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NATURE OF ARGUMENT. What is argument?. Monty Python sketch: “I’d like to have an argument”. definition.

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what is argument
What is argument?
  • Monty Python sketch: “I’d like to have an argument”
  • “Argumentation is a form of instrumental communication relying on reasoning and proof to influence belief or behavior through the use of spoken or written messages” (Rybacki & Rybacki, 2008, p. 3).
a form of instrumental communication
“…a form of instrumental communication…”
  • arguing is usually a means to an end, not the end itself
  • other types of interactions have terminal value, e.g., the conversation is the goal.
relying on reasoning and proof
“…relying on reasoning and proof…”
  • the essence of argument is reason-giving
  • an arguer can’t simply make an assertion; she or he must offer a reason or proof
to influence belief or behavior
“…to influence belief or behavior…”
  • arguing is a form of influence or persuasion
  • emphasis is on rational rather than emotional appeals
  • emphasis is on central rather than peripheral processing
central versus peripheral processing
Central processing: actively thinking about ideas and processing available information

reflective, analytical decision making

reading product reviews

looking up consumer ratings

seeking out objective, expert opinions

Peripheral processing: using mental shortcuts, “heuristic” cues.

habitual, reflexive decision making

relying on celebrity endorsements

giving in to brand loyalty

basing a decision on “bells and whistels”

central versus peripheral processing
focus is on disagreement
focus is on disagreement
  • Arguing focuses on disagreement, controversy
    • people usually only argue if one of them is uncertain of the outcome
    • if a conclusion is certain, inescapable, there is no need to argue
argument is audience centered
argument is audience-centered
  • arguing is audience-centered
    • we fashion arguments with specific listeners in mind
    • effective arguments are geared to the receiver’s frame of reference
    • an argument that appeals to one audience may not appeal to another
argumentation is probabilistic
argumentation is probabilistic
  • arguing is always “iffy” because there is no guarantee the other person(s) will agree
  • in argument, success is usually a matter of degree
  • the other person might convince us instead
argument is rule governed
Conventions for arguing are based on formal and informal rules

formal rules in legal argument: admissibility of evidence, exclusionary rule

formal rules in social science argument: p < .05 level of significance, scale reliability, replication

NFL challenges and instant replay

Informal rules in everyday argument

turn-taking, interruptions


requirements for evidence

ad hominem attacks

availability condition

argument is rule-governed
three perspectives of argument
Three perspectives of argument
  • Rhetorical perspective:
    • views arguments as being audience-centered
    • arguing is strategic: arguments must be adapted to the listener’s frame of reference
    • standards for evaluating arguments are person-specific, situation dependent
three perspectives continued
Three perspectives-continued
  • Dialectical perspective:
    • views argument as a back and forth, give and take process
    • arguments are multilateral, they evolve, change, and develop over time
    • involves testing arguments in the “marketplace of ideas,” assumes the strongest arguments will prevail
three perspectives
Three perspectives
  • Logical perspective:
    • presumes there are objective, universal standards for evaluating arguments
    • arguments are unilateral, complete, self-contained
    • based upon formal logic, standards for determining validity/invalidity
ethical standards for argument
Ethical standards for argument
  • Teleological ethics: focuses on consequences
    • the outcome is what matters
    • greatest good for the greatest number
    • example: lying is sometimes necessary and even desirable, abortion is justified under certain circumstances
ethical standards for argument1
Ethical standards for argument
  • Deontological ethics: based on moral absolutes
    • principles don’t change due to situations, circumstances
    • based on a priori moral standards
    • example: torture is morally wrong, abortion is murder, eating meat is immoral
ethical standards for arguing
Ethical standards for arguing
  • Clarity: making arguments clear and concise, avoiding purposeful ambiguity
  • Honesty: being candid, not relying on deceit, distortion, misrepresentation
  • Efficiency: involving the audience, making the form and content of the argument effective
  • Relevance: adapting arguments to the listener’s frame of reference
pro social view of argument
Pro-social view of argument
  • Arguing is a key ingredient in decision making and problem solving
  • Arguing gets issues out in the open; lets people know where they stand
  • Arguing is a peaceful means of conflict resolution