Posts Tagged ‘David Hitchcock’

In a recent post on the Chronicle of Higher Education website, frequent contributor and NAS president Peter Wood laments:

“We have elevated “critical thinking” as the chief and worthiest end of a liberal education.  Perhaps it is time for a reassessment.   The critical thinker who is deaf to culture’s deeper appeals is impoverished in some profound ways.  He is equipped to take everything apart but not to put anything together.  We need more minds capable of moving at ease and grasping the whole.”

Wood’s complaint about critical thinking is the punchline to a piece that is largely about how much of intellectual worth is lost when scholars and societies view culture (any culture) through a myopic, modern lens.  To assess this complaint fairly one has to have an idea as to what Wood means by the much vexed term “critical thinking”. Thankfully, he tells us what he means in another posting on the Chronicle website:

“The stance of generalized antagonism to the whole of Western civilization and the elevation of “critical thinking” in the sense of facile reductionism (everything at bottom is about race-gender-class hierarchy) makes the university function more and more as our society’ chief source of anti-intellectualism.”

It is hard to disagree with the substance of Wood’s assertion here. Though it is important to take account of how gender, race, and class might exert distorting effects on one’s thinking, critical thinking certainly does not reduce to such considerations, simpliciter. But why think that it does in the first place? Wood’s assertions here and elsewhere (for example, here) seem to presuppose that everyone in the academy (at least in the US) thinks of critical thinking in this way.

But they don’t. (more…)

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The journal THEORIA has just published its 72nd issue with a symposium on Lilian Bermejo-Luque’s, Giving Reasons (Springer, 2011. Argumentation Series). The discussants are John Biro, Harvey Siegel, James B. Freeman, David Hitchcock, Robert C. Pinto and Luis Vega.

In Giving Reasons, Bermejo-Luque attempts to set out and defend an original approach to argumentation theory that hinges on what she calls “argumentation as a second order speech-act complex”.  The discussion that emerges between Bermejo-Luque and her distinguished panel of respondents about this approach to argumentation theory  is an interesting one.  Click here to view the journal page, from which all articles can be accessed free of charge: http://www.ehu.es/ojs/index.php/THEORIA/issue/current.

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Miss OSSA? Here's your chance to catch up!


RAIL is pleased to announce the appearance of a new issue of Informal Logic.  This issue features the keynote papers and the paper that won the J. Anthony Blair prize for best student paper.  Those who followed my postings here or on Twitter during the conference will recall my mentions of Karen Tracy’s fascinating keynote address. Here’s a chance to read the paper itself. While you’re at it I also highly recommend Moldovan and Smith’s Blair Prize paper “Arguments as Abstract Objects”.  Together with Geoff Goddu’s AILACT Prize paper (highlighted in a post of its own here on RAIL not too long ago), I’d say Moldovan and Smith’s paper marks the distinct emergence (some would say re-emergence) of an interesting metaphysical sub-field in informal logic and argumentation theory. It will be interesting to see how others respond to the arguments marshaled in these two papers. At any rate, there’s no denying that the gauntlet has been thrown down!  Happy reading. 🙂

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OSSA 2011 is now officially in the bag.  It was a good week. With such a high volume of papers presented it’s possible to follow many trajectories, but these were my highlights:

The Ambassador Bridge

  • Attending a pre-conference workshop on normative pragmatics with Jean Goodwin and Beth Innocenti. Jean and Beth did a fantastic job explaining their views and those of Fred Kauffeld, with whom I was also fortunate enough to chat with at length. Even having known something of these views before, I left considerably enriched for the experience, and convinced that normative pragmatics is a research program that deserves a lot more investigation and development.
  • Discourse analyst Karen Tracy’s keynote address on reasonable hostility in public hearings was also rich with ideas that I intend to think a lot more about in the coming weeks–especially her conception of how issues move through phases of being unarguable (unreflectively taken as settled), arguable (manifestly unsettled or controversial) and then unarguable again (settled sufficiently for the public discussion to move on).  This is not to say that the other keynotes were not also worthwhile–they were. Paul Thagard’s effort to bring a neuropsychological viewpoint to the discussion over the nature of critical thinking was timely, and David Hitchcock’s presentation of his work on inference claims was as interesting and challenging as those who know his work would expect it to be. (You can read the abstracts of the keynotes here.)
  • Having the chance both to attend Maurice Finocchiaro’s session on deep disagreement and to chat with him about it afterwards was illuminating.  As readers of this blog will know, deep disagreement is one of my areas of interest within argumentation theory. Finocchiaro’s work, which will be part of a forthcoming book on meta-argumentation, moves the discussion of deep disagreement forward in what I think are all the right ways.  I’m very glad he’s taken the problem on in the way that he has.
  • Of course I have to thank the wonderful audience that attended my presentation on the history of conductive argument and reflective equilibrium as well. We had an excellent discussion from which I learned much that I will bear in mind as I carry forward my work on this and other projects.

Finally, no discussion of an OSSA conference would be complete without mention of the enormous camaraderie and good will that animates these events.  Coming away from this iteration of OSSA I am reminded of my initial impression that the argumentation community models what I think are scholarly ideals of diversity of approach, internationality and interdisciplinarity.  Of course, we have our divisions and competitive moments just like any other body of scholars.  This is only natural among diverse people who care deeply about what they study and who struggle to get it right.  What is impressive about argumentation theory is that these divisions enliven the discussions rather than hamper them.  In many ways, these gatherings are as much gatherings of friends as they are academic gatherings. Thus, though I won’t try the reader’s patience with a long list of names, I will close this entry by saying how glad I am to have had the chance to catch up with so many old friends, and to have made so many new ones. All in all, it was a week well spent. I look forward to the next one.

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