Speaker Series 2024 March 8th

Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation & Rhetoric along with the PhD in Argumentation Studies at the University of Windsor invite you to a talk by

Daniel Mejía S., Argumentation Studies, University of Windsor

Neutrality in Political Argument

ABSTRACT: Much of our current political debate is related to the use of (dis)qualifiers to label speeches and speakers. Journalists, analysts, politicians, and citizens use terms such as extremism, populism, and propaganda to categorize different phenomena in the public sphere. Recently, argumentation theorists have offered “neutral” definitions of the terms extremism, (Hassan et al., 2022), populism (Kock & Villadsen, 2022), and propaganda (Dutilh Novaes, 2023). In arguing for a neutral understanding of these concepts, they also reason in favor of a rehabilitation of political rhetoric that seeks to mobilize social groups.

These proposals seem to contrast with criticisms of the liberal ideal of democracy as a neutral space of neutral reasons. George Lakoff (2016) states that the liberal tradition, the concept of political debate, and the American mass media assume that all political discussions are issue-oriented and morally neutral. This assumption is false, in light of one of the conclusions of his research: “There are no neutral concepts and no neutral language for expressing political positions within a moral context.”

A recent debate in political epistemology expresses similar critiques of the ideal of neutrality in different ways (Crary, 2018; 2021; Beaver & Stanley, 2021; 2023). On the one hand, Alice Crary criticizes the "neutral argumentative model of rationality" that she believes Miranda Fricker's (2007) theory of epistemic injustice presupposes. On the other hand, David Beaver & Jason Stanley find the idea of democracy as a neutral space of reasons to be inconsistent with our discursive practices but also epistemologically problematic in that it obscures the reality of the inevitable effects of these practices.

In this presentation, I will contrast these criticisms of the ideal of neutrality with the effort to neutrally define the aforementioned concepts. Thus, I will first review the motivation for neutral definitions, and then examine their usefulness in the argumentative analysis of political discourse. I will show that both critiques of neutrality and neutral definitions share a sympathetic conception of political rhetoric, as well as a desire for a more realistic view of public discourse. Moreover, this contrast will also allow me to explore the issue of how political (not neutral) our methodology for argumentative political discourse analysis should be.


Friday, March 8, 2024

3:00 pm

Chrysler Hall North, 1163