Tuesday, June 21, 2011

what is argument

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What is Argument?

Everyday thousands of different people across the world encounter various conflicts, confrontations, and disputes. Every single individual situation is different from the other. All these people have one thing in common, and that is the use of argument to resolve the situation. From lawyers disputing a case, to kids disagreeing about a soccer game, we all have used argument at sometime or another. Unfortunately a lot of the time argument is misused. People use it to take advantage of others, or to hurt people. In order to explain or define argument one must first ask, just what is argument?

Argument, as defined by Ziegelmueller and Kay, has two dimensions-inquiry and advocacy. First you must inquire proper beliefs and actions, everyone has their own set of morals and beliefs they hold on to. The advocacy aspect of argument is how you use communication and debate to explain and justify what you believe to others. Language and communication is vital. Without the ability to communicate your ideas and thoughts to others, argument would not be possible. Another important ingredient of argument is the concept of critical thinking. A critical thinker has the ability to not only apply their own knowledge, but also critique, and learn from others.

When answering the question of what is argument, the question of where is argument arises. Wayne Brockriede provides answers in his essay, “Where is Argument”. He simply states that it is among people, and by people, in changing forms potentially everywhere. He explains that argument will be found where people decide to view an activity as argument. Without the perception of argument by people, argument will cease to exist. Just as important as where argument can be found is the different types of perspective. In a type of follow-up article Professor Joseph Wenzel breaks down the perspective aspect of argument. He categorizes all perspectives on argument into one of three points of view rhetoric, dialectic, and logic. When using rhetoric we are more or less taking a persuasive state of mind. Plato thought of rhetoric argument as nothing but mere verbal trickery. Many cases of rhetoric are used when people or groups of people produce arguments in order to make important decisions. Dialect is more or less a way of regulating discussions among people. An example Wenzel gives is two men taking turns listening to the other ones argument; each critically thinking and analyzing each others arguments to find the truth or correct answer. Wenzel gives four C’s that good dialectical argument should consist of cooperative (following appropriate rules, or guidelines set out.) comprehensive, (deals with a subject thoroughly) candid, (makes ideas clear and gets them out for examination) and, critical (in its commitment to basing decisions on the most rigorous testing of positions.) Lastly, logic also deals with problem-solving, but it is on a smaller, more broken down scale. The point of logic is to critique merits of arguments.

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Proper perspective among many other factors creates an ideal setting for a pure argument. The actual arguers themselves and their mindsets are detrimental to successful argument. This again re-illustrates my earlier statement on critical thinking. If one person is too ignorant to listen to your side of the argument then the entire process is pointless. Douglas Ehninger illustrates this idea with this analogy “the strings of a violin must be neither too slack nor too taut if the instrument is to perform properly, so must the threads which unite the parties to an argument be precisely tuned.” So often do people present their argument and refuse to listen to the ideas and thoughts of others. To me this does not illustrate argument the way God created it to be. In my opinion argument is a gift for us to use to solve problems, and make decisions together.

Everyone that has been in any kind of argument before knows that people take on certain stances in relation to who they may be arguing with. For example, watching your mom and dad argue is usually different then a teenager arguing with his parents. Although cases may vary, a husband and wife are typically on a sensitive give-take basis, carefully listening and evaluating each others arguments and positions. Whereas anyone who has ever been younger then the age of 18 and tried to win an argument with their parents knows that sometimes it is just completely hopeless. Brockriede breaks down the individual stances you can hold and puts them into three categories, argument as rape, argument as seduction, and argument as love. Argument as rape is a situation when an arguer wants to gain a higher position and have an advantage over his opponent. Any person, who is not given the chance or power to properly present their argument or is not heard, is the rape victim. Many examples of this exist, for instance, the illustration of the teenager and his parents. This happens very often in the business world, where employees or small businesses are taken advantage of. The seducer uses tricks or charm to deceive or fool his opposition. The seducer is similar to the rapists in that he sees the other person as an object, to be overtaken and won. A constant characteristic of a seducer is the use of common fallacies. Many salesmen act as seducers as do politicians. Both the seducer and rapist see the argument as unilateral meaning it is more or less one way. Lastly, is the lover, who models how a true argument should work. The lover sees the relationship as completely bilateral. The lover cares about what the other person has to say and is not worried about being wrong and is open to the idea that they themselves may be wrong. The previous example of a husband and wife illustrates love, if one of them took a hostile, or rapist type of attitude then it create extramarital problems beyond the issue at hand. Only after reading the article by Brockriede do I realize so many arguments around us in society as rape, or seduction, when they should be out love. Rape and seduction destroy relationships; only lovers can grow, and achieve any purpose. Another important factor of argument is what author Toulmin calls foundation, or proof. Credibility plays a large role in the proof of the argument, if you are aware of someone’s credibility whether it is good or bad, then your opinion naturally changes towards them and their argument. If someone has excellent credibility then people are going to believe their points are more valid and meaningful then someone who is a constant liar.

On January 5, 00 a panel met at the University of Chicago to discuss religion and the death penalty. Among the many well-known lawyers and journalists was supreme justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia delivered a very compelling speech on the death penalty, and some of its religious standings. He first off addresses the legality of the issue, by stating that the death penalty was clearly permitted when the Eight Amendment was adopted. His moral views on the situation however are not quite as simple. Having much religious background and belief the issue has many more complications.

Scalia’s opening speech was not one-sided or out of ignorance. He presented it bilaterally, and open to suggestions or opposing arguments. He never once claimed that he was completely right, or that anyone else’s opinions were wrong. Being an open panel questions were open to certain people who I assume were in the audience. To me this conference illustrates the dialectic perspective of Joseph Wenzels perspectives on argument. Scalia points out many times that this “is not his field of expertise”, he is only here to share his personal thoughts and views. Although a debate does take place, there is no winner or loser. Only men, and women together, trying to increase, and share their knowledge with each other. This panel displays good dialectic argument on the basis that it implements the Four C’s as I stated before. Scalia treats his listeners with respect, and gives them credibility.

To put Scalia on Brockriedes scale of argument as love, Scalia would not be categorized as a rapist or a seducer in this particular instance. He portrays a very educated passive opinion of the matter, when he says “as I told you, I am publicly neither an opponent nor a proponent. You’re asking me to defend the death penalty. I don’t. I have no position on the death penalty, only on whether it is immoral to impose it -- because if I found it was immoral, I would leave my job. That’s the only position I’m taking here.” To me this shows argument as love, even though Justice Scalia most likely has more knowledge and insight on the issue at hand then other people there. In Johnstones article he states that In bilateral communication, each interlocutor speaks as if the others were capable of propagating a message fully as credible as his own. Scalia not only does this but, speaks with much credibility and proof of his arguments. Of all the points he makes he gives valid reasons, or statistics to reinforce what he has said.

This organized panel, and conference was a good example of argument. They reiterate many of the primary fundamentals that are said to be required for argument to exist.

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