The Speaker Series is a joint venture of the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric (CRRAR) and the interdisciplinary PhD program in Argumentation Studies. It combines the traditional research seminars that have been a cornerstone of the Centre over the years with the desire to provide our doctoral students with a culture of innovative ideas and discussion.
Each week a researcher from within the group of CRRAR fellows, PhD faculty and students, or guests to the Centre/Program presents new research from some area of the very broad range of disciplines related to Argumentation Studies. These talks span the spectrum from those testing ideas for the first time and offering a thesis for discussion to the more polished publishable (or recently published) paper.
Speaker Series Winter 2022
“Precedent Slippery Slopes and Slippery Slopes in the Context of Precedent”
The slippery slope argument is often treated as a fallacy. Nonetheless, using or answering slippery slope worries in legal decision-making is conspicuously common. And not only that: Several authors have remarked that slippery slope arguments can often be valid, even strong, in the context of legal precedent. In this presentation, I investigate why this should be so. I argue that there is a special type of slippery slope argument, the precedent slippery slope. Understanding its mechanism also reveals why slippery slopes are so strong in the context of precedent.
“Conversations, Empathy, and Vulnerability: Topics for Argumentation”
In her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle argues that texts, tweets, social media posts, emails, instant messages, and snapchats—simultaneous, rapid-fire “sips” of online communication—have replaced face-to-face conversation, and that the consequences are impactful. She argues that our dependence on devices or “apps” has a detrimental effect on face-to-face conversations, or as she says, “the most human thing we do.” When our attention is diverted or obfuscated, our capacity for meaning making and empathy are reduced. One area wherein we are in the process of meaning making is in inquiry and research. The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans reminds us that research is a process that takes us into the unknown. As such, given that the inquirer may find themself in an unexpected place, being vulnerable in “getting it wrong” is at the heart of inquiry. In this paper (a work in progress) I will explore the role empathy and vulnerability have in a theory of learning. By extension, my aim is to generate a discussion about these two concepts with respect to their roles in argumentation theory.
Rose Marie Barrientos
“Art as Argument”
Initially met with controversy, visual & multimodal argumentation was admitted into Argument Studies, allowing the creation of a cluster where my research as art historian finds its niche. Today I propose an exploratory venture where I contemplate the possible connections between art and argumentation. Can art be argument? And if so, how is it articulated? How does it persuade? Visual and multimodal argumentation theories provide a fertile ground for these interrogations, but the nature of the art at the center of my research – contemporary artworks that are significantly different than historical art and also other forms of visual argumentation – calls for a more specific interpretative framework. Following the dematerialization of art that gave rise to conceptual practices, the artists in my study turned to economic phenomena for inspiration, using the economy as model or muse.
"Dialogical Agreement in Argument: First Thoughts"
Disagreement has long held center stage in argumentation studies. In this work in progress, I argue that agreement is deserving of much more attention in argumentation than it has received. The paper begins by reviewing some of the existing argumentation literature directly discussing agreement. I then outline what I see to be four main types of agreement before reflecting on some of the implications this new categorization has for well-known theories in the field. The paper concludes by posing some open questions and motivating areas for future research.
Visiting CRRAR Student
"The Concepts of Relativeness and Relevance in Practical Argumentation"
In the context of practical reasoning the “basic form of practical inference” has the following structure:
“I [or we] have a goal, G.
Carrying out this action A is a means to realize G.
Therefore, I [or we] ought (practically speaking) to carry out this action A.”
(Walton, 2007, p. 204)
From this basic inference, deliberation takes place in two cases. First, it occurs when agents have conflicting goals, hence the first premise is challenged. In this case, justifying a standpoint requires an appeal to “values” (e.g., “I don’t want vaccination to be compulsory, because it would threaten the individual’s freedom of choice.”) or “circumstances” (e.g., “I don’t want to be vaccinated, because I have an autoimmune disease.”) (Fairclough and Fairclough, 2012, p. 45) (examples are mine)
Second, deliberation occurs when agents agree on a goal, but one challenges the second premise that carrying action A is the best means to realize G. In this case, justification requires an appeal to a “means-goals” calculus: in what sense is A the best means? Would B be better than A? (e.g., “Herd immunity through disease transmission is a better means than vaccination to lower the risks caused by COVID.”) (Fairclough and Fairclough, 2012, p. 45) (examples are mine)
First question: What makes a proposition about some values, some circumstances, or the best means to realize a goal, a good or at least admissible justification? My answer is that what makes these propositions admissible or not in a process of practical deliberation is their relativeness to a domain, which affects their relevance in justifying a premise.
Second question: Is it possible to grasp in a systematical way the domains to which are attached the relativeness and the relevance of practical argumentation propositions? I will sketch a path in this direction, using a theory of Boltanski and Thévenot, who claim that these “forms of generality and worth” (2006, p. 16) exist, and propose a characterization of them through the concept of “polities”: a set of six definite social theoretical domains to which relate justificatory propositions involved in practical argumentation.
Political Science, Windsor
"Covid-19 Vaccines and Public Choice Theory"
During the Covid-19 pandemic misinformation seemed almost as difficult to flatten as the virus itself. Vaccine hesitancy became a wedge issue during the federal election campaign. But it wasn’t just anti-vaxxers who were spreading misinformation, it was also the media, pundits, and government. The disinformation that these groups were focused on wasn’t vaccine efficacy, but Canada’s vaccine procurement and our ability to produce a home-grown MRNA candidate. This presentation tells the story of how the only MRNA vaccine in Canada was sidelined in favour of foreign-produced vaccines, and how within Canada, non-MRNA candidates were prioritized. Using the lens of public choice theory, I will argue that political leaders were more focused on electoral success than on the public good in their procurement strategy for Covid-19 vaccines.
“Can Rational Persuasion Be Epistemically Paternalistic?”
This paper addresses two related questions about belief, inquiry, and persuasion. The first is a question about the nature of epistemic paternalism, which is, roughly, the activity of interfering in other people’s inquiry, for their own epistemic benefit. I want to provide a characterization of epistemic paternalism that is a bit different from how it is usually characterized in the literature. The second question is about rational persuasion, and whether it can ever be paternalistic, or (better) whether it can be disrespectful and prima facie wrong in the same way that at least some cases of paternalism are disrespectful and prima facie wrong. Tsai (2014) has argued persuasively that rational persuasion can in fact be paternalistic. I argue here that, while Tsai is on to something important about the paternalistic use of reasons, his central example of a paternalistic use of reasons to persuade someone in fact falls short of the ideal of rational persuasion.
“Estimating robustness of argument conclusions”
In defeasible argumentation, a conclusion that has been established on the basis of evidence can, nevertheless, be reversed when sufficient new evidence to the contrary is presented. Argumentation could continue indefinitely through a series of such reversals as long as any new considerations capable of being decisive on the matter being argued can be discovered. It is usually a goal of argumentation to resolve a difference of opinion in a principled way, and such defeasibility complicates the task by threatening to defer that principled resolution indefinitely.
In order to know when to close off argumentation, we should like to know how likely it is that the current conclusion is to stand up to future arguments. This research suggests that it should be possible to estimate that: when the argumentation is constrained in a certain way. Arguers must present what they believe to be the most weighty and robust considerations first and they must not withhold potentially decisive arguments. Under those constraints I present a model of the robustness of the conclusions based on how much elaborated an argument has been and the recent frequency of reversals of the conclusion. The resulting measure is not comparable across arguments; instead, we must make arguers “work” about as hard on defeating a conclusion as is implied by the model of robustness, and that gives us a practical way of making what has usually been called “burden of proof” concrete in an argumentative situation. The method may be applied to single person and multi-person argumentation.