Posts Tagged ‘Argumentation’

3rd Workshop on Complex Networks

 Call for Papers/Abstracts

This international workshop on complex networks (CompleNet 2012) aims at bringing together researchers and practitioners working on areas related to complex networks. In the past two decades we have been witnessing an exponential increase on the number of publications in this field. From biological systems to computer science, from economic to social systems, complex networks are becoming pervasive in many fields of science. It is this interdisciplinary nature of complex networks that this workshop aims at addressing.

Authors are encouraged to submit previously unpublished papers/abstracts on their research in complex networks. Both theoretical and applied papers are of interest. Specific topics of interest are (but not limited to): (more…)

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CALL FOR PAPERS: Trends in Logic XI, 2012 (Ruhr University Bochum)

The 11th Trends in Logic international conference will be held at Ruhr
University Bochum, Germany, from June 3-June 5, 2012 under the title
“Advances in Philosophical Logic”. It is organized by the chair of Logic and
Epistemology at the Department of Philosophy II of Ruhr University Bochum,
in co-operation with the journal Studia Logica,

http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/philosophy/trendsxi .

We invite submissions presenting substantial recent advances in formal
philosophical logic. The range of topics includes but is not limited to: (more…)

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Psychology, Emotion, and the Human Sciences

A Symposium at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario Canada

20th to 21st of April, 2012.

Deadline for Submissions: 1 November 2011

In Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions [Cambridge, 1999], Jon Elster argues that “with an important subset of the emotions [for example, regret, relief, envy, malice, pity, indignation, …] we can learn more from moralists, novelists, and playwrights than from the cumulative findings of scientific psychology.”  Elster then explores the work of both ancient and early modern moral philosophers  in order to substantiate his argument.

This symposium will explore Elster’s assertions: what can contemporary ‘scientific psychology,’ barely 150 years old, teach us about the emotions that early modern literary and philosophical inquiry cannot?  Does psychology [of various sorts] deserve its status as the discipline of feeling?  What can contemporary philosophical work teach us about feeling and emotion? Are there viable ways of bringing historical and contemporary emotional inquiry into contact?  What insight can various forms of inquiry bring to the increasingly prominent issue of affective education [the education of emotions, dispositions, and values]?  What is the status of emotional inquiry across disciplines? (more…)

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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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Count Yorck's speech to the East Prussian states on February 5th, 1813 in Koenigsberg", Otto Brausewetter, 1888

Last week Shaun Usher, custodian of the excellent website “Letters of Note” announced that he would close the comments section on all posts.  He writes:

All complaints should be directed towards a section of society to whom the concept of even vaguely civil discussion means nothing. …I simply cannot afford to continue mopping up after the trolls who crawl among us, itching to bring down the tone at every available opportunity.

Usher does not mince words when describing said trolls and their methodology, but I’ll let you read the best parts of the announcement for yourself.

I understand Usher’s frustration very well. Prior to writing this blog I was, for years, a moderator on a website devoted to open philosophical discussion.  This was before the days of the “new media”. There were no philosophical blogs to speak of in those days, so if you wanted to talk philosophy on the internet sites like ours were where you would go. The founder of the site and I, and the other moderators as well, worked hard to create a website that where those who knew a little something about philosophy could interact with those who were new to it, sojourning, or simply curious.  We had a great time before the site caught on.  Then the membership exploded, swollen by trolls, spammers, crackpots, political cross-posters, and bots of every description.  It became impossible to have a threaded discussion a significant portion of which wasn’t overgrown with inanity, spam, and digital graffiti (of the bathroom wall variety, not the amazing mural variety).  Those with a serious interest in the conversation petitioned and complained, and we tried harder to moderate the site.  In the end, however, it was futile.  Nothing we did could simultaneously (a) protect the discussion from its many and varied saboteurs while (b) maintaining the quality of discussion that would make a site like ours worth visiting and (c ) upholding our original vision that philosophy is neat and even non-specialists will find that out if they have a chance to discuss it in a forum with a critical mass of members who know what they’re talking about. Eventually the site crashed under the weight of the flotsam and jetsam that has generally made open-membership sites for threaded discussion like ours obsolete.  We rebuilt it twice before most of the moderators got tired of it and threw in the towel.  In the course of the years that it was truly functional, however, I learned a lot and made some friends with whom I still keep in touch. It wasn’t a bad experience by any means, but it is one that has given me a lot of food for thought. One of the things I’ve thought about quite a bit as a result of my moderating days is how our experiences online shape our perception of the public at large, and how that perception conditions and shapes (or doesn’t) our conception of democracy.


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CALL FOR PAPERS: AILACT @ the APA Eastern Division, December 28-30, 2011, Washington, DC
Deadline: July 31

We are now accepting proposals on any relevant topic for the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking (AILACT) session to be held in conjunction with this year’s Eastern Division meetings of the APA.  Papers, papers-with-commentators, author-meets-critics, and panel discussions are all welcome. Send proposals or abstracts to dhcohen@colby.edu by July 31.

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I’m pleased to announce here on RAIL that the journal Cogency has allowed open access to it’s first four issues. I’m not sure if they plan to continue this policy, as, for instance, Informal Logic does, but for now it’s a great opportunity to check out what is already a diverse and interesting array of articles by many of the leading scholars in our field. (How they let an article of mine slip into the mix is anyone’s guess!)

Do check it out!

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Apollo and the Muses by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533

The world of those who study argument and who study reason and rationality is abuzz with talk of the provocative research of Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. Anyone who was at last week’s OSSA conference heard their names in practically every other conversation or presentation. For my own part I’m not sure quite what to make of their work.  On the one hand it’s exciting to see argument and reason brought together in empirical research, and I’m well on record as being very friendly to the notion that argument has a very deeply rooted functionality for human beings at both the collective and individual levels. On the other hand, I’m not sure that there aren’t grave problems lurking within. For one, Mercier and Sperber seem at times to work from the assumption that ‘argument’ means ‘deductive argument’ and if this is so, I’m not at all sure that it is wise.  The body of work on analogy alone would give me pause regarding the prospects of such a view, to say nothing of the work of the informal logic movement in the last 30 years.  There are other things that trouble me, but as I’m still doing research in this general idea I’ll try to save myself what might turn out to be a super-sized helping of crow and leave the reader to their own devices where Messrs. Mercier and Sperber are concerned.

At any rate there’s no denying it’s relevance to the world of argumentation theory.  In that vein this video interview with Hugo Mercier is one that I expect will be of interest to many.  The interview is located at the web journal* Edge, itself worth a look to those with an interest in interdisciplinary intellectual discourse.

*(All apologies to those of you who thought that by ‘Edge’ I was referring to an Irish fellow–though I confess I probably would have watched that interview with interest too.)

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Rhetoric and argumentation don’t usually seem like tools of war.  Typically, we think of them as ways of preventing war; of wars as something that happens when rhetoric and

German stamp showing the pen and sword together, via Wikimedia Commons

argumentation (under form of diplomacy) fail.  A recent article changes this picture entirely. “Information Operations”, or “IO”: military operations with the general goal of influencing or compromising the decision making of adversaries or of protecting one’s own decision making from such interference, are now an openly acknowledged part of what the US military (and one would assume, that of many other nations) does. The article, “Military Social Influence in the Global Information Environment: A Civilian Primer” by Sara King, appears in the August 2010 issue of the journal Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy and gives a strikingly detailed overview of IO. King supports her overview with ample evidence from actual uses of IO in current, and in some cases even ongoing conflicts. The article can be read online here in its entirety (at the time of this writing). Psychologist Vaughan Bell also has an interesting write up about the article on the blog Mind Hacks.

As King notes, it isn’t necessarily news that the military does this. What is news is the degree to which they do it comprehensively, and the degree to which the management of public opinion both abroad and at home is the focus of ongoing military concern.

This, I think, is something which scholars of argument and rhetoric should take very seriously. It raises a number of hard questions. Many will no doubt be horrified by the military’s use of techniques of persuasion across the smallest and largest of scales, but if the desired result is less use of lethal force, then how strenuous should those objections be made?  Similarly, while one might not object to IO aimed at making it harder for terrorists to recruit new members to their causes, it does to some degree compromise the autonomous decision making processes of the individuals involved–and isn’t this the very basis on which we would object to being subject to similar manipulations?  Does the fact that we are “at war” make it alright to do this? If so, why? To what degree?  And what does knowing that these kinds of operations are going on all the time do to our trustworthiness in traditional media outlets and the institution of journalism overall?  These and other questions, I think, are well worth our time. No matter how we answer them, the fact remains that some of the techniques we teach are now, for better or for worse, openly acknowledged weapons of war. It’s worth considering whether or not the ethical approach we take to teaching them needs reevaluation in that light.

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The Ambassador Bridge, via Wikimedia Commons. Original by Mike Russell, CC 3.0 S-A

As many in the argumentation studies community know next week is OSSA 9, one of the bigger events on our calendars.  The conference theme this go around is “Argumentation, Cognition and Community”.  Having had a look at the schedule I think this promises to be an interesting conference. Many leading scholars in argumentation, informal logic, rhetoric, and normative pragmatics will be there presenting and responding to papers.  There is also a good range of strong papers by up and coming scholars as well.  This is one to look forward to, if you’ll be coming.

All the pertinent information for OSSA, including .pdf downloads of the schedule and abstracts among other things, can be accessed here.

Unfortunately, as we all know, not everyone who would like to attend can attend.  These are tough times and many of us find ourselves at institutions who can’t always support travel to events like these as often or to the degree that they would wish. For those who won’t be coming but want to follow along, I thought I might propose a conference back-channel on Twitter with the hashtag #OSSA2011.  Those of us who have Twitter accounts and will be there could post about discussions, sessions, workshops, and everything else OSSA between sessions or whenever else we have the chance.  That way those who cannot come can follow along. An added benefit is that those of us who are there will be able get to know each other a little better and to coordinate a little easier when it comes to dinner plans, taxi rides, etc.. (To get a better idea of how it works, you might check out this post from the innovative and consistently helpful ProfHacker blog on the Chronicle of Higher Ed website.)

If you’re interested, let me know!  You can comment here or post to Twitter including “#OSSA2011” somewhere in your tweet.

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