Posts Tagged ‘argument diagramming’

Informal Logic vol. 31 no. 2

Volume 31, number 2 of Informal Logic is now available for your reading pleasure.  Particularly recommended in this issue is Geoff Goddu’s 2010 AILACT Essay Prize-winning article on the process/product ambiguity.  I had the good fortune to see this work in an earlier phase at ISSA last summer and I’m very happy to see it in print here.  It’s a valuable article not only for it’s methodological challenge to what is for many in the study of argumentation a foundational notion, but because it spurs us to think more carefully about the metaphysics of argument in general.  The paper and its author well deserve the recognition of the AILACT prize.

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Have a look at this short talk by David McCandless on data visualization:

There are a number of interesting things for argumentation theorists to think about here.  For one, if McCandless is right then clearly what he says is wind in the sails for those who rate argument diagramming highly among our various tools of analysis.

While watching this presentation I also found myself wondering if McCandless’ technique might provide aid and comfort to the cause of those who believe in visual arguments too.   To be clear, I don’t think that any of the visuals he presents here is an argument. He makes visual statements, sure, and at times draws inferences from them, but that would make his arguments (in my book at least) arguments with visual elements–not visual arguments per se.  Still I found myself wondering if maybe purely visual arguments might be a possible innovation that could come from the kind of work McCandless is doing, somewhere down the line.

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Browsing the Argumentation Blog today turned up this announcement of an interesting website devoted to argument mapping, created by argument mapping guru Tim van Gelder.  The site is aimed at university level educators, and offers a kind of clearinghouse of information and resources on the subject of argument mapping, including links to trial versions of van Gelder’s mapping software.  I’ve added the link to the “Other Resources” section here on RAIL (see the right hand column near the end), but thought that it might be of enough interest to warrant an announcement here too given that summer is the time that many of us prepare for our Fall teaching obligations.

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I’ve recently begun experimenting with diagramming arguments in my classes–and not my Critical Thinking/Informal Logic classes, but the other more traditional philosophy classes that I teach.   I’ve tried using a few different programs to set my diagrams up (Araucaria, Carneades) but so far what works best are color-coded, free-hand “VanGelder-style” diagrams done on a transparency and projected via a document camera. (I’d love to have ReasonAble, but so far I can’t seem to talk anyone into getting it into the budget for me.)

What I’ve found is that diagramming arguments actually seems to work better than setting the arguments out in classical standard form (i.e. premises numbered sequentially with a line under the last premise as in an arithmetic problem, followed by the conclusion, etc.).  When I diagram the argument students seem to get a clearer idea of the argumentation in the text, and a better appreciation for the overall structure of the article or chapter. I haven’t been doing it long enough to back it up with trends in test scores or anything like that, but the students tell me it really helps them get a grip on what’s going on in the text. I’ve yet to hear anyone tell me that it confuses them even more.

Is anyone else using argument diagramming/mapping in this way outside of classes where a primary aim is to teach argumentation?  If so, how are you doing it and how is it working for you?

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