Models for Arguments
Good morning, everyone.
My name is David and I am good at arguing.
So welcome to our introductory lecture on argumentation.
Why do we want to argue?
Why do we try to convince other people to believe things that they don't want to believe.
And is that even a nice thing to do?
Is that a nice way to treat other human being, try and make them think something they don't want to think?
Well, my answer is going to make reference to three models for arguments.
The first model --- let's call this the dialectical model--- is that we think of arguments as war.
And you know what that's like.
There is a lot of screaming and shouting and winning and losing.
And that's not really a very helpful model for arguing, but it's a pretty common and fixed one.
I guess you must have seen that type of arguing many times--- in the street, on the bus or in the subway.
Let's move on to the second model.
The second model for arguing regards arguments as proofs.
Think of a mathematician's argument.
Here's my argument.
Does it work? Is it any good? Are the premises warranted?
Are the inferences valid? Does the conclusion follow the premises?
No opposition, no adversariality--- not necessarily any arguing in the adversarial sense.
And there's a third model to keep in mind that I think is going to be very helpful, and that is arguments as performances.
Arguments has been in front of an audience.
We can think of a politician trying to present a position, trying to convince the audience of something.
But there's another twist on this model that I really think is important;
namely, that when we argue before an audience, sometimes the audience has a more participatory role in the argument; that is, you present your arguments in front of an audience who are like juries that make a judgment and decide the case.
Let's call this model the rhetorical model, where you have to tailor your argument to the audience at hand.
Of those three, the argument as war is the dominant one.
It dominates how we talk about arguments, it dominates how we think about arguments, and because of that, it shapes how we argue, our actual conduct in arguments.
We want strong arguments, arguments that have a lot of punch, arguments that are right on target.
We want to have our defenses up and our strategies all in order.
We want killer arguments. That's the kind of argument we want.
It is the dominant way of thinking about arguments.
When I'm talking about arguments, that's probably what you thought of, the adversarial model.
But the war metaphor, the war paradigm or model for thinking about arguments, has, I think, negative effects on how we argue.