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.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Sign Away Our Sovereignty

The UK's highest court ruled last week that two British men (one a former employee of Imperial College) may be extradited to the United States. The court did not immediately rule on whether the two men could appeal the decision to the House of Lords, Britain's highest tribunal.

If certification is not given by the High Court, then the appeal stage to the House of Lords will not go ahead. After that extradition is a real possibility within a short space of time, as previous cases have shown. On the other hand, if permitted, the legal team will have 14 days to argue over two points of law surrounding the extradition decision, namely those concerning Military Detention and Rendition. Failing that, the last appeal stage is to the European Court of Human Rights.

In both cases, a lower court judge allowed extradition after receiving assurances from US authorities that they would not seek the death penalty, put the men before military tribunals or declare them "enemy combatants," this coming from the administration that brought you the likes of the illegal war in Iraq, the extra-judicial procedures of Extraordinary Rendition, the pictures from Abu Gharib prison and the injustices of the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

Lawyer for both men, Edward Fitzgerald argued that there was "a real risk of fundamental injustice" that their basic human rights will be abused, despite the assurances from US authorities.

Without any requirement of prima facie evidence, former Imperial College employee Babar Ahmad is accused of running websites inciting murder, urging holy war and raising money for the Taliban, while Haroon Rashid Aswat faces charges of plotting to set up a US camp to train fighters for Afghanistan. Both extradition cases were heard under a "fast track" extradition procedure under the UK Extradition Treaty 2003 that decreases the burden of proof on certain countries, including the US.

In the case of Ahmad, absolutely every piece of conduct is alleged to have been done in the UK. He has never been to the US nor did he intend to go. Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said he found it puzzling why evidence against the men, if it does exist, has not been passed on to British authorities in order to charge them in Britain.

"Since Britain has some of the comprehensive terrorism laws in the world, if there is any evidence against these men, they should be charged and tried in a British court," he said.

The British government has come under widespread pressure over the non-reciprocal nature of its controversial extradition treaty, which has yet to be ratified by the US congress after more than two years. This treaty seems to confirm that Britain is losing her sovereignty to the US and this verdict confirms that we live not in a British democracy but under a US dictatorship!

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Fear the Veil?

To ban the veil or not to ban the veil? That is the question that many European nations (and British universities!) have unfortunately got themselves bogged down tackling. Last week I attended a much needed open debate in my area of residency (East London) with regards to this issue. Whilst there were no famous figures in attendance, what the discussion did have was common folk representing a wide spectrum of the community sharing basic concerns. It was an event that any multi-cultured society would be envious of; a discussion in which many misunderstandings, fears and prejudices came to light to be dispelled for good.

One old lady, for example, stood up, faced a veiled woman and made an honest remark that epitomised the feelings of many in the room, “I have lived in this area for seventy years and the day your types turned up I was terribly shocked... You must really frighten kids that pass you. How they do not turn and run a mile I do not understand.”

However, the reality of it, as covered in the discussion, is far simpler to understand than our fears will have us believe. Why would an innocent child, not yet subjected to the prejudices and ill-founded beliefs of those around it, turn and flee at the sight of a simple black cloth? A young child knows that underneath the cloth is a person and people are understood through interaction.

As the discussion of fear continued, the issue of hoodies was raised, “Is it fair to differentiate between a veiled woman and a hooded bandannaed teen?” Who better to answer this than the local priest conveniently sporting a hoodie in anticipation of this topic, “If I was coming towards you on the street dressed as I am today, would fear cause you to cross over? Not likely. What if it were a group of veiled women? Again, not likely. What if it were a gang of teens? The reality is, unlike hooded teens, hooded priests and veiled women do not have a history or reputation of street-crime and theft.”

Towards the end, a consensus began to take shape: A society forcefully dictating that women should not wear the veil cannot rightfully claim to be better than a society forcefully dictating that woman should wear the veil. And at this point, a comment was thrown out, “What about that man who has been held in prison for the last two years because he wants to walk around Britain naked?” Funnily, the room silently agreed to let the comment go without response.

Bush Met By Protests

U.S. President George W. Bush visited Indonesia on Monday, the last stop of an eight-day post-election Asia tour that included visits to Singapore and Vietnam. Bush held talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He heaped praises on Indonesia, considered a key US key ally in the war against Islamic militancy.

"I admire your nation's diversity and its plurality. I admire your president and his commitment to reform and strengthening democracy," Bush told them with Yudhoyono at his side.

Amidst the visit, thousands of protesters ignored monsoon rain and thunder to chant anti-Bush slogans. Some protestors held banners that read "Bush is a terrorist!" and "You're not welcome here!"

Bush was seemingly unruffled and commenting on the protests surrounding his visit, praised what he said was a display of Indonesia’s democracy.

"People protest, that's a good sign," he said. "It's a sign of a healthy society."

At the joint press conference, he said that he “applauds a society where people are free to come express their opinion". He continued, "It’s to Indonesia's credit that it's a society where people are able to protest and say what they think. And it's not the first time, by the way, where people have showed up and expressed their opinion about my policies."

"That's what happens when you make hard decisions," said Bush.

Asked how he would comfort Muslims who fear that his policies target them, Bush replied: "I believe freedom is universal and democracy is universal, I don't believe it's the sole right of the United States, or the sole right of Methodists."

The US president added, somewhat comically, "I believe the vast majority of people want to live in moderation and not have extremists kill innocent people."

With security concerns paramount, Bush stayed only about six hours in Indonesia. After dinner with Yudhoyono, Bush set out for Hawaii, where he was to have breakfast with U.S. troops and visit the U.S. Pacific Command.