Rhetorical Argumentation: Principles of Theory and Practice

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Christopher W. Tindale

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    Dedication

    for Cait, at the start of a great (ad)venture

    About the Author

    Christopher W. Tindale (PhD and MA, University of Waterloo; BA, Wilfrid Laurier University) teaches and conducts research in the areas of argumentation theory, ethics, and ancient philosophy. Since 2000, he's been an editor of the journal Informal Logic: Reasoning and Argumentation in Theory and Practice, and he presently sits on the editorial board of Controversia. He is the author of Acts of Arguing: A Rhetorical Model of Argument (SUNY Press, 1999), coauthor of Good Reasoning Matters (3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2004), and coeditor of Argumentation and Its Applications (forthcoming CD-ROM) and two other CD-ROMs, Argumentation at the Century's Turn and Argumentation and Rhetoric. Recent work of his has appeared in the following journals: Argumentation, Informal Logic, ProtoSociology, and Social Theory and Practice. In addition to teaching at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, in 2001–2002 he was a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld, Germany.

    Preface

    To be a part of the social world is to experience it as an audience, to be “in audience,” and a fundamental way in which that world addresses us is argumentatively. These are the basic premises from which the current account of argumentation and communication proceeds. The book is the culmination of over six years' reflection on the relations between rhetoric, argumentation, and communication, and on how best to present these relationships to an audience of senior students and scholars. Approaches to argumentation vary from those that lay emphasis on the logical product, the “argument,” that results; to those that investigate the procedures involved in argumentative exchanges, exploring and devising rules to facilitate this; to those that stress the processes involved in the argumentative exchanges between arguers and audiences. While all three must play some role in a complete model of argumentation, it is the last of these that is being stressed in this book. For a number of reasons, we tend most to associate the practice of argumentation with the production of arguments according to the first approach mentioned. Yet this is the approach least able to capture and express the dynamics of argumentation as a communicative process. If we want to explore and understand the latter, we must begin with the underlying rhetorical features and view argumentation as an essentially rhetorical activity.

    Initially, the task was to make the model of rhetorical argument attractive to philosophers, since this is the discipline in which I was trained. It is one of the ironies associated with philosophy departments, so steeped in traditions of careful argument and logical procedure, that little attention may be paid to engaged argument, to the ways argumentation is experienced by audiences. In particular, there seems little interest in teaching such matters in courses that seriously address the complex problems involved. While some people regard this as a scandal, others believe it is just a matter of time before the merits and promise of studying argumentation make themselves felt there. Still, I decided during the writing that this was not the project with which to directly engage that audience, although there is much here that I hope they will appreciate and find provocative. What dissuaded me most from this course, though, was the recognition that there is a far more receptive audience for these ideas and for whom a book of this nature would be most useful. Communication departments are seriously interested in the study of argumentation and its developments, and in teaching these things. This was brought home to me by the range and nature of interest shown in my work as I was preparing this manuscript. Thus I decided to strengthen a foothold that exists, teach to receptive minds as it were, and leave for later the audience that still must be challenged and persuaded. On some level, I hope that accomplishing the first task will set me on my way to the second.

    Reinforcing through teaching the principles and developments of a perspective is, I believe, one of the most effective ways to increase its profile and emphasize its value. Thus I present the book with the firm hope that readers will come away from it with a better sense of what constitutes a rhetorical approach to argumentation, and also persuaded that it is through its rhetorical features that argumentation as a communicative practice can best be understood and adopted. This involves both the construction and evaluation of good argumentation. Of course, what counts as “good” in this case remains to be explored in the pages ahead. However, crucial to good argumentation, I believe, is an understanding of the ways arguments are experienced, and of how audiences collaborate with arguers in an argumentative situation so as to invite reflection and self-persuasion rather than impose a view on passive minds.

    A number of the details of rhetorical argumentation presented in the book are the result of discussions with colleagues or responses to concerns raised by some of them in written work. For criticism and encouragement of this nature, I would particularly like to thank Tony Blair, David Godden, Hans V. Hansen, Hans Hohmann, Ralph Johnson, Fred Kauffeld, Mike Leff, Arno Lodder, and Charlie Willard. Deserving of quite separate mention is Jean Goodwin, who read the entire manuscript and suggested many improvements. Others who have read parts of the book in earlier drafts and offered comments include Randy Harris, Maged el Komos, and Andreas Wenzel. I am grateful to them all for their interest in the project. Likewise, the reviewers of the initial proposal and subsequent manuscript made many useful suggestions that have found their way into the finished text, as well as directed me away from errors and confusions. This is a better book for their diligence. Many thanks to Alan Gross, Karen Rasmussen, Raymie McKerrow, Kathleen M. Farrell, and Michael Osborn.

    Drafts of sections of the book were written in 2001–2002 during my time as a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) in Bielefeld, Germany. The subject of the research group was conflict resolution, and while none of the work specifically done there has found its way into the book, I trust participants will see the influence of the ideas and discussions that resonated in that rich, vibrant environment. Among the members of the group with whom I was pleased to have the opportunity to interact, I would like to thank Matthias Raith, Andreas Wenzel, Olaf Gaus, Wilfried Hinsch, Christoph Fehige, and Kirsten Schroeter. I am particularly grateful to Matthias for the invitation to join the group.

    Parts of Chapter 5 were read to audiences at the University of Dundee and the Open University in April of 1999, and a shorter version of Chapter 7 was read at the “Informal Logic at 25” conference in Windsor, Ontario, May 2003. In each case, I am grateful to members of the audience for helpful comments.

    During the time that I worked on this project, I was fortunate in having two excellent research assistants—Ashraf Lalani and Daniel Farr. Daniel in particular made a number of direct contributions, including formatting notes and references and preparing the index. Many others have made contributions to whatever positive features this book may have; if I tried to mention them all, I'd be sure to overlook someone, and some may even prefer to go unmentioned, happy in the knowledge that their conversations played a part in what eventually resulted. To all of these colleagues, students, and friends I owe a debt of gratitude.

    Finally, I would like to thank the editorial staff at Sage who made working on the production of this book such a pleasure. Thanks to Todd Armstrong, who became excited about the project and enthusiastically pursued it, and to Julia Parnell, Tracy Alpern, and Diana Breti for the care and detail they have given to the production and editing of the book.

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