One question, two answers

Posted on 13 July 12


Goodwin, Jean. “One Question, Two Answers.” In Argumentation and Its Applications, edited by Hansen Hansen, Christopher W. Tindale, J. Anthony Blair, Ralph H. Johnson and Robert C. Pinto. Windsor, ONT: Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation, 2001.

I take the assessment of arguments to be a primary responsibility of Informal Logic); certainly, it is the task that those of us in the Communication field could most use your help with. In the first section of this paper, I suggest that to deal with many of the “live” questions in argument assessment we apparently need to make reference to the activity of arguing in which the arguments are deployed. The work on these diverse questions thus raises one central question. What account can we give for the activity of arguing? Needed is what has rightly been called a theory of its normative pragmatics. At present, the only widely recognized proposals for such an account are the various dialogue theories, especially those proposed by Douglas Walton and the pragma-dialecticians. There is, however, an alternative: what I will call the design theory of the activity of arguing. Design theory takes arguing to be a self-regulating transaction in which at least some of the norms governing argument arise from the arguers’ own efforts. In the third section of the paper, I sketch the contours of design theory, in particular as it contrasts with the more familiar dialogue approach. In the fourth section, I provide some details of its success: in building models responding to the problems of argument assessment; in elucidating actual practice; and in articulating basic values. I conclude that at a minimum design theory deserves attention within Informal Logic.

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