Friday, 15 December 2006

1.3, Analysis: Standpoints and Argumentation

Notes taken from ‘Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation’, by Frans van Eemeren et al.

1, Identifying the Standpoint
Purpose of Argumentation: To defend a standpoint. If the standpoint is a positive (or negative) one, defending it consists of justifying (or refuting respectively) the proposition to which the standpoint refers.
Identifying the Argumentation: Identifying the standpoint is usually the first step. Once the standpoint has been determined, it is easier to figure out which utterances form the argumentation for this standpoint.

2, Indicators of Argumentation
Explicit Announcement: Sometimes speakers announce that the utterances that they are about to produce have an argumentative function (“My arguments for this are…”). Such explicit announcement, however, are the exception rather than the rule.
Indicators of Argumentation: Good examples of these are “therefore”, “thus”, “so”, “consequently”, “of course”, “because”, “since”, “given that”. As a rule, these also serve as indicators of standpoints. Other words and expressions are less obvious indicators of argumentation: “on one hand… on the other hand”, “this is evidence of…”, “on the grounds of”, “firstly… secondly”, “because of”, “ought to”, “should”, “all in all”, “in short”.
Retrogressive Presentation: The standpoint precedes the argumentation. Such indicators include “because” and “since”.
Progressive Presentation: The standpoint being defended follows the argumentation. Such indicators include “thus”, “for that reason”, and “therefore”.

3, Clues in the Context
Implicit Standpoints and Argumentation: In practice, there is no indicator of argumentation and it is sometimes not immediately obvious whether the presentation is progressive or retrogressive. If the utterance were spoken, the speaker’s intonation might provide a clue. Otherwise, the context may help clarify the function of the utterance.
Well-defined Context: May consist of utterances following or preceding the utterance whose function is unclear, or a reference to the difference of opinion that needs resolving or of the standpoint to which the argumentation is related.

4, Additional Means of Identifying Argumentation
The specific situation in which something is said and the cultural context in which it happens sometimes clarify a lot. Also, when interpreting argumentation, both general and specific background information can be important. Sometimes this interpretation requires knowledge of a specific field.

5, Explanation, Elaboration, and Clarification
Interpreting Argumentative Discourse: One should start from exactly what the speaker or writer has said. Only when problems arise in the interpretation should other clues be considered. We must always guard against letting our own opinions influence our interpretation.
“Because”: Often gives causes rather than reasons. Instead of being arguments, such utterances serve to explain, elaborate, or clarify. Importantly, whatever is being explained, elaborated, or clarified is something that is already accepted. When in doubt, it is advisable to be cautious and to treat the explanation as an argument.

6, a Maximally Argumentative Interpretation
Maximally Argumentative Interpretation: To view borderline cases as argumentation. Any utterance that, for instance, might also be just a remark or an explanation is interpreted as argumentation.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

1.2, Analysis: Argumentation and Discussion

Notes taken from ‘Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation’, by Frans van Eemeren et al.

1, Resolving a Difference of Opinion
Resolved: As soon as one of the two parties revise their original position. True resolution is reached only if both parties come to hold the same proposition on the grounds of rational argumentation.
Settling a Difference of Opinion: Different from resolving. Difference of opinion is simply set aside.

2, a Model of Critical Discussion
Argumentative Discussion: Deals with a difference of opinion in a rational way. Used to try to determine to what extent a given standpoint is defensible.
Informative Discussion: Serves primarily to convey information. Different in purpose from an argumentative discussion.
Critical Discussion: An ideal argumentative discussion aimed at resolving a difference of opinion. Takes place between a party who defends a certain (positive or negative) standpoint, the protagonist, and a party who challenges this standpoint, the antagonist. Proceeds through four stages, which are distinguished analytically in the following model:
i, Confrontation Stage: Parties establish that they have a difference of opinion.
ii, Opening Stage: Parties decide to try to resolve the difference of opinion. They also agree on the rules for the discussion and the starting points.
iii, Argumentation Stage: The protagonist defends his or her standpoint against the sometimes persistent criticism of the antagonist by putting forward arguments to counter the antagonist’s objections or to remove the antagonist’s doubts.
iv, Concluding Stage: The parties assess the extent to which the difference of opinion has been resolved and in whose favour.
Antagonist: Becomes the protagonist of a standpoint when countering the standpoint of the protagonist with an opposing standpoint.

3, The Ideal Model and Argumentative Practice
Of course an ideal model does not describe reality. And yet, real-life argumentative discussions do sometimes approach the model. Most argumentative discussions depart considerably from the model. The parties often do not go through all four of the discussion stages or not in the same order.

4, Argumentation in an Implicit Critical Discussion
Discursive Text: The sum total of all argumentation brought forward to defend a standpoint.
Implicit Discussion: One in which only one of the parties participate. Even if the other party does not explicitly participate, its point of view is still taken into account. This may, for instance, become apparent when the protagonist explicitly refers to the potential objections of a real or imagined antagonist.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

1.1, Analysis: Differences of Opinion

Notes taken from ‘Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation’, by Frans van Eemeren et al.

1, Disagreement and Argumentative Discussion
Argumentative Discussion: Essentially aimed at coming to a reasonable agreement. There is, by definition, an explicit or implicit appeal to reasonableness.

2, Explicit and Implicit Differences of Opinion
Difference of Opinion: A disagreement that always involves two parties. Explicit if both the standpoint and the rejection of it are clearly expressed. In written texts, the difference of opinion often remains implicit because only one party is expressing its views.

3, Positive and Negative Standpoints
Proposition: A certain property or quality is ascribed to the person or things referred to. Can be a description of facts or events, a prediction, a judgment, or advice. A positive, negative or neutral position can be taken.

4, Standpoints and Expressions of Doubt
Standpoint: Adopted in relation to propositions of all kinds. Whether a proposition relates to a simple matter or a complex matter, it is always possible to adopt a standpoint on it. Can vary in degree of force and scope.
Expression of Doubt: A neutral position. Adopting a negative standpoint leads to the obligation to defend that negative standpoint if it is called into question, whereas merely expressing doubt does not create any such commitment.

5, Types of Difference of Opinion
Elementary Form: Single and nonmixed.
Multiple: The standpoint relates to more than one proposition.
Mixed: Opposing standpoints are adopted with respect to the same proposition.
Complex Differences of Opinion: Single mixed, multiple nonmixed, and multiple mixed. Can be broken down into two or more elementary differences of opinion.

6, Main and Subordinate Differences of Opinion
Subordinate: May arise during the discussion about the main disagreement. Comes to light gradually, so what the two parties actually disagree on becomes clear only in the course of discussion.

7, How To Recognise Standpoints and Doubt
Standpoints: Indicated by certain phrases.
Doubts: May be more difficult to recognise than a standpoint because it so often remains implicit. There are certain expressions from which doubt can be inferred.