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Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation


The Twelfth Conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation


University of Windsor –  June 3 - 6, 2020

Call for proposals:

Abstracts (title + 150 - 200 words), free from author-identifying marks, should be sent to <> with “OSSA proposal” in the subject line by Friday, September 6, 2019.  Preference will be given to proposals that connect with the conference theme.

The programme will have room for 90 papers.
Notification of acceptance will be sent in November 2019. 

The Conference will be followed by a Summer Institute on Argumentation.

For information write to <>.

Organizing Committee:

Hans V. Hansen & Christopher W. Tindale

The range of argumentation studies continues to expand, embracing cognate fields of research and identifying new (or old) issues of import to which its findings can contribute insight. The conference theme aims to accommodate that range by focusing on the relations between three subjects that have come to the fore in recent literature.

Debate continues around the question of what counts as evidence in different contexts, that is, what sources are drawn upon to provide support for arguments. Different perspectives (rhetorical, dialectical, and so forth), and different epistemologies reflecting different approaches to knowing (like those from Indigenous communities) understand evidence in ways that are sometimes quite distinct, even lying on the margins of incompatibility. These kinds of differences often come to light in the ways people use argumentation, which can again be seen in how what is understood as “persuasion” is put into operation.

Reflecting on these three central issues—evidence, diversity, and persuasion—promises to open up important conversations and contribute to the continued expansion of our field.

Keynote Speakers:

Derek Allen

Derek Allen

University of Toronto

Evidence, Persuasion, and Diversity

My topic is the conference theme. I examine three Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) cases: a landmark Aboriginal title case and two cases pertaining to the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC). Evidential matters are prominent in all three cases. Case 1: Did the trial judge apply the correct legal test appropriately to the evidence? Case 2: Was there sufficient evidence of hate propaganda in Canada to warrant its criminalization? Case 3: Did the evidence establish that s. 251 of the CCC prevents access to local therapeutic abortion facilities? As to persuasion, the SCC was not persuaded by the argument of a lower court that Aboriginal title to the claim area concerned had not been established by the claimant, and in the other two cases there were dissenting opinions. Collectively, the cases involve various forms of diversity. These include the common law perspective and the Aboriginal perspective on sufficiency of occupation for the title purposes; the diversity of groups targeted by hate propaganda in Canada; and diverse perspectives on s. 251 of the CCC.

Jean Goodwin

Jean Goodwin

Communication Studies
North Carolina State University

Should climate scientists fly?

I will be examining a small eddy within the ocean of the climate controversy: the arguments circulating around the question of whether climate scientists render themselves unfit for public engagement because they fly. Does the CO2 emitted when they jet to a conference impair their trustworthiness as spokespeople for the invisible fact of anthropogenic global warming? Climate skeptics have long argued that it does, and similar arguments started being pressed within the scientific community itself even before the current turn towards "flight-shaming." This debate exhibits the features that have engaged argumentation scholars working in the communication (i.e., rhetorical) traditions: unconstrained by institutions, sprawling across times and spaces, it occurs largely among strangers who cannot count on shared histories, common knowledge or mutually accepted norms. Whatever orderliness of interaction or soundness of reasoning that emerges must be due to the activities of the arguers themselves. The remains of the arguments as they got made on Twitter, blogs, news and other platforms thus provide a corpus for asking (although not necessarily answering) some questions that should interest argumentation theorists more generally: How can we identify and analyze an argument within the ocean of discourse? What account can we give of the force of the argument?  What alignment is there--if any--between the normative standards arguers metadiscursively invoke in practice and our theories, e.g. of ad hominem fallacies/arguments? What does the peculiar mix of creativity and repetitiveness of this public argument contribute to civic deliberations?

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Logic and Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences
Free University of Amsterdam

The role of trust in argumentation

According to a widespread view of argumentation, “the exchange of arguments improves communication by allowing messages to be transmitted even in the absence of sufficient trust.” (Mercier, 2016) This seems prima facie plausible: what distinguishes argumentation from pure testimony is the fact that, with testimony, the content of the message is received without reservation because the receiver trusts the sender’s epistemic authority on the matter; no further reasons to believe the content transmitted are required. By contrast, in the absence of sufficient trust, the receiver will allegedly engage directly with the content of the message being sent.

However, in order to enter an argumentative situation in the spirit of honest epistemic exchange, in particular with those one disagrees with, an arguer must have the conviction that the reasons offered by the other parties are minimally reliable. If I suspect that someone presenting arguments is in fact deliberately trying to mislead me, I will assume that the reasons being offered are not reliable, and thus will not engage with them in good faith at all. This suggests that, in the face of dissent, rather than engaging with the content of the opposing arguments from the start, an agent first estimates the trustworthiness of the source; it is only when the source is deemed to be minimally reliable that there is further engagement with the content of the argument. This suggests the pessimistic conclusion that argumentation is ineffective precisely where it is most needed (situations of diminished trust), but it also indicates ways in which argumentative situations may become more fruitful in situations of polarization: there must be a modicum of trust between the arguing parties.

Archives of Previous OSSA conferences –