ArgLab • Colloquium

Frank Zenker & Marcin Lewiński


Developing our second (argumentative) nature
Frank Zenker, Department of Philosophy & Cognitive Science, Lund University, Sweden

Effective critical thinking instruction, which underlies the ability to argue well, must simultaneously address aspects of cognition, motivation, and technology in ways that resemble personalized medicine rather than typical forms of university level teaching. This talk outlines the folk epistemological basis of lay persons’ argumentation, reviews the case for ameliorative prescriptive intervention, and explains the rise and popularity of late 20th-century research in psychology and cognitive science on heuristics and biases in human decision-making and choice. Offering some useful analytical distinctions, we turn to the mixed empirical results on the effectiveness of select debiasing techniques, state why this research has so far not delivered, and close with methodological comments on future research.


Argumentative discussion: The rationality of what?
Marcin Lewiński, ArgLab, Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal

In this presentation, I draw on the main tenets of normative pragmatic and pragma-dialectical theories of argumentation to critically examine two crucial assumptions of dialectical models, which posit that argumentation is about “critically testing a standpoint.” The content of a standpoint – a speech act in need of defence – is typically reconstructed as a single proposition responding to a polar yes/no question: “Will you vote for Barack Obama?” “Yes, I will vote for Obama, because…” or “No, I will not vote for Obama, because…” These two assumptions – that what we critically test in argumentation are (1) individual and (2) bi-polar standpoints – lead to the dominant view of dialectics as a bi-partisan business in which the yes-side (proponent) argues against the no-side (opponent). I argue that argumentative practice challenges these assumptions – and for good theoretical reasons. This paves the way for an enhanced understanding of dialectical models in terms of multi-party discussions, or argumentation polylogues.