Posts Tagged ‘Informal Logic’

The Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking invites submissions the 2012 AILACT Essay Prize.  Value: $300 U.S. The prize-winning paper will be published in Informal Logic, contingent upon meeting the conditions specified in the prize’s notice, available at http://ailact.mcmaster.ca/. Papers related to the teaching or theory of informal logic or critical thinking, and papers on argumentation theory, will be considered for the prize. Authors need not be members of AILACT. Previously unpublished papers, and papers published or accepted for publication between January 1, 2009 and October 31, 2012, are eligible.  Maximum length: 6,000 words. Please send the paper ready for blind-reviewing. The deadline for receipt of submissions now is October 31, 2011.  For further questions, contact Susana Nuccetelli at sinuccetelli@stcloudstate.edu.

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Readers of RAIL might remember this chestnut from two years ago on infographics and visual argument.  That post featured a TED talk by David McCandless. Though I’m tempted, I’ll refuse to commit the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy here and simply report that McCandless’s website, Information is Beautiful, now features a very nice-looking infographic on the fallacies, (oddly) titled Rhetological Fallacies.  Clicking on the thumbnail below will take you to the full version at its home site.

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Call for Proposals

Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation (OSSA)


May 22-25, 2013 University of Windsor

Keynote speakers:

Daniel H. Cohen, Department of Philosophy, Colby College

Marianne Doury, Communication & Politics, CNRS – Paris

G. Thomas Goodnight, Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California

The OSSA Organizing Committee invites proposals for papers that deal with argumentation, especially those that pertain to the practice of argumentation and its virtues.

Abstracts prepared for blind refereeing must be submitted electronically to the Program Committee no later than SEPTEMBER 7, 2012, to <ossa@uwindsor.ca>

(write ‘[your last name] OSSA abstract’ in the subject line).

Abstracts should be between 200 and 250 words long. Additional information on how to prepare proposals will be available on the conference website in the coming months: www.uwindsor.ca/ossa.

OSSA wishes to promote the work of graduate students and young scholars in the field of argumentation studies. Thus we strongly encourage submissions from this group.

The J. Anthony Blair Prize ($1000 CDN) will be awarded to the student paper presented at the Conference judged to be especially worthy of recognition. The competition is open to all students whose proposals are accepted for the Conference.

Canadian graduate students who need financial assistance in order to attend should advise us when submitting their proposals.

For the purpose of the Conference, a graduate student is one who has not completed her/his graduate program by September 7, 2012.  (Additional information about this prize will also be available on the website.)

Organizing Committee:

H. V. Hansen – C. W. Tindale – C. E, Hundleby

University of Windsor


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Just a quick announcement here to let you know that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry on Informal Logic has been updated by author Leo Groarke.  The update is a substantial one and includes a great many new resources in the links section.  Thanks are due to Leo for his work on this. Do check it out!

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This article from the Denver Post stresses the usefulness of philosophy, including how “emphasis on informal and symbolic logic” helps with computer science.  In accounts of philosophy curricula, unfortunately, reference to informal logic is typically just name-dropping, as the textbook authors are mostly not scholars in the field, and instructors rarely have any relevant training.  That seems to be the case here:  Colorado State has only one logician on faculty, and he specializes in formal logic.

This problem is deeply ironic, for the scholarship being neglected was developed for the very purpose of filling the gap between logical theory and logical practice. Much scholarship in symbolic logic may be irrelevant to undergraduate pedagogy, but informal logic is a movement developed substantially for the purpose of creating an approach to logic that would be more relevant to students.

When philosophers appeal to “informal logic” or philosophers claim ownership over the teaching of “critical thinking,” it verges on fraud.  The baiting with informal logic scholarship devoted to critical thinking and switching it for a loose distillation of the cultural standards in the discipline of philosophy is going to catch up with us eventually.

It’s time for philosophers to wake up and put our money, our faculty positions, our textbook buying power, and our textbook reviews where the scholarship is.  Philosophy can be highly relevant if we hold ourselves to higher scholarly standards.

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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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In this interesting installment of the always wonderful PhilosophyTV, Alvin Goldman and Jennifer Lackey discuss the up-and-coming subfield of social epistemology.  Their discussion ranges from the history of the subfield to some of its current topics. It is worth watching for argumentation theorists–especially those based in philosophy–because it represents what amounts to a completely different way of thinking about the epistemic import of human interaction–especially disagreement–than one typically finds in argumentation theory. Whereas there might have been a time when those in the informal logic movement could have rightly claimed to be the only group of philosophers working on these sorts of issues, things have changed dramatically in the last 10 years.  This, I think, is something those of us who know, love, and believe in informal logic should consider fairly seriously. The growing philosophical consciousness of subfields like social epistemology, the logic of belief revision, and non-monotonic logics in general over the past decade or so has definite methodological implications for the work that we do.  At the very least it is a substantial change in a key subset of the audience to which we often address our claims.  Might a change in the rhetoric of informal logic be in the offing?

The video is roughly an hour and fifteen minutes long.  Enjoy!

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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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Puzzle Piece, by Wikimedia Commons user Crazy-phunk

Puzzle piece, via Wikimedia Commons

Don Lazere’s short but punchy piece in the Chronicle on the beleaguered state of critical thinking education in the American academy is well worth a read.

While I find myself agreeing with much of what he says, I think he misses one of the principal actors in the play: the increasing role of corporate influence in and on the structure and culture of American higher education.  Increasingly, administrators and board members are not professional academics but professional bureaucrats and managers who see their primary task as generating revenue.  This leads to a mentality that sees terms like ‘critical thinking’ as buzzwords, bogus assessment exercises, fodder for mission statements or worse, “branding” campaigns.  The perils therein are familiar enough and rants plentiful enough that I’ll leave it there.

What interests me the most about Lazere’s short piece is how it fits with what has really been an explosion of formal methods in the last thirty or so years.  Indeed, formal logic has changed so much that it is now virtually unrecognizable to those of us who remember the time when advances in modal logic were considered “cutting edge” to most in philosophy. From today’s perspective, the basic course in predicate calculus looks a lot like “baby logic”. ‘Critical thinking’, as Lazere points out, doesn’t seem to have much real purchase at all anymore:


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