ArgLab • Workshop

Argumentation and Rational Decisions

The workshop will focus on the role of argumentation and reasoning in decision-making, with a view on the rationality of the process and its outcomes. The main question addressed is therefore: How can we decide rationally on a future course of action? This question has vividly become a major practical and philosophical concern in the times of crisis in and around Europe (How to tackle the economic crisis? How to respond to the Arab Spring?). Presentations in the workshop will adopt the perspective of argumentation theory in order to examine the chief topics related to rational decision-making such as: practical reasoning, deliberation, the role of authority, models of decision-making dialogues, biases and fallacies in reasoning, and commitments of arguers.

The workshop is free to all faculty, researchers and students of the FCSH.
09:15 – 13:00
Morning session
Chair: Prof. João Sàágua
09:15 – 09:30
Welcome Word
Prof. António Marques
Prof. João Sàágua
09:30 – 10:15
Fabio Paglieri (Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy)
Argumentation, decision and rationality
Commentator: Frank Zenker (Lund University, Sweden)
10:15 – 11:15
Joint presentation on Argumentation and Deliberation
Jan Albert van Laar (Department of Theoretical Philosophy, University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Expedience arguments in political deliberation

Juho Ritola (Department of Behavioral Sciences and Philosophy, University of Turku, Finland)
On the epistemological requirements of deliberation
11:15 – 11:30
Coffee break
11:30 – 12:15
Marcin Koszowy (Department of Logic, Informatics and Philosophy of Science, University of Bialystok, Poland)
How to argue using administrative authority about what should be done?
Commentator: Giovanni Damele (ArgLab, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
12:15 – 13:00
Pragmatics and Rhetorics of Arguments Ad: The case of ad hominem and ad baculum
Katarzyna Budzyńska (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland & School of Computing, University of Dundee, Scotland)
Chris Reed (School of Computing, University of Dundee, Scotland)
Commentator: Fabrizio Macagno (ArgLab, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
14:30 – 18:00
Afternoon session
Chair: Dr. Jan Albert van Laar
14:30 – 15:15
Marcin Lewiński (ArgLab, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal)
Practical reasoning, deliberation and argumentative polylogues
Commentator: Fabio Paglieri (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy)
15:15 – 16:00
Dima Mohammed (ArgLab, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal)
What do we do with practical arguments? Accountability in political discussions about future courses of action
Commentator: Steve Oswald (University of Fribourg & University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland)
16:00 – 16:30
Coffee break
16:30 – 17:15
Steve Oswald (Department of English, University of Fribourg & Cognitive Science Centre, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland)
Commitment attribution and the reconstruction of arguments
Commentator: Fabrizio Macagno (ArgLab, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Frank Zenker (Department of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Lund University, Sweden)
What fallacies are not
Commentator: Erich Rast (ArgLab, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Fabio Paglieri
Argumentation, decision and rationality

This paper opposes the view that studying argumentation from a decision theoretic perspective is a purely descriptive project. On the contrary, I argue that such approach is naturally suited to tackle normative issues, shedding new light on how strategic rationality interacts with other virtues of argumentation – namely, inferential validity and dialectical appropriateness. My views on this issue will be developed against the backdrop of virtue argumentation theory (Cohen 2009; Aberdein 2010; Battaly 2010).

Recent studies propose to analyze argumentation by focusing on arguers’ decision making (Paglieri 2009, in press; Paglieri & Castelfranchi 2010). From this perspective, an argument is the product of a sequence of decisions, made by two or more parties in dialogical interaction: thus its structure and outcome will depend on the decision processes and strategic skills of the arguers. In spite of some promising results (Hample 2005; Cionea et al. 2011; Hample et al. 2012), this approach still remains relatively underdeveloped in argumentation theories. Reviewing the relevant literature, I contend that argumentative decisions have been marginalized mostly because they are assumed to pertain a descriptive level of analysis, whereas argumentation theories typically focus on normative issues. Inasmuch as argumentative decisions concern what arguers do, as opposed to what they ought to do, this topic is of little consequence for argumentation theories. However, the premise of this reasoning is false: it is not the case that focusing on argumentative decisions leads to abandon normative concerns. Quite the opposite: by looking at arguments as the product of decisions, many competing models of rational choice become potentially relevant for argumentation. The key point is that strategic rationality, however modeled, is not the type of rationality typically considered in assessing arguments, where it is customary instead to look for inferential validity and/or dialectical appropriateness. Yet, arguers care also (and possibly mostly) for strategic considerations; moreover, in appropriate circumstances they are right to do so. Reconciling these different forms of rationality is a task that argumentation theories should embrace, rather than avoid.

Jan Albert van Laar
Expedience arguments in political deliberation

First, I attempt to make the normative ideal of a political deliberation more precise with tools from dialectical argumentation theory. More in detail: The theory of dialogue types is useful for specifying the ideal of a political deliberation as a configuration of practical inquiry dialogue, persuasion dialogue and negotiation dialogue. The model of a basic critical discussion is shown to be particularly helpful for analysing political argumentation within these settings. Second, I show how negotiation dialogue can be conceived of as a fully argumentative exchange, that can be performed in a non-coercive, and fully transparent manner. Thereby, this paper contributes to the broadening of the ideal of a political deliberation, as proposed by Mansbridge et al (2010), under the label of “deliberative negotiation.”

Marcin Koszowy
How to argue using administrative authority about what should be done?

Arguments from authority are powerful instruments which support a great variety of decision-making processes. As Bocheński (1974) and Walton (1997) point out, there are two basic types of authority: (i) cognitive, epistemic or de facto – i.e. the authority of someone who knows and (ii) administrative, deontic or de iure – i.e. the authority of someone who is socially predestinated to formulate directives. Since the attention to the systematic inquiry into the structure of arguments from administrative authority still remains scant and patchy in argumentation theory, we may observe the problem of the lack of precise tools which would allow us to analyze and evaluate such arguments. In this paper I suggest a possible direction of a systematic inquiry which would consist of proposing the initial set of argumentation schemes for appeals to administrative authority and broadening the list of critical questions for the general ”appeal to authority” argumentation scheme. The account which will be particularly helpful in realizing these tasks is Bocheński’s theory of authority. I will claim that the major advantage of Bocheński’s approach is that it allows to combine the descriptive aim of grasping the nature of real-life communicative techniques with the normative task of building a set of rules for appeals to administrative authority

Katarzyna Budzyńska & Chris Reed
Pragmatics and Rhetorics of Arguments Ad: The case of ad hominem and ad baculum

The paper proposes a pragmatic and dialectical account of ad hominem and ad baculum techniques. We claim that these tactics are not entirely inferential (Budzynska & Reed 2012; Budzynska & Witek 20xx) as assumed by standard models (Walton 1998; Walton 2000). In other words, we show that at least some aspects of their structures can be best accounted for in terms of (i) properties of speech acts (Austin 1975; van Eemeren & Grootendorst 1984) used in the dialogical context (Budzynska & Reed 2010), and (ii) ethotic conditions related to the speaker’s character (Aristotle 1991). We propose to understand ad hominem as an illocutionary act with pragmatic force of undercutting the opponent’s ethos associated with a speech act performed by the opponent at some previous move in a dialogue. Ad baculum, on the other hand, is treated in this account as a complex illocutionary act consisting of (1) a directive act that puts the respondent under the obligation to bring about some action, and (2) a commissive act that produces the proponent’s commitment to do something undesired by the respondent, if he fails to bring about this action.

Marcin Lewiński
Practical reasoning, deliberation and argumentative polylogues

This talk presents work in progress that investigates the relationship between the argument scheme of practical reasoning and the argumentative activity of multi-party-deliberation. It proceeds in four steps: First, I will distinguish between (individual) practical reasoning, as studied by philosophers (esp. Broome, 2002, 2013), and (collective) practical argumentation, as approached in argumentation theory (Feteris, 2002; Ihnen Jory, 2012; Walton, 2007). I will argue that the former approach can be found guilty of being, au fond, “solipsistic, egoistic and unsocial” (following Hitchcock, 2002) and that therefore the latter approach has much to recommend. Second, I will discuss the conclusion of practical argumentation in terms of the speech act of proposal (see Aakhus, 2006; Kauffeld, 1998; Walton, 2006). I will show that the felicity conditions of proposal diverge from some of the preconditions of the conclusion of philosophers’ practical reasoning. I will further look into the propositional content of proposal (of the form: ‘Let us do X’), focusing on the pronoun “us”. I will be interested in the “us” that extends beyond the simple Speaker-Hearer or Protagonist-Antagonist dyads – thus introducing the issue of poly-logical (multi-party) discourse. Third, following Fairclough & Fairclough (2012) I will elaborate the scheme of practical argumentation by focusing on the causal premise (Let us do X, because X leads to Y, and Y is desirable). This premise is typically taken to signify X as either a necessary or a sufficient means to reach Y. I will investigate a third option – a “conducive” means, which is neither necessary nor sufficient, but still worth taking. Further, in case of sufficient and conducive means, the consideration of “the best means” becomes crucial. Assuming that alternative means/options are advocated by different parties to argumentation, we end up with a multi-party deliberation where different contrary alternatives are debated. Fourth, I will show how argumentative moves in deliberation gain their relevance from addressing the premises of the complex scheme of practical argumentation. Multiparty deliberation can on the basis of this be understood as a special case of argumentative polylogue in which proposals for various contrary courses of action are critically examined. 

Dima Mohammed
What do we do with practical arguments? Accountability in political discussions about future courses of action

Discussions about the courses of action to be taken are at the core of political deliberation. In these discussions, practical arguments (Fairclough & Fairclough, 2012; Garssen, 1997; Ihnen, 2012; Walton, 2007) play a central role. Yet, deciding on the course of action to be taken is rarely the only thing at stake in a political discussion. Typically, arguers are out to achieve different other goals as well. Eventually, multiple issues get discussed simultaneously (Mohammed, forthcoming). Take, for example, debates in the European Parliament (EP), where one of the major concerns of MEPs is to influence the EU policymaking. As they debate the courses of action to be taken by the EU, MEPs are usually also out to scrutinise the work of the EU executive, i.e. the Commission. In order to do that, MEPs engage into a discussion about the performance of the Commission in addition to the discussion about the course of action to be taken. Typically, MEPs craft their arguments strategically so that an argumentative move contributes to the discussion of several issues simultaneously (ibid). In this paper, I examine the way practical arguments are constructed in order to address issues other than the courses of action that need to be taken. On the basis of an examination of the structure of practical arguments, I highlight the potential role that premises central to practical arguments can play in defending other types of arguments that are typically discussed simultaneously. In particular, I focus on the role that the values and circumstances premises (Fairclough & Fairclough, 2012) play in defending evaluative claims about the performance of those who are in charge. By means of examples from the EP, I also aim to shed light on the interplay between accountability and deliberating future courses of action in political public arguments. 

Steve Oswald
Commitment attribution and the reconstruction of arguments

The notion of commitment has been shown to be pivotal in the study of argumentation (see e.g. Hamblin 1970, Walton & Krabbe 1995), in particular as far as argumentative reconstruction is concerned. In this talk I will consider how the notion of commitment attribution, as developed in cognitive pragmatic research (Morency et al. 2008, Saussure & Oswald 2008, 2009), can contribute clear criteria to be used in two analytical tasks argumentation theorists regularly have to undertake, namely the identification of commitments required to evaluate argument validity/soundness and the identification of missing or unexpressed premises.

Frank Zenker
What fallacies are not

I present an attempt to spell out sufficient conditions for the presence of an error (“fallacy”) in human reasoning which may or may not be necessary conditions. These conditions can serve to separate real from merely apparent errors. In contrast to the standard interpretation of experimental data that diagnoses such errors primarily with respect to the outcome of a reasoning episode, these conditions require, among others, that subjects understand the reasoning task that is put to them, and that they have (practical) knowledge of the normative standard that is assumed by the experimenter. That these conditions are in fact met in most experimental situations, however, appears to be highly doubtful. The standard interpretation of the results of the “Heuristics and Biases Program,” according to which this program has provided strong evidence of “human irrationality in reasoning and decision making tasks,” therefore appears rather risky, should these conditions be acceptable. Against this background, I wish to discuss how argumentation scholars can responsibly engage with such research results, respectively their interpretation. The conjunction fallacy as well as the base rate fallacy shall serve as illustrations, and will be introduced in some detail.