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Explanations and Arguments Based on Practical Reasoning. ExaCt 2009 July 12 Pasadena Douglas Walton ( CRRAR ) University of Windsor. How Can We Sort Out this Problem?. In AI there is a kind of explanation called a justification explanation.

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Explanations and Arguments Based on Practical Reasoning


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explanations and arguments based on practical reasoning

Explanations and Arguments Based on Practical Reasoning

ExaCt 2009 July 12 Pasadena

Douglas Walton (CRRAR)

University of Windsor

how can we sort out this problem
How Can We Sort Out this Problem?
  • In AI there is a kind of explanation called a justification explanation.
  • But in logic it is very important to distinguish between argument and explanation [otherwise arguments can be wrongly analyzed and criticized].
  • Common how-to texts for cooking, gardening etc. combine argument and explanation using practical reasoning.
the sequence of work
The Sequence of Work
  • First we look at some argumentation schemes that represent common types of defeasible arguments.
  • Second, we look at a common sort of example of a how-to text telling how to mount a flagpole bracket to the vinyl siding of your house.
  • Third, we analyze the text to try to identify the arguments and explanations it contains.
  • Fourth, we draw some conclusions that might help us to tentatively move forward in dealing with tricky cases combining arguments and explanations.
simplest scheme for practical reasoning
Simplest Scheme for Practical Reasoning
  • Major Premise: I have a goal G.
  • Minor Premise: Carrying out this action A is a means to realize G.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, I ought (practically speaking) to carry out this action A.
argument from positive value
Argument from Positive Value
  • Premise 1: Value V is positive as judged by agent A (judgment of value).
  • Premise 2: The fact that value V is positive affects the interpretation and therefore the evaluation of goal G of agent A (If value V is good, it supports commitment to goal G).
  • Conclusion: V is a reason for retaining commitment to goal G.
argument from negative value
Argument from Negative Value
  • Premise 1: Value V is negative as judged by agent A (judgment value).
  • Premise 2: The fact that value V is negative affects the interpretation and therefore the evaluation of goal G of agent A (If value V is bad, it goes against commitment to goal G).
  • Conclusion: V is a reason for retracting commitment to goal G.
value based practical reasoning
Value-Based Practical Reasoning
  • Premise 1: I have a goal G.
  • Premise 3: Bringing about A is necessary (or sufficient) for me to bring about G.
  • Premise 2: Bringing about A promotes my set of values, V.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, I should (practically ought to) bring about A.
the flagpole example
The Flagpole Example

Attaching a flag pole bracket to vinyl siding is an easy home improvement project that will allow you to show your patriotism on your home. It’s important to install the bracket properly so you don’t damage your vinyl siding. The easiest way to install a flag pole bracket (or hanging flower pot bracket or similar) is to screw the bracket to a vinyl surface mount block. The surface mount block has a profile routed out of the back so that it will fit the siding profile. The trick to successfully installing the bracket and surface mount block is to pre-drill holes in the siding.

critical questions matching practical reasoning scheme
Critical Questions Matching Practical Reasoning Scheme
  • CQ1: What other goals do I have that should be considered that might conflict with G?
  • CQ2: What alternative actions to my bringing about A that would also bring about G should be considered?
  • CQ3: Among bringing about A and these alternative actions, which is arguably the most efficient?
  • CQ4: What grounds are there for arguing that it is practically possible for me to bring about A?
  • CQ5: What consequences of my bringing about A should also be taken into account?
next bits of text
Next Bits of Text

You want to drill a hole slightly larger than the screws you’re going to use so that the siding can move as it expands and contracts due to temperature [last sentence of bit already cited].

Vinyl siding moves a LOT when it heats and cools throughout the year. If you put a screw right through the vinyl siding it will prevent the siding from moving and therefore cause it to buckle [first two sentences of next bit].

the distinction is contextual
The Distinction is Contextual
  • It has been shown that argumentation and explanation very often use the same kind of reasoning, i.e. practical reasoning.
  • The distinction between an explanation and an argument is contextual, i.e. is based on the supposed purpose of the text of discourse of the speech exchange in a given case.
  • Textual indicators can be used to help identify abductively whether some text is meant to be an argument or an explanation, but in many instances, they are insufficient to make a definite classification.
how to draw the distinction
How to Draw the Distinction
  • The purpose of an argument is to remove doubt about some statement that is in question.
  • The purpose of an explanation is to convey understanding to the questioner concerning some statement, event or action that is taken to be factual (Walton, 2007).
  • In such a case, it is presumed that there is no doubt attached to its truth or existence as a factual event.
  • For example, when the various explanations of the Challenger space vehicle disaster were offered, it was presumed by all parties that the event really happened (Leake, 1992).
some working definitions
Some Working Definitions
  • Reasoning is a process of inference in leading from certain propositions known or assumed to be true to other propositions in a sequence.
  • A dialogical theory (Walton, 2004) models an explanation as a dialog between two parties in which one is presumed by the other to understand something, and the other asks a question meant to enable him/her to come to understand it as well.
  • An argument may be defined as a social and verbal means of trying to resolve an unsettled issue that has arisen between two [or more] parties.
a few useful references
A Few Useful References
  • Araucaria: http://araucaria.computing.dundee.ac.uk/
  • Rationale: http://rationale.austhink.com/
  • Carneades: http://carneades.berlios.de/downloads/
  • David B. Leake, Evaluating Explanations: A Content Theory, Hillsdale, New Jersey, Erlbaum, 1992.
  • Douglas Walton, ‘Dialogical Models of Explanation’, Explanation-Aware Computing: Papers from the 2007 AAAI Workshop, Technical Report WS-07-06, Menlo Park, California, AAAI Press, 2007, 1-9.
  • Douglas Walton, Chris Reed and Fabrizio Macagno, Argumentation Schemes, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008.