is simply reporting what is present, not arguing (Scott 1999, p. 133).
Scott’s essay has been hugely influential. Together with an essay written in 1967 by Barry Brummett (1999), it marks the beginning of the movement which is now called theory of inquiry or – one step further – Big Rhetoric (Schiappa 2001, p. 260).34
According to Brummett (1999), people have no direct access to truth, and there is no “objective reality.” Truth is always a matter of interpretation, and the “meaning of reality” is therefore much more important than plain “truth.” Discovery and testing of reality is not independent of people, but takes place through people. Because the discovery of knowledge is an interactive matter and is in the end intersubjective, rhetoric offers the best model for this process (Lucaites and Condit 1999, p. 129). Brummett’s work contributed to the emerging belief that truth is relative to argument and to audience. It stimulated examining what sorts of knowledge are rhetorically constructed and how arguing produces knowledge. Among the answers that were proposed is the claim that all knowledge is rhetorical and that there are no transcendent standards.
Under the heading of “theory of inquiry,” rhetorical theorists and critics began to shift their attention away from public discourse, focusing primarily on issues of governance dealt with in the type of texts that were traditionally the object of study in rhetoric. The basic assumption of scholars working in the theory of inquiry is that science is governed by rhetoric.
More papers and books have probably been written about the rhetoric of science than about any other rhetorical field.35 The popular conception is that the hard sciences – the empirical analogue of formal logic and mathematics – yield certain knowledge. Against this background, it seemed easier to establish that rhetoric is part of other ways of knowing if it can be demonstrated that there is a significant rhetorical component even to the hard sciences. In addition, there have been studies of rhetoric in economics, sociology, medicine, statistics, business, history, religion, and other disciplines.36
Another influential type of rhetorical theory is known as social and cultural critique . Although it is usually not characterized this way, Fisher’s (1987) work on narration, mentioned earlier, is an example. Fisher started to flesh out the meaning of “good reasons,” the rhetorical equivalent of formal deduction. He found that good reasons often take the form of narratives and has even gone so far as to claim that storytelling is a defining aspect of the human condition. Due to what Fisher calls the “rational world model” of knowing, storytelling has been traditionally excluded from the category of reasoning. The result, Fisher believes, is that certain kinds of claims are systematically privileged over others. In Fisher’s example of the nuclear debate, it is scientific claims that are preferred over moral claims.
Although this is not Fisher’s primary purpose, his work points to the nexus between argumentation and power. It is power, whether political, social, or intellectual, that permits us to stipulate what sorts of claims “count” in an argumentative situation. Power enables those who hold it to impose a partial perspective as if it were holistic – the definition usually given of the term hegemony. A recent wave of argumentation studies seeks to explore and expose the tendency of power to foreclose discourse, and achieving emancipation by opening up alternatives. This research focuses on marginalized arguers and arguments; it is given a strong impetus by the widespread concern for matters of race, gender, and class.
Big Rhetoric turned away from argumentation analysis and does not pay much attention to argumentation on the textual level of the sentences making up a speech or text. In spite of this, some rhetorical scholars are in a traditional vain still working on argumentation and rhetorical theory. Jeanne Fahnestock (2011), for one, provides an in-depth overview of the stylistic aspects of the persuasion process. Drawing on key texts from the rhetorical tradition, as well as on newer approaches from linguistics and literary stylistics , she demonstrates how word choice, sentence form, and passage construction should be taken into account in a full analysis of arguments.37
8.6 Argument Fields and Spheres of Argumentation
In the 1970s, American argumentation scholars picked up the notion of field, which was introduced by Toulmin (2003) in The Uses of Argument. Toulmin maintained that two arguments are in the same field if their data and claims (conclusions) are of the same logical type (see Sect. 4.4 of this volume). The difficulty is, however, that he did not define the notion of “logical type,” but only indicated its meaning by means of examples. Toulmin suggested that some features or characteristics of argument are field invariant while others are field dependent. While in Human Understanding Toulmin (1972) had already moved away from this notion of fields and had come to regard them as akin to academic disciplines, some argumentation theorists still found the idea of argument fields useful for distinguishing between field-invariant aspects of argument and aspects of argument that vary from field to field.
With the introduction of field into argumentation theory, two important questions arose. First, which characteristics or aspects of argument should be examined to determine whether they are field invariant or field dependent? Should the examination concentrate on the components of an argument such as the reasoning, the data, the claims, and the qualifiers? On procedures (rules, presumption)? On styles of arguing and argumentative strategies? Second, can the difference between fields be determined? To answer the preliminary question of what makes up a field, one option is to follow the suggestion made by Toulmin’s (1972) in Human Understanding that field is to be defined as an academic discipline. This choice, however, leads to new problems, such as to what field a discussion about medical economics belongs. Argument fields could also be distinguished by looking at the audiences, situations, or political preferences involved.38 The problem of argument fields becomes even more complicated when we consider the various questions in combination. Is it, for instance, possible that procedures vary according to audience?
Most contributions to the theory of argument fields seem to pay attention to the basic questions just mentioned. Zarefsky (1992, p. 417), for one, suggests that the concept of field offers considerable promise for empirical and critical studies of argumentation. This is why he tries to dispel the confusion about the idea of field without abandoning the concept altogether. Zarefsky identifies and discusses three recurrent issues in theories about argument fields: the purpose of the concept of argument fields, the nature of argument fields, and the development of argument fields.
The term argument fields functions, varying from author to author, as a synonym for rhetorical communities, discourse communities, conceptual ecologies, collective mentalities, disciplines, and professions. The core idea is that claims imply “grounds,” and that the grounds for knowledge claims lie in the epistemic practices and states of consensus in specific knowledge domains. We thus interpret the advocates’ positions by inferring the kinds of backgrounds they presuppose: the traditions, practices, ideas, texts, and methods of particular groups (Dunbar 1986; Sillars 1981). If someone says, for instance, that “physical processes are characterized by extreme sensitivity to starting conditions,” and the field theorist concludes that the claim takes its meaning from chaos physics, a specific, concrete imputation is made to a definite group.
Willard advocates a sociological-rhetorical version of the field theory. Fields are “sociological entities whose unity stems from practices” (1982, p. 75). Consistent with the Chicago School, Willard defines fields as existing in the actions of the members of a field. These actions are essentially rhetorical. “This means that every field’s standards take their authority from the faith people have in them, that a retreat to commitment occurs when standards are challenged, and that fields can be seen as audience s” (1982, p. 76). Later on, Willard (1992, p. 437) stresses the beneficial consequences of the vagueness of the notion of fields: it is arguably its diffuse and open-ended nature that has been its most attractive feature, and the notion of field owes its widespread employment to the fact that it can be made to say virtually anything. Willard identifies and explores the minimal conditions required for the notion of argument fields to be useful.
Robert C. Rowland (1992, p. 470) also addresses the meaning and the utility of argument fields. He identifies the various interpretations of the notion of argument fields and suggests that none of them are completely satisfactory because none of them take all the essential characteristics of fields of argument into account. Rowland mentions four characteristics that distinguish fields: formality, precision of measurement, modes of dispute resolution, and ultimate goal. He argues for a purpose-centered view of argument fields. The essential characteristics of an argument field are best described by identifying the purpose shared by members of the field. The purpose of legal decision-making about insanity, for instance, is to balance the right to liberty of the individual and society’s right to protection from the insane, while the purpose of the psychiatric field is to treat the patient as effectively as possible. Specific purposes produce fields with specific evaluative criteria and very predictable argumentative characteristics, while fields which serve more general purposes can only be described in general terms (Rowland 1992, p. 497).
A notion similar but not equal to argument field is argument sphere, introduced by Goodnight in 1982 in a contribution to a special issue on argument fields of the Journal of the American Forensic Association.39 As Rowland (2012) observes, unlike argument fields, which are no longer “core topics” within argument studies, argument spheres are still very important (p. 195).40 According to Goodnight, members of “societies” and “historical cultures” participate in vast, and not altogether coherent, superstructures which invite them to channel doubts through prevailing discourse practices. In the democratic tradition, these channels can be recognized as the personal, the technical, and the public sphere s. Inspired by Habermas and the Frankfurt School, Goodnight introduces the notion of argument spheres to show that the quality of public deliberation has atrophied since arguments drawn from the private and technical spheres, which operate through very different forms of invention and subject matter selection, have invaded, and perhaps even appropriated, the public sphere. As a consequence, the quality of deliberation as a means for determining social knowledge and the public good has been undermined and impoverished.
Although Goodnight does not reject the notion of argument field, he finds it “not a satisfactory umbrella for covering the grounding of all arguments” (2012, p. 209). The idea that all arguments are “grounded in fields, enterprises characterized by some degree of specialization and compactness, contravenes an essential distinction among groundings” (2012, p. 209). “Spheres” do not denote perspectives or communities, but argument practices or “branches of activity – the grounds upon which arguments are built and the authorities to which arguers appeal” (2012, p. 200).
Each sphere comes with specific practices. Goodnight does not present a complete list of practices or a list of their defining properties but offers some examples.41 In the practice of simple conversation in the public sphere, the statements of the arguers are ephemeral. No preparation is required, and the subject matter and range of the claims are decided by the disputants. Evidence is discovered within memory or adduced by pointing to whatever is at hand. Rules of argument emerge from the arguers’ general experience regarding discussion, ideas about fair judgment, etc. In contrast, in a scientific practice, the range of subject matter is narrowed down, and expertise is combined with formal rules of scholarly argument. The end result is the advance of a special kind of knowledge. In a dispute in the public sphere, the private and the technical dimensions of the disagreement become “relevant only insofar as they are made congruent with the practices of the public forums” (Goodnight 2012, p. 202). The demands for proof and the forms of reasoning will then not be as informal or fluid as they are in a personal disagreement. The forms of reason will be more common than the specialized demands of the particular professions. Finally, the interests of the public realm extend the stakes of argument beyond private needs and the needs of special communities to the interests of the entire community.
Spheres of argument differ from each other, for one thing, in the norms for reasonable argument that prevail. According to Goodnight (2012), such differences become clear, for instance, when we look at “the standards for arguments among friends versus those for judgments of academic arguments versus those of judging political disputes” (p. 200). The notions of private, technical, and public spheres are useful in describing the ways in which in making arguments disagreements can be created and extended. The public sphere is transcending the personal and technical spheres. This domain is not reducible to an argument practice of any specific group characterized by certain social customs or determined by a professional community, but may nevertheless be influenced by such factors. The consequences of the dispute extend beyond differences of opinion in the personal and technical spheres.
Zarefsky (2012, pp. 212–213) proposes a taxonomical scheme for spheres which consists of the following distinguishing criteria: (1) Who participates in the discourse? (2) Who sets the rules of procedure? (3) What kind of knowledge is required? (4) How are the contributions to be evaluated? (5) What is the end result of the deliberation?
In the personal sphere , only those who have a particular personal relationship should participate. The participants set the rules of procedure: they decide on the subject matter, the range of the claims, and the progression of the deliberation. No technical or generally accepted claims are required. The participants judge the contributions by their own experience. The argumentation affects only those participating in the interaction.
In the technical sphere , only those who can be taken to be experts concerning the issues in the conflict may take part. The rules of procedure are set by the participants and the deliberation requires some special kind of (technical or specialized) knowledge. The conventions of the particular field supply the standards for argument evaluation. The outcome of the deliberation affects more people than just the participants (Zarefsky 2012, p. 213).
In the public sphere, participation is regulated according to conventional rules. No special training is required to participate. The rules of procedure are usually highly conventionalized. The standard of evaluation is the “social knowledge” of the public. The deliberation affects everyone within the community.
Goodnight (2012) suggests that the grounds of argument may be altered over time: a way of arguing appropriate to a given sphere can be shifted to a new grounding. This means that spheres start to intermingle. Matters of private dispute can then take on a public character and matters of public judgment can become subjected to the standards of scrutiny of the technical domain (saving the environment, the question of nuclear energy). Goodnight’s concern is that the public sphere is “being steadily eroded by the elevation of the personal and technical groundings of argument” (2012, p. 205). Operations of public administrations become increasingly technical in nature, while Goodnight finds it doubtful whether the general technical knowledge has become any more refined through time. With expanding communication technology, the media show us stories about individuals which do not enable us to make a good assessment. Politicians and experts have used arguments grounded in the personal sphere in order to display an aura of false intimacy.
Deliberative rhetoric is a form of argumentation through which citizens test and create social knowledge in order to uncover, assess, and resolve shared problems. It is always possible for the art of deliberative rhetoric to atrophy. Forms of social persuasion have taken over the art of deliberative argument, and this may make deliberative argument a lost art (Goodnight 2012, p. 189). To stop deliberative argument from becoming a lost art, argumentation theorists should uncover and critique the practices that replace deliberative argument.42
The overall dominance of technical discourses is also a concern for Goodnight. Where Dewey viewed technical discourses with more hope than skepticism, Goodnight, like Habermas, holds that the public sphere is co-opted by technical specialism and the disciplinary control of knowledge (Lyne 1983). In emphasizing this point, Goodnight’s work has sparked a recent focus on fusion discourse cases in which technical argument intrudes upon (or is harmed by) public discourse.43 This is in a way a story of necessary evils. A complex world requires specialism and the languages of technique, but instrumental rationality, so it is claimed, has also brought us to the nadir of human possibility: Auschwitz, environmental disaster, starvation, and – looming over them all – the prospects of a nuclear coda to history. The problem is that, while technical knowledge has burgeoned, it is uncertain that the general knowledge necessary to govern a republic of citizens has become any more refined (Goodnight 1982, p. 224).
While the notion of “argument field” seems to be abandoned, argumentation scholars still frequently use the notion of “sphere.”44 Schiappa (2012), for instance, compares and contrasts in his research the arguments advanced in the technical sphere of legal and constitutional debate with those used in the public sphere. He shows how the norms and practices of constitutional argument filter out specific arguments, particularly fear appeals and claims based on religious beliefs, which are prevalent in the public argument (Schiappa 2012, pp. 216–230).
James F. Klumpp, Patricia Riley, and Thomas Hollihan (1995) express their concerns about the state of the public sphere when it comes to “construct ‘community’ locally or globally, and to organize a forum that provides an ethical voice in deliberation” (p. 319). Their worries relate to the increasing cynicism of populations towards their governments, the increasing disparity between rich and poor, and the seeming impotence of government in addressing pragmatic problems. They label these conditions “the post-political age” (p. 319). Factors such as the transformation of politics into a technology of personality and the increasing poser of economic organization are seen as causes of the erosion of the political sphere.
Klumpp, Riley, and Hollihan believe that “a focus on democracy will both encourage a beneficial reinterpretation of democratic rationality and provide a clearer vision of the current crisis in the public sphere. To implement this reoriented focus, [they] extract three humanistic commitments from current critical-rational ideals.” These are (1) choice (in contrast to technical rationality and system efficiency), (2) broad community participation, and (3) a healthy public sphere. The latter dictates an effective argumentative praxis (1995, p. 320).
Another example of a study of argumentation pertaining to a (section of a) specific sphere is Goodnight and Kara Gilbert’s (2012) examination of argumentation in the medical sphere. They claim that the field of medical practice is influenced by biopolitics, an expanding domain of global controversies over health and medicine. The growth of direct-to-consumer advertising raises questions of influence upon doctor-patient communication. They make the case for critical inquiry to advance competent, clinical communication practices.
Nicholas Paliewicz (2012) argues that, in order to protect the role of the public and that of the technical sphere from duplicitous contestation, interlocutors in the public sphere should apply unique standards to evaluate the authenticity and worth of technical claims advanced in the public sphere. He suggests that three conditions should apply for technical claims to be legitimized for public use: (1) scientific communities should be in consensus; (2) scientific communities should not produce research contaminated with motives other than doing the best science; (3) scientific communities should not be corrupt in conduct. Global warming is a unique example where the claims of the international scientific community have met all three conditions. All the same, skeptics in the public sphere still have argumentative presumption in the debate (Paliewicz 2012, pp. 231–242).
Michael Hazen and Thomas Hynes (2011) focus on the functioning of argument in the public and private spheres of communication (or as they call them, “domains”) in different forms of society. While an extensive literature exists on the role of argument in democracy and the public sphere, there is no corresponding literature regarding nondemocratic societies. They explore the structure and functions of argument in three prototype models of the relationship between the public and private spheres of communication. Model 1 (societies where the public sphere dominates) represents a society where there is no clear separation between the two spheres and the public sphere dominates the private sphere. In this situation, not only is private information and communication made known to others, it is also expected to conform to the forms and logic of the public sphere and be judged by the norms of that sphere. Some theorists suggest that this model may relate in particular to authoritarian societies. Model 2 (societies where the private sphere dominates) differs in the sense that society and the public sphere are dominated by the private communicative sphere. Model 3 (societies where the private sphere is separate from the public sphere) is characterized by a clear separation between the public and private spheres of communication. In other words, the discourse standards and patterns of the domain remain separate, and standards from the one sphere are not used to judge the other.
8.7 Normative Pragmatics
Scott Jacobs, Fred Kauffeld, and Jean Goodwin are the most prominent advocates of an approach to argumentative discourse they call normative pragmatics.45 Normative pragmatics does not so much refer to an active movement with members publishing regularly together as to a type of research focusing on the linguistic pragmatics of argumentation.46 Normative pragmatics denotes a general perspective on argumentative discourse rather than a specific theoretical approach with shared methodological starting points. Broadly speaking, normative pragmatics concentrates on the norms that language users actually apply in dealing with argumentative language. The scholars involved share a preference for Gricean analysis and a dislike of Searlean felicity conditions for speech acts and theoretically induced external norms for argumentation.47
According to the outline of normative pragmatic research sketched by Jacobs (1998), argumentation theory is dominated by formal and informal models of argument which are only useful for theorists concerned with the properties of arguments these models are designed to highlight, such as premise acceptability, argument strength, and inferential form. About “interpretative meaning,” “procedural organization,” and “situational adaptation,” the models have nothing to say (p. 397). This is why a different approach to argumentation is needed, not so much as a replacement of traditional approaches, but as a corrective (p. 403). In a normative pragmatic approach, argumentation is seen as a linguistic phenomenon that should be analyzed by taking all the details of actual messages into account.
Two points are of primary importance to Jacobs in this approach. First, normative pragmatics engages in a study of the properties of actual argumentative messages: the expressive design of argumentation. Second, normative pragmatics has as its central concern the analysis and assessment of the strategic or functional properties of argumentative messages: the functional design of argumentation.
According to Jacobs, the problem of reconstructing arguments has been dealt with in argumentation theory as a problem of refashioning stated propositions, filling in missing premises, and drawing out implied conclusions, without enough sensitivity to the “total message” that is conveyed. Argumentation scholars tend to treat vagueness and other complexities not so much as parts of the message but as hindrances that should be overcome to get to an adequate interpretation. Jacobs prefers seeing these interpretive problems of communication as an analytic puzzle, “not as a barrier to analysis, not as a predicament, but as a thing to be analysed, as a fact to be explained” (1998, p. 398).
For Jacobs the “words are not the message,” and the message is not what has been literally said (1998, p. 398).48 The information a message conveys is not limited to what can be extracted from the sentences by relying on rules of syntax, semantics, and logic – and the information that can be gained by other means should not be discounted or dissolved. When people interpret a message, they construct a context of assumptions and inferences that makes sense of what is said, of what is not said but could have been said, and of how and when all of it is said. The words and sentences are simply part of an assembly of cues that people use to construct the message. The context of interpretive assumptions and inferences plays a part in providing the message. By means of a series of examples, Jacobs shows how meaning is conveyed and how this meaning is “triggered” by the pragmatic assumptions people rely on in reconstructing a message.
Apart from an expressive design , arguments have a functional design : “Their meanings are implicated in chains of social and cognitive consequences that have a bearing on the deliberative process” (Jacobs 1998, p. 400). Argumentative messages may be designed either to encourage or to discourage critical scrutiny of the justification of positions and alternative positions. According to Jacobs, there is a close connection between the expressive design of messages and their functional design: “Much of the functional design of arguments has to do not just with what is said when, but with how the information gets conveyed” (1998, p. 401).
Understanding the functional design is the key to seeing what makes a contribution useful or obstructive to the decision-making process. The pragmatic problems and solutions of argumentative practice do not only relate to discourse norms (as in traditional accounts) but also to discourse strategy – they are situated at the level of inferential schemes as well as at the level of institutional procedures.49 Argumentative messages may be designed either to open up a free and fair exchange of information or to close it down. According to Jacobs, argumentation theory should be concerned with the way in which argumentative messages enhance or diminish the conditions for their own reception.
Argumentative discourse can function not merely to persuade, but also to encourage mutual, voluntary, free, comprehensive, open, fair, impartial, considered, reasoned, informed, reflective, and involved engagement. On this view, the problems of how to determine the substance of good reasons, the form of good reasoning, and the status of any conclusion are all, to a large degree, left open to those deliberating the issue. (Jacobs 2000, p. 274)
From the perspective of normative pragmatics, the effectiveness of argumentation is to be judged in terms of whether the discourse puts the interlocutors in a position to decide if the claims that are made should be reasonably accepted or rejected. The effectiveness is not to be judged in terms of whether or not the interlocutors accept a claim, or even whether they come to agree on its (un)acceptability. This change of standard involves a decisive departure from the identification of argument functions with the intentions and interests of individual arguers (Jacobs 2000, p. 275).
According to Jacobs, so far neither the rhetorical nor the dialectical tradition of analysis has fully capitalized on their common insight that argumentation occurs as a discursive process. He believes that normative pragmatics provides a third term (next to dialectic and rhetoric) that might synthesize the differences between dialectical and rhetorical theory in a way which saves the central insights of both (2000, p. 262).
At the heart of a rhetorical analysis lies an emphasis on rhetorical design of messages. In modern rhetoric, however, all types of symbolic inducements tend to be seen as arguments. Without systematic theoretical modeling, says Jacobs, it therefore looks like there is nothing systematic to model. Dialectical theorists, on the other hand, have tended to see nothing but arguments in messages. According to Jacobs, they are inclined to neglect information that does not express assertive force, propositional content, and canonical inferential structure. And when they extend their interests to ordinary language, they take all too readily (and literally) any utterance as (directly or indirectly) expressing an assertion in declarative sentence form (Jacobs 2000, p. 264). This is one of the real dangers involved in the dialectical tradition, especially since dialectical theory looks towards logic for its conceptualization of message form and content: there is a strong impulse to “rationalize” messages in ways that overlook strategic technique and a tendency to describe what is being said in terms of normative models of what should be said – or else to ignore it altogether. Either way, when messages are described in presumptive model form, nonargument and bad argument tend to get ignored. According to Jacobs, normative pragmatics offers a perspective on argumentative discourse that overcomes these problems.
Beth Innocenti Manolescu (2006) claims that a normative pragmatic perspective offers a more complete account of rhetorical strategies like appealing to emotions in argumentation than does a pragma-dialectical, informal logical, or rhetorical perspective alone. In her view, appealing to emotions in argumentation may be relevant and non-manipulative. It can be analyzed as a strategy that creates “pragmatic reasons.” She illustrates the explanatory potential of normative pragmatics by analyzing and evaluating the argumentation in Frederick Douglass’s What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. In this endeavor, she broadens the concept of argumentation considerably.
A normative pragmatic perspective on appealing to emotions in argumentation has a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other approaches. First, normative pragmatic researchers assess emotional appeals as they are actually presented rather than after first reconstructing the discourse as a premise-conclusion complex. They do not define argumentation as something to be abstracted from a discourse but as an activity that may involve not only reason giving but also a host of other strategies, such as appealing to emotions, vividly describing, repeating, and so on, which a theory of argumentation ought to explain (Jacobs 2000, p. 265).
A second characteristic of normative pragmatics is that discourse strategies are taken to create pragmatic reasons. A distinction is made between reasons given in an argument and reasons created by an act. Reasons given yield what is normally considered putting forward argumentation. Reasons created by an act are the pragmatic reasons involved in the act. Pragmatic reasons are created by means of certain strategies.
Innocenti Manolescu mentions a few examples of strategies that create pragmatic reasons. One is alluding to an authoritative document, like the American Declaration of Independence. When confronted with such a document, the addressees may reason that (other things being equal) they cannot deny the premise without risking criticism for ignorance about this specific authoritative document. This is a pragmatic reason for acknowledging premise adequacy. Another strategy an arguer can use is reason giving. What pragmatic reasons does the strategy of reason giving create for addressees to adhere strongly to an antislavery position? Other things being equal, an addressee cannot deny the conclusion without taking the risk of being criticized for being irrational. Denying the conclusion would be a fallible sign that the addressee does not “see” a logical connection between the premise and the conclusion, and we may presume that the addressee wants to appear to hold a rational position. Thus the strategy (or act) of reason giving creates (or gives) a pragmatic reason to addressees for holding the standpoint.
Jean Goodwin does not provide any definitions or explanations of normative pragmatics but restricts herself to exploring “rather experimentally” what normative pragmatics might look like (2005, p. 100). The result of her exploration is that normative pragmatics proves to be a description of norms actually used by arguers in different contexts. Goodwin examines the practical strategies arguers use to establish adequate starting points for their arguing. Following the rhetorical tradition, she takes up normative pragmatic case studies of premises in two contexts: forensic (courtroom) arguing and deliberative (public policy) arguing. In a forensic situation, the norm for premise adequacy in closing arguments is strict: representations of facts “must be based solely upon the matters of fact of which evidence has already been introduced” (Goodwin 2005, p. 101). In a deliberative context, premises are adequate when they are “beyond criticism” (Goodwin 2005, p. 109). However, what makes a premise beyond criticism appears to vary.
In her provocative essay “Argumentation has no function,” Goodwin (2007) turns against what she calls functionalist accounts of argumentation. According to such accounts, arguments should be understood and assessed by considering the functions they perform. Goodwin maintains that argument has no determinable function in that sense, and even if it did, that function would not ground norms for argumentative practice.
Fred Kauffeld relies on a Gricean account of speech acts connected with a combined dialectical and rhetorical view of argumentation. He is especially interested in the way in which in everyday verbal interaction a burden of proof is incurred. According to Kauffeld (2009), a burden of proof is a special kind of probative obligation. Probative obligations are incurred in conformity with the Principle of Pragmatically Incurred Obligations: in serious human communication, pragmatically necessary presumptions are strategically engaged by openly manifesting addressee-regarding intentions and, thereby, incurring corresponding obligations (p. 8).
Kauffeld (1998) warns against the transference of a legal concept of presumption to other (ordinary) kinds of argumentation, such as deliberation about future acts and policies. Comparison of the pragmatic characteristics of the illocutionary acts of accusing and proposing reveals important differences in the ways presumptions prompt accusers and proposers to undertake probative responsibilities and also points to corresponding differences in their probative duties. This leads to the question of whether the distribution of probative responsibilities in deliberative argumentation responds to considerations which differ fundamentally from those applying to judicial argumentation (Kauffeld 1998, p. 259).
After having given an analysis of the illocutionary acts of proposing and accusing, Kauffeld observes some basic similarities between the genesis of the burdens of proof in the two types of situations (deliberative argumentation and judicial argumentation). Characteristically, in both proposing and accusing, argumentative responsibilities are undertaken because doubt, disagreement, distrust, or opposition stands to impair the efficacy of the statements concerned. The problems which typically animate proposing and accusing arise because the presumption of veracity – upon which statements fundamentally depend for their efficacy – does not carry enough practical weight to fulfill the speaker’s purpose in the face of doubt, disagreement, evasion, or opposition.
Beyond these basic similarities, there are deep differences in the genesis of probative responsibilities in proposing as contrasted with accusing. First, there is an essential difference in how probative responsibilities are incurred in these illocutionary acts. The proposer openly takes on a burden of proof as part of what is essential to the performance of the illocutionary act of proposing; the accuser typically incurs probative responsibilities as a consequence of what he or she must do at a minimum to make an accusation. Second, a contrast should be noted in the nature of effects aimed for in the actions typically performed by speakers in these two types of communicative exchanges. The proposer characteristically tries to induce tentative consideration from the addressee; the accuser characteristically tries to impose an obligation on the party that is addressed. Thus, the inception of probative responsibilities in these two kinds of illocutionary acts differs both with respect to how the burdens of proof are incurred and with respect to the nature of the considerations which generate probative burdens (Kauffeld 1998, p. 260).
8.8 Argumentation in Persuasion Research
In Persuasion, his influential monograph, Daniel O’Keefe (2002) defines persuasion as “a successful intentional effort at influencing another’s mental state through communication in a circumstance in which the persuadee has some measure of freedom” (p. 5). In this definition, “mental state” can be equated with attitude: “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favour or disfavour” (Eagly and Chaiken 1993, p. 1). Persuasion research focuses on attitude change . However, because of the practical aspirations of this kind of research, its end goal is not just attitude change but attitude change with a view to changing behavior.
Persuasion research is carried out in a variety of fields and disciplines, including communication studies. Most persuasion research is experimental: persuasive effectiveness is studied under systematically controlled conditions (O’Keefe 2002, p. 169). Not many full-fledged theories of persuasion have been developed, let alone a general unifying theory.
In principle, persuasion research can be about any communicative factor which may be of influence to attitude change. Argumentation is just one of them. In his monograph, O’Keefe gives a systematic description of a series of factors that are possible determinants of attitude change: source factors (Who attempts to persuade?), message factors (What is said in the persuasive attempt?), and receiver and context factors (Who is persuaded in what situation?).
On closer inspection, the messages studied in the category “message factors” are predominantly argumentative, while the factors examined in the other two categories are only indirectly related to argumentation. Nevertheless, most persuasion researchers do not acknowledge the argumentative character of the messages under investigation. In persuasion research, hardly any reference is made to argumentation theory that could shed light on the crucial role of argument types, argument strength, and other factors theoretically accounted for in argumentation theory.50
In message factor research, three types of research can be distinguished: “message structure” research, “message content” research, and “sequential strategies” research. Message structure research includes, for example, studies regarding the order of arguments. Several empirical studies have been carried out to examine the relative effectiveness of specific ways of ordering the arguments. One of these ways is climax ordering versus anticlimax ordering. The choice between these two ways of arranging the arguments in a message seems to be of little consequence: varying the order makes hardly any difference to the overall persuasive effectiveness. Only in one study the climax order proved to be more persuasive, in a statistically significant sense. When nonsignificant differences were found, the direction of effect has generally (but not always) favored the climax order, but the observed differences were only small in every case (O’Keefe 2002, p. 216).
In some other message structure studies, the focus is on omitting the conclusion: Is leaving out the conclusion (the standpoint) in the presentation of a persuasive message an effective technique? Intuitively, there seem to be good reasons in favor of each of the alternatives (O’Keefe 2002, p. 216). One might think, for instance, that making the conclusion explicit would be the best presentational option because receivers would then be less likely to misunderstand the point of the message, and being clear can be of importance in the persuasive process. On the other hand, if the communicator simply supplies the premises for a conclusion and receivers have to reconstruct the conclusion and reasons to the conclusion in their own way, they will maybe be more easily persuaded.
Assimilation and contrast effects are perceptual distortions concerning what position is being advocated by a message. An assimilation effect occurs when a receiver perceives the message to advocate a view closer to his or her own than it actually does; a contrast effect occurs when a receiver perceives the message to advocate a position more discrepant from his or her own than it actually does. (O’Keefe 2002, p. 218)
Another type of persuasive factor having to do with message structure is message specificity. Messages can vary in the specificity or concreteness of the description of the action that is advocated. Messages with more specific descriptions of the recommended action (recommendation specificity) are more persuasive than messages providing general, nonspecific recommendations. Experimental findings show that messages with practical (prescriptive) standpoints which are formulated in a more specific and concrete way tend to be more effective than messages with standpoints formulated in a nonspecific way.
Research regarding message content is mostly about the type of argumentation that is used. An example is the research concentrating on one-sided messages versus two-sided messages. In one-sided messages, arguers put forward arguments that can be seen as direct support for their conclusion, while in two-sided messages, they discuss their own direct arguments as well as possible counterarguments against their own conclusion.51
Generally speaking, there appears to be no difference in persuasiveness between one-sided messages and two-sided messages . This means that there is no general persuasive advantage to be gained by either ignoring or discussing opposing arguments. A more complex picture emerges however if two varieties of two-sided messages are distinguished, corresponding to two different ways in which a message might deal with opposing arguments. These two types of two-sided messages have a dramatically different persuasive effect compared with one-sided messages. Arguers may mention possible counterarguments against their own claim and subsequently try to refute those counterarguments. They may also just mention possible counterarguments, without refuting them. Refutational two-sided messages in particular are more persuasive than one-sided messages. Non-refutational two-sided messages, on the other hand, are significantly less persuasive than their one-sided counterparts (O’Keefe 2002, p. 220).
A widely studied type of argumentation is “fear appeal,” which from an argumentation theoretical perspective should be seen as a special type of pragmatic argumentation: the receiver should act in a certain way because fearful consequences will follow if this does not happen. A problem in research of fear appeals is that there are “two fundamentally different –and easily confused ways of conceiving of the variation in fear appeals” (O’Keefe 2002, p. 224). One way of defining variations in the strength of fear appeals is referring to the way in which the fearful consequence is depicted (fear appeal contents): in a very vivid way or in a less vivid, toned-down version. Another way is referring to the degree of fear that is actually aroused in the audience.
The various experimental results indicate that messages with more intense (more vivid) contents do generally arouse more fear. However, influencing the receiver’s level of fear is not something easily accomplished. Furthermore, messages with stronger fear appeal contents are more persuasive than messages with weaker contents, and messages that arouse more fear are also more persuasive than messages arousing less fear (O’Keefe 2002, p. 225).
A last, typical specimen of a message content study is research concerning the effectiveness of providing examples versus the effectiveness of providing statistical analysis. In an example, some instances are described in detail, while in a statistical analysis, a quantitative summary of a large number of instances is given. The quantitative presentation is more informative than the example. The example, however, can be more persuasive. Unfortunately, the experimental results are not consistent: some studies found statistical analysis to be more persuasive than the use of an example, while other studies found exactly the opposite.52 These contradicting results may be due to the fact that in the research too little attention has been paid to the argumentative properties of these types of messages. The nature of the conclusion (descriptive or prescriptive) and the argument scheme that was used in the argumentation are, for instance, not systematically taken into account.
There is no unifying theory of persuasion that makes it possible to systematically construct testable hypotheses about the effectiveness of argumentative moves. As a consequence, most of the experimental studies of argumentation in persuasion are ad hoc.53 However, there are some exceptions in which an account of persuasion is provided. The most prominent of these is the Elaborate Likelihood Model (ELM) developed by Richard Petty and John Cacioppo (1986a). These authors specify two qualitatively different routes to persuasion. Petty and Cacioppo assume that people desire to attain correct attitudes, but that the extent and nature of their processing of persuasive arguments depends upon their motivation and ability. Elaboration refers to the extent to which people think about issue-relevant arguments contained in persuasive messages. Elaboration likelihood is high when the situation and the individual characteristics ensure big motivation and ability of issue-relevant thinking. As a consequence, the probability is high that recipients then follow the central route, which involves argument scrutiny.54 When motivation or ability for elaboration is low, attitudes are formed and changed, but now the recipients will follow the peripheral route to persuasion. The mechanisms applied in the peripheral route include cognitive mechanisms such as heuristic processing and attributional reasoning, affective mechanisms such as classical and operant conditioning, and social role mechanisms such as maintaining social relationships and favorable self-identities (Eagly and Chaiken 1993, p. 307). Attitude changes that result mostly from processing issue-relevant arguments (central route) will show greater temporal persistence, greater prediction of behavior, and greater resistance to counter-persuasion than attitude changes that result mostly from peripheral cues (Petty and Cacioppo 1986b, pp. 175–176). This would imply that argumentation leads to better sustained attitude changes.
It is not always clear whether a certain variable should be regarded as part of a central mechanism or a peripheral mechanism. Under high elaboration, a given message (e.g., source expertise) can serve as an argument (by authority), while under conditions of low elaboration, the same message can act as a peripheral cue. This means that the decisive criterion for establishing whether a message belongs to one of the two routes is elaboration, not whether a message can be seen as argumentative or not argumentative.
8.9 Argumentation in Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal argument s are analyzed to determine the strategies and effects of a variety of argumentative routines used in negotiating disagreements. How do persons start and end disagreements? How do issues change what rules participants apply? What are the effects of arguments on relationships? What are the strategies used to increase or reduce disagreements? Interpersonal arguments can occur in a variety of places: among friends, within families, within martial dyads, between coworkers, and between romantic partners. All these cases are studied.
Compared to the study of public discourse, the study of interpersonal arguments is relatively new. Broadly speaking, two types of research can be distinguished. First, there is conversation analysis of argumentative discourse that is primarily analytic. Second, there are empirical studies.
In the 1980s, Sally Jackson and Scott Jacobs conducted an ongoing research program for studying argumentation in informal conversations.55 In their research on argumentation in conversation, they offer a speech act perspective: their analysis of argumentative discourse is based on a model in which speech acts function as means to accomplish broader goals.56 Jackson and Jacobs’s research is aimed at tracing the knowledge needed to “play the game” of communication. The formalized representations of such knowledge are known as structural models of discourse. A descriptively adequate structural model provides a summary of what can be seen happening in naturally produced discourse. A structural model is explanatory if it allows the analyst to account for particular events, practices, patterns, or properties as “following from” rational applications of the rules of the game (Jacobs and Jackson 1989, p. 153).
Jackson and Jacobs start from three methodological preferences.57 Their first preference is a commitment to naturalism. The starting point of the research should be a database consisting of naturally occurring talk, instead of material invented by the researcher. Their second preference is for direct inspection of the details of actual discourse. Instead of applying categorical coding schemes that render discourse into sequences of act types stripped of details of content, Jackson and Jacobs prefer a method where concepts and categories emerge from, and can be justified by, detailed observation. Their third preference is for inductive theory building over deductive hypothesis testing. The research questions should emerge from an examination of the empirical details. A theory must account for important features of phenomena. These important features must be documented, and it should be established exactly what is puzzling about them before a theory can be constructed (1989, p. 155).
Jackson and Jacobs’s ideas have evolved from a sequencing model of argumentative discourse, via a speech act /conventional model, to a speech act/rational model. The sequencing rules model they applied in their initial investigations of argumentative discourse attempts to build a “kind of grammar of argument by locating irreducible conventions that operate directly on the surface level of conversation” (1989, p. 156). Using this model presupposes that (1) the elements of a conversation structure are utterances, (2) utterances can be categorized into types of speech acts, and (3) the succession of utterances in conversation is determined by rules specifying what speech act types may meaningfully and appropriately follow a given speech act.
The sequencing rules model most prominent in Jackson and Jacob’s writings follows from the turn-taking model developed by conversation analysts Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974). It makes use of the idea of “adjacency pairs.” Adjacency pairs are conventional pairings of utterances, such as question-answer and request-grant. These pairs exhibit two properties of sequential structure: conditional relevance and a structural preference for agreement. The adjacency pair concept provides the basis for distinguishing broader structural patterns, such as “presequential expansions” and “embedded expansions.” According to Jackson and Jacobs, with the help of this model, argument can be seen as a kind of “repair and prepare” mechanism, designed to regulate the appearance of disagreement in a rule system aimed to prefer agreement. This way of modeling argument provides a generative mechanism flexible enough to avoid the more obvious anomalies of chain models of interaction applied in group discussion research. The concept of “structural expansion” also provides a way of studying the various organizational functions arguments might serve (Jacobs and Jackson 1989, p. 158).
Gradually Jackson and Jacobs became convinced that a purely structural analysis of argumentative conversation faces a number of problems. First, various kinds of coherent replies to first pair parts do not fit the category of a second pair part. Second, the concept of an “adjacency pair relation” does not provide an adequate basis for identifying pairs: there is no principled way of identifying which pair parts should be paired together and which should not be paired. Third, the adjacency pair analysis cannot explain what types of utterances can and cannot initiate an adjacency pair. Fourth, a sequencing rule model has no principled way of determining what utterances can and cannot be structurally subordinate expansions. And finally, there is an apparently limitless diversity of sequential expansions. The consequence of this is that no taxonomy of patterns can ever encompass all possible patterns (Jacobs and Jackson 1989, p. 161). These empirical problems involved in a sequencing rules approach suggest the need of a model attentive not only to structure but also to function – not only to performance but also to interpretation. Sequencing rules phenomena should be grounded in functional communication concepts provided by speech act theory (1989, p. 161). 58 Jackson and Jacobs call the functional model that is needed the speech act/conventional model.
Two aspects of the speech act perspective are particularly important: the idea of felicity conditions and the notions of communicative intention and illocutionary force. Felicity conditions offer a more principled basis for explaining the bonding or pair parts in adjacency pairs. According to Jackson and Jacobs, the first pair part and its second pair part will always have mirror-image felicity conditions. Felicity conditions not only structure pairwise bonding but also define presequences.
One problematic aspect of the speech act/conventional model is that people do not generally interpret and respond to others in terms of types of acts being performed, but in terms of perceived goals and plans of the communicator: ordinary conversation relies on assumptions about goals and plans as the basis for connections between utterances. This is the reason why Jackson and Jacobs opt for a rational version of the speech act model, the speech acts/rational model, in which conversation is seen as “a process of coordinating plans and negotiating meaning rather than as product of people interlocking their rules for issuing and interpreting actions” (Jacobs and Jackson 1989, p. 164).59 Viewed from the perspective of this model, speech acts are conventional means for achieving goals that may themselves be subgoals in a broader structure of plan (p. 165). Over the years, Jackson and Jacobs’s work in discourse analysis has developed in this way closer to the pragma-dialectical perspective of van Eemeren and Grootendorst, with whom they collaborated on the monograph Reconstructing Argumentative Discourse (van Eemeren et al. 1993).
Robert Trapp (1990) has developed a model that describes interpersonal arguments as serial arguments. A serial argument consists of a series of argument episodes that are in some way related to one another. An argument episode begins with perceived incompatibility between participants. This incompatibility leads to confrontation. The confrontation leads to inventing and editing arguments and, eventually, to the actual process of arguing.
According to Trapp, interpersonal arguments have consequences that include argument resolution, positive or negative effects on relationships and self-concepts, conflict escalation or de-escalation, and possibly even physical violence. The consequences of argument episodes can be thought of as stopping places in the process. Arguers simply move from these stopping places back to antecedents and start the process over again (Trapp 1990, p. 51).
Kristen Johnson and Michael Roloff (2000) investigate how adopting the role of initiator versus resistor impacts experiences with and perceptions of a serial argument. The results of a survey they conducted of undergraduates in dating relationships indicate that initiators report that the initial argumentative episode resulted from an urgent need for action, that they planned what they would say prior to the confrontation, and that they were demanding while their partners withdrew from the interaction. Regardless of an individual’s argumentative role, the more times a serial argument had occurred, the more predictable or “scripted” the content of each episode was perceived to be. However, among resistors, the more times a serial argument had occurred, the less resolvable the argument was perceived to be and the more harmful it was seen to be to the relationship.
Pamela Benoit and William Benoit (1990) describe interpersonal arguments from the point of view of the participants in interpersonal argumentation. What do people mean when they say that they are having an argument? With whom are arguments transacted? How do persons get into arguments? How do they get out of arguments? The authors emphasize that in personal communication arguers must find ways of establishing cooperation, so that their relationships are not entirely chaotic.
Daniel Canary focuses on arguments between marriage partners. He wants to know how couples within marital dyads resolve disagreements. The marital dyad is one type of relational category within the broader classification of personal communities. Canary describes marital dyads according to goals, motives, topics, and power control. He also describes the arguers themselves and suggests how their personality traits, relationship histories, and the type of relationships provide clues about the type of argumentation that will take place between married couples.
One way to observe argument between couples is to utilize a system that directly assesses how individuals and couples develop their ideas. Canary developed a taxonomy based on empirical examinations, the Conversational Argument Coding Scheme (Canary et al. 1987, 1991). This taxonomy includes six major categories of interpersonal argument.
Starting points (1) are positions the arguer wants the other to accept in the interpersonal exchange. Starting points include statements of belief or opinion as well as statements that call for discussion or action. Starting points are supported with developing points (2). Developing points can consist of elaborations, which are statements that support other statements by providing evidence or clarifications or other types of sustaining elements. Showing agreement to someone else’s idea or showing understanding (without agreement) indicates growing closer in terms of ideas. These messages are therefore called convergence markers (3). This category includes statements that indicate agreement and statements that indicate recognition or understanding of someone else’s point. Their opposite is messages indicating nonacceptance of the other’s views. These are called prompters (4) because further communication is needed if convergence is to be achieved. Among the prompters are the objection (denying the truth or validity of other statements) and the challenge (a message presenting a problem, question, or reservation that must be addressed to reach agreement). Delimiters (5) are messages that contextualize or limit the discussion topic. Among the delimiters is the “frame,” a message that provides a context for or qualification of another message. Finally, there are behaviors that have no immediate argument function and are labeled nonarguments (6).
Canary’s coding scheme can be used as an addition to conversation analysis. Coding the individual messages in transcriptions of argumentative discourse can be helpful in characterizing and explaining the course of argumentation. Canary and Sillars (1992) compare the arguments of satisfied and dissatisfied couples to see whether there is a link between interpersonal argument and marital satisfaction. Satisfied and dissatisfied couples differ in their use of argument structures. Satisfied couples enact, for instance, a larger percentage of argument structures than dissatisfied couples do. Dissatisfied couples appear more likely to break off arguments or shift to other issues.
Harry Weger Jr. (2001, 2002, 2013) examines the merits of reconstructing problematic interpersonal conflict behavior as a violation of pragma-dialectical rules for critical discussion. Dialectical reconstruction of interpersonal conflict behavior sheds light on the ways in which fallacies influence not only the course of a critical discussion but also the state of the personal relationship and the perception of outcomes by arguers. Conflict sequences such as cross-complaining and demand/withdraw are shown to be problematic because they prevent parties from resolving their difference through rational dialogue.
Barbara O’Keefe and Pamela Benoit are among those who study how individuals develop argumentative competence, focusing on argumentation as a set of acquired skills.60 If we know more about how and when these skills are normally acquired, we can design more effective pedagogy and training. O’Keefe and Benoit (1982) study the role of discourse in children’s disputes, especially in argumentative interaction. Opposition is a common feature of social interaction among children. Children do not need to learn to disagree: disagreements originate spontaneously and frequently in interactions among even the youngest children. O’Keefe and Benoit claim that children are competent arguers, since the basic skills that equip them to participate in conversation also equip them to conduct arguments.
According to O’Keefe and Benoit, “premature assumptions of developmental difference are quite dangerous, as the recent history of developmental psychology will attest” (1982, p. 154). They emphasize that a great deal of research has been done “to show that young children can in fact do perfectly well many things Piaget (and others) have claimed they are incompetent to do” (p. 154). O’Keefe and Benoit concluded from their study that “it is precisely in borderline cases that a given attribute of arguments is likely to be displayed most clearly.” “Attending solely to paradigm cases,” they say, “can blind the analyst to the operation of multiple attributes and processes” (p. 161). It appears that disputes may be conducted in a variety of modes, that verbal exchanges are one such mode, and that within the same dispute, different modes of dispute may be employed, concurrently or successively. Thus, in ordinary usage, argument is “an intrinsically fuzzy concept that can be appropriately applied to a wide range of activities” (p. 157). Where some researchers might be inclined to see fuzziness as a predicament to be solved by increasingly precise definitions and distinctions, O’Keefe and Benoit advocate seeing fuzziness as a fact to be explained.
Dale Hample (2005) is interested in the preconceptions language users have about what they are doing when arguing. He calls these preconceptions argument frames. Argument frame s summarize some of people’s leading expectations about the activity of arguing. Hample distinguishes three general categories of frames. One’s primary frames are focused on oneself and one’s life goals in the moment. A person might make an argument to avoid an errand or to encourage a loan and might notice only that sort of utilitarian purpose for arguing. A primary frame is defined as being in play when the self’s desires are the foci. Hample specifies four such frames: utility (using an argument to one’s advantage), dominance (arguing to display power over the other), identity (arguing to display some feature of self), and play (arguing for entertainment).
The second group of frames involves whether and how one connects with the other arguer. In an interactive argument, another active person is present who brings another set of motives and plans to the episode. However, people do not always acknowledge the other person in what we might loosely call a “genuine way.” Sometimes, the other might just as well be inanimate and is apparently seen only as a foil, a means or obstacle to achieving one’s goals. So the first theoretical issue in this second kind of frame is whether or not the arguer even arrives at this stage. Thus, we examine blurting (speaking without planning) because blurts come simply out of cognition without alteration and perhaps without any adaptation to the other arguer’s personal reality. Blurters never make use of the second sort of frame because they do not connect their own goals to those of others. Other arguers do. For people who do make a conscious or unconscious effort to conjoin their own impulses with other’s needs and rights, a key question is whether the attempted connection is cooperative or competitive. Both require genuine notice of the other person. However, cooperation is regarded as displaying a more sophisticated understanding of what people do when they argue.
The degree to which one expects that arguments are “civil” is a measure that straddles the second and third set of frames. Seeing arguments as uncivil and brutish is partly connected to whether one frames arguing as permitting polite cooperative interaction. But civility is a key part of an advanced third frame as well. The third frame is the one that requires reflective consideration, a thoughtful theory of arguing. Arguers may intellectualize the activity of arguing. If they do so well, they achieve or approach the views about arguing that are held by argumentation professionals, particularly scholars. The conceptualization and operationalization of the third frame derive from the frank bias that scholars are correct about the nature of argument and that ordinary actors are quite often wrong (Hample 2005; Hample et al. 2009).61
Mark Aakhus (2003) investigates from a pragma-dialectical perspective how dispute mediators handle impasse in the renegotiation of divorce decrees by divorced couples. Based on an analysis of mediation transcripts, he identifies three sources of impasse and three strategies for handling impasse. The problem lies not so much in the disputant’s arguments but in the discussion procedures dispute mediators use to craft the disputant’s argumentation into a tool to solve conflict. The moves of the mediators are understood as a practice of reconstructing argumentative discourse that is neither naïve nor critical but uses reconstruction as design.
Robert Craig and Karen Tracy study the use of argument concepts as meta-discursive framing devices. In Craig and Tracy (2009), they examine the discourse of oral arguments in three appellate court cases and testimony in legislative hearing, all on the question of same-sex marriage. Metalanguage is used with relatively high frequency and serves important pragmatic functions in the appellate courtroom. Speakers in the appellate courtroom typically frame their discourse in terms of presentation and discussion of arguments. As indicated by their use of logical connectives, speakers in a legislative hearing also frequently make arguments, but they typically frame their discourse in terms of self-expression (p. 49).62
Communication and rhetoric are related disciplines; some see them even as one and the same. In fact, communication theory is broader, ranging from interpersonal interaction to mass communication. Rhetoric has its roots in antiquity and is still firmly connected with these roots.
In the United States, the National Communication Association (NCA), founded in 1914, is the largest national organization to promote scholarship and education in communication and rhetoric. The American Forensic Association (AFA) concentrates in particular on academic debate programs. Together, NCA and AFA organize a Biennial summer conference in Alta, Utah. AFA’s journal Argumentation and Advocacy publishes articles on argumentation and debate. In other journals published by NCA, such as the Quarterly Journal of Speech and Communication Monographs, papers on argumentation appear also regularly.
During the first century of American colonization, education seemed dominated by the writings of Peter Ramus. By 1730 there was a turn to the classical tradition. Much later, under British influence, American rhetoric became fully Aristotelian. The first complete American rhetoric was that of John Witherspoon: “Based primarily on classical rhetoric, Witherspoon interpreted these principles [of rhetoric] in the light of the philosophy of his own time” (Guthrie 1954, p. 51). During the nineteenth century, there was considerable interest in public address. The English treatises dominating the field were those of John Ward, George Campbell, Hugh Blair, and Richard Whately (Guthrie 1954, p. 80).
According to Baker and Huntington (1905), conviction and persuasion are complementary, “one being the warp, the other the woof of argumentation” (p. 10). In the subtitle of a collection of essays on the relationship between dialectic and rhetoric, The Warp and Woof of Argumentation Analysis, van Eemeren and Houtlosser (2002) express much later a related view.
In later textbooks, a sharper distinction is made between evidence (the material argumentation is based on) and reasoning.
These forms or kinds of arguments can be seen as forerunners of the argument schemes. Concepts such as argumentation structures can hardly be found in argumentation and debate handbooks.
This interpretation of analogy comes close to Whately’s account. According to Whately (1963, p. 90), resemblances are not so much in the things themselves as in the relations of the things to other things.
In leaving out the argument from sign, Foster follows Baker and Huntington (1905, p. 56). Some of the later textbooks do include the argument from sign as a distinct type of argumentation.
The types of reasoning that are distinguished are very much like the types distinguished in Foster’s classification. Strikingly, like Foster, Freeley and Steinberg do not include the argument from authority in the classification of types of reasoning. They regard this as a type of evidence, exactly as Foster did.
This list of elements is certainly not complete; it is just given to show that, when it comes to the argumentative parts of debate instruction, not much has changed over time.
Stock issues are the issues that the affirmative side in a debate has to address in defense of the proposition.
Willard (1976) argued that in diagramming arguments, the mix of discursive and nondiscursive elements in argument is fundamentally misunderstood and too much credence is given to formal structure.
See, for example, Kaplow (1981).
In a Toulmin-like fashion, Brockriede argues that an inferential leap is necessary because in argumentation the premises do not entail the conclusion: “a person has little to argue about if the conclusion does not extend beyond the materials of an argument […]” (1992b, p. 75).
Wenzel believes that Brockriede offers a description of the kinds of situations where the study of argument will prove fruitful. He proposes to recast Brockriede’s description as follows: “The study of argument, however one construes it, is generally appropriate in situations where one or more members of a social group (i.e., persons who share a frame of reference) respond(s) to problems or uncertainties by advancing and justifying claims in order to facilitate decisions or choice among alternatives. Incidentally, among other features of interest, is the degree to which such arguers put themselves at risk” (1992, p. 122).
Hample (1992) proposes a third concept of argument: argument0. This is “the cognitive dimension of argument – the mental processes by which arguments occur within people” (p. 92). Hample maintains this is necessary because leaving out “a psychological-based understanding of argument would cause confusion, distortion, and superficiality at most” (p. 106). It is the arguer’s cognitive system that controls the meaning and therefore the outcomes of arguments (Hample 1977a, b, 1978, 1979a, b, 1980, 1981).
This conception of argumentation helps to organize the branches of the study of argumentation in communication and rhetoric, giving greater coherence to an otherwise disparate and diffuse field. It encompasses argumentation from “the personal” to “the cultural” and includes descriptive and normative dimensions.
Strictly, Wenzel does not make a distinction between three different kinds of argument: the three perspectives represent different ways of approaching argumentation.
Making use of the rhetorical notions of enactment, embodiment, and evocation, Leff (2003) demonstrates in his analysis of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” how these dimensions of rhetorical argumentation effectively enhance the persuasiveness of the text.
In other analyses, Zarefsky (1980) stresses the importance of dissociation and making distinctions in argumentative discourse. He explains Lyndon Johnson’s advocacy of affirmative action by dissociation of the phrase “equal opportunity.”
Lucaites and Condit (1999, p. 8) describe rhetorical theory from 1920 through 1960 as “an exercise in intellectual history.” Little nonclassical theorizing took place in the period before the Second World War.
After McBurney’s (1994) article was published, a popularized version of his theory has appeared in argumentation and debate handbooks.
Bitzer’s “The rhetorical situation” was included in the first issue of the new journal Philosophy and Rhetoric.
Another influential scholar discussing in the relationship between rhetoric and truth was Thomas Farrell (1999), who developed a conception of “social knowledge” that stood in contrast to “technical knowledge.” He did not go as far as Scott, who believed that rhetoric was generally epistemic. Based on American pragmatism and the social theory of Habermas, Farrell maintained that social knowledge is essential to generating social cooperation: “Social knowledge comprises conceptions of symbolic relationships among problems, persons, interests, and actions, which imply (when accepted) certain notions of preferable public behavior” (1999, p. 142).
For examples of such studies, see McCloskey (1985), Kellner (1989), Hunter (1990), and Simons (1990). This line of inquiry received a powerful boost from the 1984 conference The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences at the University of Iowa, the subsequent formation of the Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry (Poroi) at that institution, and the series of books on rhetoric in the human sciences published by the University of Wisconsin Press (see Nelson et al. 1987).
A relatively new area of research, which is still in a stage of development, is argumentation in visual communication. Cara Finnigan, for one, studies persuasive uses in photography. In Finnegan (2003), she focuses on arguing for claims about photographs’ relationship to truth or nature.
Zarefsky notes an extensive discussion at conferences on whether fields should be defined in terms of academic disciplines or in terms of broad-based worldviews (such as Marxism and behaviorism) (2012, p. 211).
For a collection of papers devoted to spheres of argument, see Gronbeck (1989).
Cf. these practices with the pragma-dialectical “communicative activity types” discussed in Sect. 10.9 of this volume.
Palczewski (2002), too, is worried about the loss of capacities of argument and reason to resolve conflicts. Following other feminist communication scholars, she critiques argument as overly violent and counterproductive. As an alternative to the war metaphors that are according to her predominant in argument, she offers the metaphor of argument as play, hoping that this will make argument more productive.
Mandziuk (2011), for one, analyzes the use of memorials and antimemorials in arguments in the public sphere. In the complex realm of public discourse and argument, memorials are supposed to commemorate a particular thread of memory. Such statues, monuments, or other objects are designed and located in public to communicate a set of values and an official version of the past. Yet, in response to such public memorials, often art and objects are located or circulated that challenge the dominant discourse about history and remembrance. These “counter-memorials” – sometimes also called “antimemorials” or “countermonuments” – function as sites of contestation, locating arguments in the public sphere that seek to discount, amend, or reinscribe the past in alternative ways, thus directly challenging the idea that a single public memory is possible.
Jacobs favors the term normative pragmatics, which was coined by van Eemeren (1990), because it “cuts across the old distinctions between rhetoric and dialectic and because it insists on attention to the uses of argument in ordinary language […]. The term points to analytic practices that are empirical in much the same sense that the broader field of discourse studies is empirical: Our theories and principles ought to be accountable to the actual practices and intuitions of natural language users” (1998, p. 397).
In the term normative pragmatics, pragmatics refers to the study of language use by means of Gricean and Searlean pragmatic approaches. Because of its strong emphasis on pragmatic analysis, normative pragmatics has a lot of commonalities with pragma-dialectics. An important difference is that pragma-dialectics also includes a theoretically motivated evaluative approach of argumentation while normative pragmatics tends to stick to a descriptive approach to argumentative language use, without any external normative regulation.
Jacobs is not entirely against felicity conditions; he doubts whether there is a strict relationship between a set of felicity conditions and a category of speech acts.
In this respect, the approach favored in normative pragmatics is similar to the pragma-dialectical approach. There are a great many other similarities.
One such institutional context Jacobs is interested in is third-party dispute mediation: “As a system of dispute resolution, mediation creates a context in which certain ways of arguing are reasonable and functionally constructive and in which other ways of arguing are not” (1998, p. 400).
O’Keefe and Jackson (1995) stress the need for paying more attention to argumentation theory to enhance the quality of persuasion research. One important consideration is that argument quality should be assessed by using norms that are theoretically motivated.
Amjarso (2010) studied this problem from a pragma-dialectical perspective, referring to the notion of “dialectical strength ” to describe the difference between one-sidedness and two-sidedness in a theoretical way.
See Hoeken (1999).
O’Keefe (2002) describes influential theories that are not about persuasion proper but have been and still are influential. They include attitude theories, cognitive dissonance theory, and theories of behavioral intention.
The Elaborate Likelihood Model can be seen as an attempt to place existing persuasion theory and research under one conceptual umbrella: most attitude theories can be viewed as exemplifying one or the other route (Eagly and Chaiken 1993, p. 306).
For other studies of conversational argument, see Craig and Tracy (1983).
Jackson and Jacobs observe that their research methods have much in common with other social scientific approaches. The differences are that the object of study is argumentative discourse and that their model is structural rather than causal in nature.
Jackson and Jacobs even believe that a speech act analysis of conversational argument makes an analysis in terms of sequencing rules superfluous.
See van Eemeren et al. (1993) for an elaboration of this idea.
A related trend in the empirical investigation of argumentation is studying argument in natural settings. Unlike the debate contest or the courtroom, these settings are usually informal and unstructured. School board meetings, labor-management negotiations, counseling sessions, public relations campaigns, and self-help support groups are some of the highly varied settings in which argumentation has been studied. Examples of such studies are Putnam, Wilson, Waltman and Turner (1986), Aakhus (2011), Aakhus and Lewiński (2011), and Hicks and Eckstein (2012).
In (2005), Craig and Tracy focus on the meta-discursive uses of “the issue” in two settings: college classroom discussions and public participation at school board meetings.
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