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Move Over, Monty Python: Tim and Jim's Argument Clinic Is Here!

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1 Move Over, Monty Python: Tim and Jim's Argument Clinic Is Here!
Tim McGee and Jim Castagnera (who release this work into the public domain) Jim can introduce us and the session. We will have people in attendance. As they file in, we will provide them with handouts. We can introduce ourselves as faculty members who have repeatedly strived, in different contexts, to teach students to read and write arguments. We are colleagues whose training in argument comes from different, albeit related, academic and professional training, with Jim being a lawyer with a doctorate in American Studies, and Tim being a recovering English professor with a Ph. D. in Rhetoric. When we taught BHP 100 together, in the fall of 2008, we realized that our notions of argument were highly compatible, and we wish to share with you some practical approaches to helping students analyze and produce the kinds of arguments that we feel are central to the academic enterprise. We, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: We grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law. This work contains links to external resources, two pieces of video that are currently available in YouTube. We do not count those external resources as part of this work that we are releasing into the public domain.

2 A Note on the Currency of Our Topic
Jim adds Just in case you are wondering about the relevance and timeliness of our topic, we thought you might like to see this article in the latest (23 April 2010) issue of Science Magazine which calls itself “The world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.” Note the date on this issue: It’s less than one month old. Also, the authors include mention and a graphic depiction of the Toulmin schema in the article.

3 Monty Python’s Argument Clinic Sketch
Jim can launch this link to a short (3 min.) version of the Monty Python argument sketch in YouTube.

4 Session Description Despite the apparent decline of reasoned debate in some public spheres, argument persists as the privileged mode of discourse in the academy where we face the ongoing need to teach students to analyze and produce arguments suited to various audiences and intentions. The presenters will argue that this obligation, while daunting, is doable, and will provide attendees with practical approaches from the fields of law and rhetoric. Participants will be introduced to stasis theory as a way to categorize arguments and the Toulmin schema as a way to help students apply critical thinking and informal logic to socially situated arguments. Tim directs the audience to read the description and then answer Q1 & Q2 on their handout. The questions that appear on this and subsequent “Notes Page” views will be printed on paper. Participants will be asked to write their answers to the questions as we proceed. At various points, we will discuss the answers the participants provide. Q1: The text on the slide labeled "Session Description” purports to describe the session. Is the text, in fact, a description? ____ Yes. ____ No. Q2: Does the text on the slide labeled "Session Description" constitute an argument? The purpose of this exercise is to introduce the audience to the “Modes of Discourse,” also known as the “Rhetorical Modes,” or, as the narratologist Seymour Chatman preferred, “Text Types.” The four modes or text types are: Description Narration Exposition Argument

5 Definitions of Argument Offered in the Monty Python Sketch
“An argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.”  “An argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.” Jim reminds the audience that our authoritative source, Michael Palin, had offered two definitions of argument, and asks the audience to answer Q3 and Q4 on their handouts. On this slide are two accounts of “argument” that appeared in the Monty Python skit that may or may not be definitions. Q.3: The text on the slide labeled “Definitions of Argument" purports to provide definitions of argument. Are the numbered texts, in fact, definitions? ____ Yes. ____ No. Q.4: In one sentence, state which of the two numbered texts is a better definition of “argument” and why?

6 Discussion of Questions 1-4
The “Session Description” is primarily descriptive. While it makes multiple assertions, it offers no reasons in support of those assertions and is, therefore, not an argument, strictly speaking. While each “definition” approximates the method of a good Aristotelian definition (genus and differens) , both fall somewhat short. The first comes closer to that standard than the second. Leave blank until audience has shared some of their answers. Sentence one contains three interconnected assertions: There is an apparent decline of reasoned debate in some public spheres . . . Argument persists as the privileged mode of discourse in the academy . . . We face the ongoing need to teach students to analyze and produce arguments suited to various audiences and intentions. No reasons are offered in support of these assertions. Sentences two and three are narrative in nature, telling the reader what presenters will do and what be done to participants: “The presenters will argue that this obligation, while daunting, is doable, and will provide attendees with practical approaches from the fields of law and rhetoric. Participants will be introduced to stasis theory as a way to categorize arguments and the Toulmin schema as a way to help students apply critical thinking and informal logic to socially situated arguments.” The net effect is descriptive and the text contains an implied argument that people who want to help student learn how to engage in the privileged mode of discourse in the academy should attend this session because the presenters will provide them with tools to do that. “The purpose of description is to re-create or visually present a person, place, event, or action so that the reader may picture that which is being described.”

7 How “Aristotelian” Definitions Work
Church: a public building, regularly used for prayer, primarily Christian. First, place the term to be defined in the next largest category, (public building), then differentiate it from other members of that category (restaurant, theater, etc.), then differentiate further (temple, mosque, etc.). Jim explains the workings of definition by means of genus and differens. While students might start with “A church is a thing “ we don’t say “a church is a thing,” even thought it is. We don’t say “a church is a place,” even though it is. We want to cut to the chase, so we place church in the next largest category that will contain it. Then we differentiate it from the other members of that category that are not churches (garages, stores, stadiums, etc.), then, if necessary, differentiate it from other public buildings regularly used for prayer (temples, mosques, etc.).

8 Aristotle Tim brings up the image of Aristotle
Here is the URL for the file on the image itself: And here are the details of the photographer (Jastrow) releasing the photo to the public domain: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.

9 Aristotle’s Minimum Requirements for an Argument
An argument must have two parts: an assertion and a reason in support of the assertion. Some of Aristotle’s examples: “She has given birth, for she has milk.” “If the war is the cause of present evils, things should be set right by making peace.” “If not even the gods know everything, human beings can hardly do so.” Here Tim and Jim can get into an argument about the relevance of Aristotle’s to this presentation: Jim: Wait a minute—what’s Aristotle got to do with it? Tim: Everything—he invented logic. Jim: He didn’t invent logic. That’s like saying Joseph Priestly invented oxygen. Tim: No it’s not. Oxygen is a naturally occurring element. Priestly discovered it. Logic is a human invention. Aristotle invented it. Jim: But existence, and identity, and non-contradiction, and transitivity are not mere human inventions. Tim: Okay, okay, let me revise my reason. “Aristotle appears to be the first person in the Western world to offer at least the outlines of a comprehensive system for codifying and evaluating a very wide range of arguments and reasoning” (2). Jim: Okay, that’s better. It actually sounds intelligent. Tim: It should. I lifted it from “The Logic Book” by Bergmann, Moor, and Nelson Jim: Is that a good book. Tim: I don’t know. The one review it got on Amazon.com said it was lousy. Of the examples: The first is an argument from signs (tekmerion) The second is an argument from opposites The third is an a fortiori argument. We may use the first and the second later in the session if time permits.

10 Organizational Preview
The Main Challenges Problematic notions of proof Confusion over validity and truth Ignorance of the modes of discourse Starting with more challenging (“higher”) stases Effective Solutions Prohibition of the term Careful policing of vocabulary Introduction to the modes of discourse Baby steps: Definitional, then Value arguments Jim tells how our session will first attempt to address four of the most basic conceptual problems that students bring to the table of academic argument.

11 Notions of Proof as a Mixed Blessing
“All art constantly aspires to the condition of music.” –Walter Pater “All argument aspires to the condition of deductive certainty.” –Tim and Jim “Therefore, I have proven . . .” –Student Author Solution: If it’s not a math class, the words “proof” and “prove” should be banned, as few arguments actually achieve deductive certainty. Tim talks through this slide. The first, a famous pronouncement by a 19th century British author and art critic, may or may not be a reasonable claim. If time permits, we’ll look at what he offered as a reason in support of that claim. (A pointer to the text in which that dictum occurs is included in the Works Cited slide.) Meanwhile, we contend that deductive certainty is a kind of gold standard that operates in the background of both everyday and academic arguments. That has both good and bad consequence. A good consequence is that we can then turn to the study of deductive logic, something that it eminently teachable and learnable, as a way to improve students’ abilities to analyze arguments and produce effective ones. A bad consequence is that novices go around saying that they are going to “prove” that such and such is the case, when, in fact, it is highly unlikely that they will actually prove anything. While this might seem like some sort of cruel Catch-22, encouraging students to aspire to something that is banned, there is a way around the problem, provided by the British philosopher of language, Stephen Toulmin, but before we go there, let’s do a little work on deductive logic, a little work on stasis theory, and then bring the Toulmin Schema in to resolve the apparent paradox of aspiring to deduce what can’t really be deduced. But before we leave, we can support the prescription to proscribe “proof” and “prove” with an appeal to authority. In a recent Oxford UP publication called Write Like a Chemist, the authors assert “Words such as truth and prove seldom appear in scientific writing. In a computer-based analysis of 180 journal articles, prove was found only twice, and truth never occurred. Hedging words are used instead. For example, data suggest (not prove), results offer evidence (not proof), and findings (not truths) are reported” (118).

12 Some Relationships between Validity and Truth
Assertions can be true or false. Deductive argument structures can be valid or invalid. A valid structure with true premises guarantees a true conclusion. A valid structure with false premises guarantees nothing. An invalid structure guarantees nothing, regardless of the truth of its premises. Jim tells this slide. A valid deductive structure and true premises guarantees true conclusions, but students know little, if anything, about valid structures and will regularly apply the word valid to assertions, e.g., “that is a valid claim” when, in fact, they should be reserving the term “valid” to refer to a relationship among claims, not an individual claim.

13 An Invalid Categorical Syllogism
God is love. Love is blind. Ray Charles is blind. ________________ Therefore, Ray Charles is God. This “syllogism” exhibits two formal fallacies, quaternio terminorum and an undistributed middle term. Tim tells this slide. Having introduced “formal” fallacies, let’s nip that conversation in the bud, because otherwise we might get bogged down in the arcana of Greek and Latin names for bizarre forms of flawed reasoning that won’t really help our students. Suffice it to say that a valid deductive syllogism uses only three terms, and uses each term exactly twice. Knowledge of that principle will come in very handy when we are trying to “deduce” the missing premise.

14 Valid vs. Invalid Forms of Categorical Syllogisms
All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. _________________ Socrates is mortal. (Here, the middle term is “man/men”) (The “middle term” is the one that doesn’t appear in the conclusion. ) All men are mortal. Socrates is mortal. ________________ Socrates is a man. (Here, the middle term is mortal.) Jim tells the left half, and Tim tells the right half. While these two standard form categorical syllogisms look similar, the one on the left is a valid form, and the one on the right is an invalid form. We can illustrate that the one on right is invalid if we were to posit that Socrates is my pet turtle. He is undoubtedly mortal, but he is not a man. If both the premises are true, but the conclusion is false, then the structure must not be valid. The one on the right exhibits a formal fallacy called the Undistributed Middle. What that means is that the middle term, the term that does not appear in the conclusion, was never addressed in its entirety. Rather than get bogged down in what that means, let’s look at two Venn diagrams.

15 Venn Diagram Illustration
“Socrates is mortal” guaranteed. No guarantee that Socrates is a man. Mortals Men Socrates Mortals Men Socrates Jim tells this slide. Venn diagrams are handy because they not only help us “see,” literally, the structure of a syllogism, they remind us that deductive syllogisms really only provide information about whether something is or is not a member of a category. Hence, their full, formal name is Standard Form Categorical Syllogisms. The diagram on the left is the only way that can accurately represent the two premises in the Valid version of the syllogism: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. The diagram on the right is one way that the premises can be represented, but, there could have been others. We don’t have enough information in the premises “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is mortal” to determine what, if any, relationship exists between the category “Men” and the category “Socrates.” Do the intersect? Is one a subset of the other. We don’t know. Hence, we cannot conclude that “Socrates is a man” which is the conclusion that was drawn from that invalid form.

16 Argument and Persuasion Are Not Synonymous
Seduction Threats Bribery Tim tells this slide. While we are talking sets and subsets, we’d like to clear up another piece of terminological confusion. Some theorist equate argument and persuasion. We do not. We think that there is a very valuable and useful distinction that should be preserved. We consider argument a subset of persuasion. Cicero, the famous Roman statesman, lawyer, and rhetorician, asserted that argument existed on a continuum of attempts to persuade. When you want to persuade an interlocutor to you point of view, you first try argument. If that does not succeed, you try bribery. If that fails, you always have recourse to the stilleto. Argument is the form of persuasion that proceeds primarily by reasoned discourse.

17 The Modes of Discourse Exposition Description Narration Argument
This traditional approach to categorizing text types has fallen out of favor because few texts are purely one type or another. Tim tells this slide. Unfortunate consequences include students not knowing what type of text to produce when assigned to write a “paper.” If they are assigned a “report,” it really shouldn’t be an argument, because a “report,” is more properly a “narrative.” It re-ports an account of a series of events to someone who did not witness the original events. The salient feature of a “narrative” is that it reports a series of events that unfolded over time. An exposition is not an argument, but an explanation of something complex. An exposition does not need a thesis or any supporting reasons. The instructions for how to stop your VCR from flashing 12:00 is an exposition. There is nothing controversial involved. The process has some degree of complexity and that complexity is broken down into a series of simple steps. If a faculty member wants a text that includes a thesis that is supported by reasons and evidence, he or she should ask for an argument, not a “paper” or a “report.” The narratologist Seymour Chatman tried to rescue the modes by renaming them “text types” and pointing out how most texts will exhibit multiple modes, but that the various modes will be operating in the service of the dominant mode. So, the “narratio” of Classical Defense is, in fact, a story, but it is in the service of making an argument. The “narratio” tells the audience about the situation that led to the controversy as a way to establish what is at stake, and possibly define several of the key terms.

18 Stasis Theory “Stasis theory is a four-question pre-writing (invention) process developed in ancient Greece by Aristotle and Hermagoras. Later, the stases were refined by Roman rhetoricians, such as Cicero, Quintilian, and Hermogenes.” The four stases of Greco-Roman rhetoric: the facts (conjecture) the meaning or nature of the issue (definition) the seriousness of the issue (quality) the plan of action (policy). Source: Jim tells this slide.

19 Revised Stasis Theory (As presented in Writing Arguments)
Six Types of Claims Simple Categorical (X is Y) Definitional (X is Y; meaning of Y contested) Evaluation (X is a good/bad Y) Resemblance (X is like Y) Cause/Consequence (X causes Y) Proposal (We should do X) Tim tells this slide. When we ask students to write an argument, many will immediately jump up to “higher” stases such as Causal or Proposal arguments for which they lack the requisite skills. With some work, you can get them to produce decent definitional arguments, and, from there, get some of them to make reasonable value arguments. Few, if any, students can make good causal arguments simply because they are extremely difficult to make, and frequently rely upon arguments from “lower” stases. Lunsford and Ruskiewicz identify four characteristics that causal arguments tend to share: They are often part of other arguments (especially proposals). They are almost always complex. They are often definition based. They usually yield probable rather than absolute conclusions. (292-93) The extreme difficulty of making a good causal argument represents a greater problem for some disciplines than others. As Jeanne Fahnestock and Marie Secor point out “scientific articles are concerned with matters of fact, definition, and cause (Fahnestock, 1986)” (432). David Hume would have us believe no one can make good causal arguments because “cause” is not a real existing thing; it’s just a story we tell about sequence. Resemblance arguments (e.g., We shouldn’t enter a war in Afghanistan because it’s just like Vietnam) are held in low esteem in the academy, but they are extremely effective upon most audiences.

20 Definitional Argument Exercise
United States v. Microsoft , 1988 Claim: Microsoft is a monopoly Stated Reasons: Microsoft dominates the market, stifles competition, and engages in predatory pricing. Q: What’s the missing premise? Clue: The missing premise must use the two terms that have been used only once already. (In other words, the missing premise can’t use the term “Microsoft.”) Jim tells this slide. After having given the clue, asks the participants to fill in question #5 on their worksheets.

21 Microsoft Case Laid Out as a Standard Form Categorical Syllogism
MP: Any company that dominates the market, stifles competition, and engages in predatory pricing is a monopoly. mp: Microsoft dominates the market, stifles competition, and engages in predatory pricing. ____________________________________ C: Microsoft is a monopoly. Jim tells this slide.

22 Simple Categorical Argument Exercise
Argument: Harry is a British subject because he was born in Bermuda. MP: mp: Because Harry was born in Bermuda. ___________________________________ C: Harry is a British subject. MP: Anyone born in Bermuda is a British subject. Tim tells this slide. Here we see how a valid structure will provide deductive certainty from two true premises, but here we have a couple of premises, the truth of which might be a bit more debatable than that All men are mortal or that Socrates is a man. So, we have opened up a second can of worms. Fortunately, that’s where Stephen Toulmin comes in. Before revealing the MP, ask the audience to fill it in on their worksheets.

23 Stephen Toulmin to the Rescue
British Philosopher ( ) Studied under Wittgenstein. Attempts to reconcile formal logic and real world argument. Toulmin felt that “formal logic has lost touch with its application, perhaps because it has falsified reality in the interest of neatness and rigor” (Clauss 3). Logic is concerned with “the sort of case we present in defense of our claims” (Toulmin 7). “Logic is a generalized jurisprudence” (7). Tim tells this slide. Image Source: Excerpt from his Bio in Wikipedia: Toulmin held distinguished professorships at numerous universities, including Columbia, Dartmouth, Michigan State, Northwestern, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the University of Southern California School of International Relations. In 1997 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) selected Toulmin for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. [3][4] His lecture, "A Dissenter's Story" (alternatively entitled "A Dissenter's Life"), discussed the roots of modernity in rationalism and humanism, the "contrast of the reasonable and the rational," and warned of the "abstractions that may still tempt us back into the dogmatism, chauvinism and sectarianism our needs have outgrown."[5] The NEH report of the speech further quoted Toulmin on the need to "make the technical and the humanistic strands in modern thought work together more effectively than they have in the past."[6]

24 Standard Form vs. Toulmin Schema
MP: Anyone born in Bermuda is a British subject. Mp: Harry was born in Bermuda. __________________ C: Harry is a British subject. Backing: Evidence or argument to support the Warrant. Warrant: Anyone born in Bermuda is a British subject. Stated Reason: Harry was born in Bermuda. Grounds: Documents supporting the Stated Reason. Conditions of Rebuttal: e.g., Ways in which Harry might have lost or renounced his British citizenship. ___________________ Claim: Harry is a British subject. Qualifier: Limits upon force of claim, e.g., maybe, probably, etc. Tim tells this slide. The three additional parts that Toulmin adds to the Standard Form Categorical syllogism preserve the suasive force that deduction adds to an argument, but they situate the argument in a real world, social context, much like a court of law, where our audience (or opposing counsel) is likely to question the truth of the premises or bring up conditions under which the otherwise valid structure does not guarantee a true conclusion. The most likely point of attack is at the Stated Reason. Do you have any evidence to support the statement that Harry was born in Bermuda? Do you have a birth certificate? The data that support your Stated Reason are called “Grounds” in the Toulmin Schema. Furthermore, is it really true that anyone born in Bermuda is a British subject? Was it true at the time of Harry’s birth? Is it still true today? Are there exceptions to the truth of that Warrant? So, evidence or arguments that support your Warrant is called “Backing” in the Toulmin Schema. Also, what if Harry was convicted of working as a spy for the Axis powers during WWII? Would that have cost him his British citizenship? Might he have renounced that citizenship? In the Toulmin Schema, these are called the “Conditions of Rebuttal” and they might be used as a collection of “unless” provisos naming the circumstance under which we could not guarantee that Harry was a British subject. Finally, the “Qualifier” is what the authors of Write Like a Chemist call a “hedge.” Just how confident in your claim are you? Are you making a categorical assertion or might you want to qualify it with a “maybe,” “probably,” or “most likely”? In effect, it attaches a quantitative modifier to the claim.

25 From Category to Value To move “up” one stasis, from a Categorical (or Definitional) argument to an Evaluation argument, simply add a value adjective to the Y term. Categorical: X is a Y. Evaluation: X is a good/bad Y. Jim tells this slide.

26 Supply the Missing Warrant
Argument: Rider’s CBA is an excellent college because it is an AACSB-accredited college. Warrant: Stated Reason: Because Rider’s CBA is an AACSB accredited college. _____________________________________ Claim: Rider’s CBA is an excellent college. Jim tells this slide. Answer: All AACSB-accredited colleges are excellent. Have them fill in their worksheets before advancing to the next slide.

27 Warrant Supplied Argument: Rider’s CBA is an excellent college because it is an AACSB-accredited college. Warrant: All AACSB-accredited colleges are excellent colleges. Stated Reason: Because Rider’s CBA is an AACSB accredited college. _____________________________________ Claim: Rider’s CBA is an excellent college. Jim tells this slide. Answer: All AACSB-accredited colleges are excellent colleges.

28 Toulmin Schema Fleshed Out
Backing: Warrant: All AACSB-accredited colleges are excellent colleges. Stated Reason: Because Rider’s CBA is an AACSB -accredited college. Grounds: Conditions of Rebuttal: _____________________________________ Claim: Rider’s CBA is an excellent college. Qualifier: Jim tells this slide. Answer: All AACSB-accredited colleges are excellent.

29 Argument in Twelve Angry Men
Jim provides the setup for this clip. Downward angle of the stab wound. John Fiedler’s character has concerns about the explanation. The boy is 7” shorter than the father. How could he stab down into his father’s ches?. Lee J. Cobb’ character demonstrates on Peter Fonda’s. Jack Klugman’s offers a counter demonstration. Can we construct the deductive syllogism that ends with the conclusion that the boy, who knew how to use a switchblade, could not have been the person who stabbed the father? Yes, and we can do it several different ways.

30 Toulmin Schema Analysis of an Argument in Twelve Angry Men
Backing: Warrant: Stated Reason: Grounds: Conditions of Rebuttal: Claim: Qualifier: We can, and we can do it several different ways. Argument: The boy couldn’t have been the one who stabbed the father, because the boy know how to use a switch blade. Warrant: Who ever stabbed the father did not know how to use a switch blade. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Argument: The boy couldn’t have been the one who stabbed the father, the person who stabbed the father stabbed him from above. Warrant: The boy would not have stabbed the father from above. (Modus tolens) Argument: The boy couldn’t have been the one who stabbed the father, the person who stabbed the father didn’t know how to use a switchblade. (A major premise enthymeme; the warrant is given.) Stated Reason: The boy knew how to use a switchblade.

31 Works Cited Bergmann, Merrie, James Moor, and Jack Nelson. The Logic Book. 5th ed. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, Print. Fahnestock, Jeanne, and Marie Secor. “The Stases in Scientific and Literary Argument.” Written Communication 5.4 (1988): Print. Fulkerson, Richard. Teaching the Argument in Writing. National Council of Teachers of English, Print. Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruszkiewicz. Everything's an Argument. Fifth Edition. Bedford/St. Martin's, Print. Osborne, Jonathan. “Arguing to Learn in Science: The Role of Collaborative, Critical Discourse.” Science (2010): Web. 17 May 2010. Pater, Walter. “The School of Giorgione.” The Renaissance - Studies in Art and Poetry; the 1893 text. Berkeley: UC Press, Print. Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings. 8th ed. Longman, Print. Robinson, Marin et al. Write Like a Chemist: A Guide and Resource. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, Print. Toulmin, Stephen Edelston. The Uses of Argument. Updated. Cambridge University Press, Print. Hard copy of this Works Cited available for anyone who wants it.


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