January 6th 2023, 1PM ET
The Emicist's Dilemma
“The fact that we argue mostly with familiars,” claims Michael Gilbert, “is very significant.” Part of the significance lies in the existence of a shared language, by which he means not words commonly understood, but “that you can understand each other” in “the largest sense” (Gilbert 2015: 52-3). If Gilbert is right, then (i) we are least practiced when arguing with non-familiars; and (ii) the large sense of shared understanding we enjoy with familiars, and all that might entail, is absent with the non-familiar.
The most extreme kind of non-familiar is the one confronted outside of one’s own culture. Cross-cultural argumentation brings with it a range of problems, not least of which involves how we attempt to take a person on their own terms, to treat them as agents like ourselves with the corresponding respect and dignity. Here, along the borders of cultures (Pratt 1991; Mao 2006) we necessarily revisit what Carlo Ginzburg calls the “endless dialogue between the emic and etic”( Ginzburg, 2017: 139)
The emicist—she who strives to operate inside the system of another and see things from their perspective—venturing beyond her own perspective, faces the task of building understanding with the non-familiar, where even the social practices of argumentation lose clarity. Tantamount to constructing a simulacrum of the rhetorical experience of non-familiars, the task brings with it particular questions of ethical import. Here, I view the etic-emic distinction as not necessarily one of incompatibility but involving a spectrum ranging from the specifics of a particular culture (emic) to the universal (etic) (Cheung, van de Vijver, & Leong 2011). This will have consequences for the ethical (Liu 2019).
Part of my interest in the paper is to draw attention to the issue I am identifying and some of its implications for cross-cultural argumentation (Ju 2022; 2010). Beyond this, I develop a smaller discussion on ethos in the etic/emic debate, wherein arises the question of the ethical. Indeed, the ambiguity of ethos announces the ethical. How does/should the arguer appear to the other in a manner that treats that other as what Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969) call a subject of worth?
February 3rd 2023 1PM ET
Manipulation, Inquiry and Indifference
The principal goal of this talk is to make progress in understanding what manipulation is and what is wrong with it. If we can make progress in understanding manipulation and its moral status, we should be better equipped to answer a wide range of questions in ethics, business, law, and policy. For example, whether nudges are morally problematic partly depends on whether they are manipulative. Although various insightful models of manipulation already exist, there is no comprehensive and unified theory yet. I defend the view that manipulation is purposeful but irresponsible influence and show how that view resolves three issues with alternative views of manipulation: it avoids false negatives, demarcates manipulation better from adjacent categories of social influence like persuasion and coercion, and grounds a unified conceptual and normative perspective on manipulation in tune with larger concerns about untruthfulness. The focus of the talk will be on analysing and explicating the central notions of this account of manipulation: purposeful influence, epistemic irresponsibility, and indifference to inquiry.
March 3rd 2023 1PM ET
Liam Kofi Bright
There Will Be No Message Discipline
A common refrain in online argumentation is lamenting how "one's own side" make you look bad. Oh, I am so reasonable, the refrain implicitly goes, but my ideological cohort? So full of wacky people! They're making it impossible for me to impress upon those who might be persuaded just how reasonable and correct I - we - in fact are. There is in fact a non-trivial industry of ever-so-reasonable centre left journalists whose career is founded upon lamenting upon how unreasonable their "fellow" leftists are. I am going to argue against this whole line of thought. There will never be any message discipline. The journalistic industry dedicated to the refrain achieves nothing except hurting the causes it purports to wish to see advanced. And in all but very few cases you can be as unreasonable as you like on Twitter because ultimately you do not matter.
April 7th 2023 1PM ET
Sustainable Self-Determination: Land Back as Climate Justice
Indigenous peoples protect and govern 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and, as a result, are disproportionally impacted by climate change. Given the close interrelationships between the health of Indigenous communities and the health of lands, waters and biodiversity, it is important to consider climate action and justice as a key part of the self-determining authority of Indigenous peoples and nations. “Land Back” is an important Indigenous-led movement grounded in “consent-based jurisdiction” which seeks to regenerate Indigenous laws on Indigenous lands and waters (Corntassel, 2021a; Corntassel 2021b; Indigenous Environmental Network, 2021; Pasternak & King, 2019, p. 21). Land Back is a response to the ongoing colonization of Indigenous lands, waters and relationships and creates ways to foster Indigenous governance, resurgence and climate justice. However, what Land Back looks like in practice is something that is asserted, contested, and negotiated within the settler colonial context. Understanding these contested spaces of jurisdictional authority is an important aspect of Indigenous resurgence and activism amidst a reconciliation discourse. Within a context of ongoing shape shifting colonization, this talk examines some of the ways that the “Land Back” movement cuts through colonial assertions of power to create new spaces for climate justice and sustainable self-determination, which is about upholding relational responsibilities to territories of life. I examine the ways that Indigenous peoples are mobilizing against settler claims to private property and ownership to protect their relationships to lands, waters, and the natural world, which have opened new pathways to climate action, justice and sustainable self-determination.
May 5th 2023 1PM ET
Dispassionate Debate: Early Nyāya Philosophy on Avoiding Cognitive Biases
Cognitive biases, even ones we’re not aware of, negatively impact reasoning. If true, does this mean reasoners are responsible for errors resulting from unconscious biases? And how can reasoners prevent such errors? While these questions arise from modern empirical studies, premodern Indian philosophers raised and answered them, too.
Within the Indian subcontinent, a tradition known as “Nyāya” (“right reason”) required participants in their formal debate to cultivate dispassionate attitudes. Nyāya philosophers believed human beings can achieve such an attitude through two strategies: cultivating control over attention and following ethical precepts. They wanted debaters to remove any emotional attachment to their own argumentative standpoint and, instead, desire only the truth.
In this talk, I argue that, even though the concept of rāga, or “desire,” is not strictly identical with cognitive bias, through their treatment of fallacies, Nyāya philosophers demonstrate insight into the relationship among attention, emotions, and reasoning. Their approach to fallacies suggests they think reasoners are responsible for errors, even those stemming from unconscious biases. And their solution to such biases involves attentional and ethical training, as well as internalizing rules of argumentation. My focus in this talk is the early Nyāya tradition of four philosophers: Vātsyāyana (fifth century CE), Uddyotakara (sixth century CE), Vācaspati Miśra, and Jayanta Bhaṭṭa (both tenth century CE).
June 2nd 2023 1PM ET
Just Asking Questions: Argumentation and the Common Ground
It’s often seen as argumentatively virtuous to engage with demands for additional evidence, or to try to answer questions about one’s own position. This paper won’t deny that this is the case as a general rule, but will set out particular circumstances when a good faith attempt to answer an interlocutor’s questions might do more harm than good. In illustrating this, I will work through two examples: calls for more evidence after Indigenous communities uncover unmarked graves at Canadian residential schools, and the right-wing tactic of asking “what is a woman” in order to undermine trans inclusion. In each of these cases, a good faith attempt to answer these calls or questions adds something undesirable to the conversational common ground.
July 14th 2023 1PM ET
Rahmi Oruç et. al.
Reviving the Art of Munāẓara: An Attempt
There are three main steps to this talk. We begin with (1) a look at the place and role of ethics in Ādāb al-Baḥth wa al-Munāẓara. Munāẓara, for short, is a 700-year-old Islamic discipline that stands on three pillars: virtuous conduct (ādāb), inquiry (baḥth), and argumentation (munāẓara). A key feature of Munazara is its strict turn-taking procedure, which involves a determinate sequence of the legitimate moves available to debate contenders at various argumentative junctures. This regulatory procedure was intended and designed to ensure that contending parties approach and enact argumentation as a joint performance for moving towards Munāẓara’s goal of manifesting truth/justice (iẓhār al-haqq). In the second step, we (2) focus on the sequencing of the antagonist’s critical moves to reveal an interdependence between the agent and the procedure. We then make use of that interdependence to convey the kind of contribution Munāẓara could have in contemporary argumentation theory. Specifically, we show how recognizing sequencing as a core component in the phenomenon of argumentation pushes toward moving beyond the widely accepted dichotomy between act- and agent-based norms for the assessment of argumentation. The third step is (3) a practical proposal, or what we call a Munāẓara Engagement Model (MEM). This is a Munāẓara-inspired one-on-one dialectical model, which we offer as an alternative to contemporary competitive university debate practice. When combined, this talk’s three steps constitute the core of the ADAB project, which we shall also briefly present. We conclude by outlining the future direction for the realization of MEM and stressing the necessity for collaboration in qualitative and experimental research.
The presentation benefits from the contributions of core members of the ADAB project: Dr. Karim Sadek, Dr. Mehmet Ali Üzelgün, Dr. Merve Aktar, Dr. Önder Küçükural, and Dr. Danish Naeem.
August 4th 2023 1PM ET
Is Virtuous Disagreement Possible?
In my previous works, I have defined virtuous tolerance as consisting of following elements: (1) genuine disagreement over an idea, action or goal, (2) the power to hinder the conduct of the other towards the said goal, (3) deliberate refraining from hindering the other from reaching for that goal. These elements 1-3 are typically used to define tolerance in general. However, I have suggested that additional elements are needed. These include: (4) maintaining a critical attitude and public conversation and (5) conversation and dialogue has to express intellectual virtues. Without (4) and (5) tolerance will transform either into neglect or tacit approval, both of which are attitudes that are unvirtuous. Thus, in order for the disagreement to remain virtuous it needs to uphold its critical edge. While satisfying the demands of virtue theory, virtuous disagreement creates additional problems, which include pragmatic considerations such as who would want to remain in such an intermediate state? Moreover, is this too high a demand for humans? Ethical considerations include charges of possible abuse or harm. Some disagreements, if prolonged over a long period of time may harm one of the parties more than the other, and some may wish to keep this state going without it ever reaching resolution if it benefits them. I argue that the benefits of virtuous disagreement are greater than its disadvantages and it should be held as a gold standard in human interaction. However, I remain unsure whether this is possible in practice because humans are not generally virtuous in these kinds of matters.
September 1st 2023 1PM ET
And then a Miracle - Questions of Responsibility in Stasis
Arguing with the enemy demands some mutual interest to interact in the midst of committed conflict and requires some shared normative assumptions as to what counts as coherent expression, meaningful interpretation, and productive clash between those who doubt that their counterparts are capable of speaking-acting in good faith—it presupposes, however thinly, a fragile, likely damaged, and nevertheless common experience of response-ability.
Arguing with the enemy may also amount to so much treason, an interaction that betrays a sanctified cause dedicated to the elimination of evil and an engagement that begins (and ends) by not simply bending but breaking rule of law. By perception, oath, and tradition, argumentation between declared combatants may then negate articulated ethical demands of responsibility, not least if it conceals the power (or force) responsible for opening a process of argumentation and underwriting its terms, work, and outcome.
Among others, and now thirty years on, the South African transition demonstrates that the compound problem of responsibility is neither an abstraction—Mandela and de Klerk both faced serious accusations of treachery as they began talk-about-talks and worked toward the negotiated settlement that many now condemn as being both a wholly unresponsive and demonstrably irresponsible “end” of apartheid—nor a matter than can be resolved by theories of “deep division” in which various and variable appeals to “bridge work” enable arguments through plausibly deniable instrumentalisms and backstop argumentation with near metaphysical accounts of (mutual) recognition. Indeed, with the arrival of such happy miracles, there remain open questions of an increasingly normal exception: In stasis—What response? What response-ability? What responsibility?
October 6th 2023 1PM ET
Discover Deduction: Critical thinking meets civil discourse.
This presentation begins with four problems: thinking that is uncritical, uncharitable, undemocratic, and lonely. Students facing these challenges struggle to identify a speaker’s or text’s argument, its hidden premises, objections, and rebuttals. They tend to lack confidence in their assessment of the argument’s soundness. To address these problems, Discover Deduction teaches students to work with an opponent to discover a valid deductive argument for their opponent’s claim. In this talk, Comstock will explain the method, discuss its shortcomings, and note its achievements. He will also describe a large quasi-randomized trial at NC State University assessing the method's effectiveness.
November 3rd 2023 1PM ET
José A. Gascón
Virtuous arguing in costly circumstances
Argumentation can be a costly activity, especially for arguers who end up having to modify their beliefs as a result of it. As several argumentation theorists have insisted, the modification of beliefs that results when an arguer is convinced by another is not a loss or a defeat, but actually an epistemic gain. Often, however, there are also psychological and social costs associated with giving up a belief or adopting a new one. It is for this reason that the importance of intellectual virtues such as courage and open-mindedness has been emphasised, which help arguers face and overcome these difficulties in their path to epistemic improvement.
Yet, little has been said about how their interlocutors—those who end up being right and convince their partners—should behave. Until recently, both virtue epistemology and virtue argumentation have largely focused on individual virtues—those that benefit the agent who possess them. Adopting instead a social approach to knowledge allows us to see that an epistemically healthy community needs arguers who care about each other’s epistemic well-being. Here I will argue that this includes reducing as much as possible the costs of changing one’s mind in light of good reasons. Many (probably most) of these costs are undoubtedly part of the social and institutional setting, but there are just as surely individual attitudes and behaviours that can help other arguers “save face”. For example: avoiding framing the discussion in competitive terms (with winners and losers), showing a sincere willingness to change one’s mind oneself if necessary, or giving arguers time to think through all the considerations after the discussion is over, instead of insisting that they should immediately state whether they are convinced or not.
December 1st 2023 1PM ET