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Joshua Barron ENGL 5368 Theories of Argumentation December 8, 2008
Barron: Final Examination
I. Plans for Analyzing Samples of Argumentation
First, I think it is important to articulate my opinion that it is a gross understatement to comment merely that “there are a variety of theories and approaches to argumentation.” If I am correct in opinion, then to effectively analyze arguments from a variety of perspectives, it is paramount to possess the ability to correctly identify a particular theory when it is encountered in the artifact under scrutiny. Yet van Eemeren and Grootendorst have indicated that there is no cleartheory of argumentation, only a multitude of specializations and points of overlap between multiple theories. If this is true, then it relieves a certain degree of tension for this analyst, in that, even the approach taken for analysis can be argued. Before coming to this conclusion, however, I originally began by attempting to identify, classify, and thus understand all of the various types of argumentation so I might have better odds for selecting the one theory and methodology that is the “right” response to this project. Quickly, I came up with the following (admittedly non-comprehensive) list: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Analytic Dialectic Rhetoric Syllogism Critical debate Civic discourse Roman-Hellenistic rhetoric New Rhetoric Informal Logic Critical Thinking Communications and Rhetoric Pragma-Dialectics Speech Act Pragmatism Polyphony Natural Logic
Because our course curriculum seemed to prefer breadth over the exhaustive (or exhausting) practice of comparing and contrasting these approaches, this assignment quickly became overwhelming. This was true, even despite Warnick & Kline’s helpful classification of The New Rhetoric’s seemingly innumerable schemes. After a break of a couple of days from the exercise, I determined that inaction was getting me nowhere. So, to confess: in an effort to be effective in demonstrating
Barron: Final Examination
my ability to apply theories of argumentation to existing artifacts, I determined to stop spending my time on precise identification of the right method. Instead, I chose to focus my energy on application of the theory I found to be the most relevant and accessible (Perelman and Orlbrechts-Tryteca’s theory of New Rhetoric), using the Hamlet excerpt because of an existing familiarity with that particular content.
There are several challenges to be addressed when analyzing and evaluating an argument that uses epistemic logic to state its case. Here we find Hamlet himself serving as interlocutor and the rational judge. The argument is highly anthropological in nature, as the community whose values, experiences, and beliefs are important plays the most significant role in the judge’s overall determination on the validity of the argument. That community is, in fact, Hamlet himself, by definition of “self.” “Or is it,” the theatre scholar might argue, “for while Shakespeare was writing Hamlet’s self-argumentation via the speech act of soliloquy, as an element of theatre, Prince Hamlet the character ceases to serve as the primary arguer. Within the surreality of theatre, taking into account the practical work Shakespeare is actually the arguer, contending vicariously with the audience through the character of the Prince. Thus the most significant challenge in analyzing and evaluating this argument was to explore more thoughtfully the definition of the artifact’s audience, which is the starting place for analysis of The New Rhetoric approach to argumentation. Because of its self-argumentative characteristics, The New Rhetoric did strike me as being particularly suitable for this selection. The limited audience, and the importance of that element, allows the arguer to make assertions from personal opinion and experience with very little reliable external supports. This characteristic is what causes me to consider a more formal deductive vein of logic inappropriate for this selection. Further, because Shakespeare proactively addresses the potential objections of the silently receptive theater masses, anticipating proactively their concerns with his contention. The dialectical approaches appeared to me as particularly unsuitablefor Hamlet’s soliloquy because of the small and particular audience-of-one. Pragmaticism, overall, however, was appealing as it is clear that the character has a particular dilemma, and is in need of a very real solution so he might move forward with authority and confidence. The other forms, with their focus primarily resting on form, seemed inappropriate, as the conversation one person has with himself is far more powerfully impacted by associations that are made, and with the pseudoconstruction of a logical and rational reality than they are with broadly approved or accepted rules of engagement in argumentation.
Barron: Final Examination
As an editorial-opinion piece, Gleick appears to be addressing the literate public, specifically bibliophiles, book-sellers, publishers, and even authors … all at once. This breadth of audience presents a challenge in analyzing and evaluating his argument. However, Gleick’s work relies heavily on the construction of a reality where it is appropriate to support Google’s virtual Alexandria, even to the immediate financial detriment of many in the literature business. He artfully crafts a strong cause-andeffect contention that the Google-Author’s Guild agreement will necessarily resurrect the availability of traditional printed books. For this reason, if I were to have selected this author’s work for my assignment, I think it would have been most appropriate to utilize pragmatic argumentation (as a scheme within The New Rhetoric).
II. Analysis & Evaluation of Argumentation: Shakespeare
Visual Analysis & Evaluation
Figure 1: Image from Visual Analysis of Shakespeare's Argumentation Click to View/Download Larger PDF Version
We should endure the slings and arrows of fortune
Being involves a world where fortune reigns over us.
It is noble to endure.
We are not required to remain in a realm where fortune reigns.
Fortune may be outrageous, but suffering its slings and arrows can be avoided.
We wish for such a consummation devoutly
Hamlet is the king, he knows a lot about reigning and being in control, and finds himself completely out of control, thus he deduces that he can not be in control.
The claim is widely believed.
The law of life and death says that we can move into a different realm if we leave t realm of life.
Avoidance of troubles can be accomplished by resistance
No one would bear these whips
No one would bear these scorns
By taking arms against a sea of troubles, we can end them (or at least avoid them)
The burdens of life are wearisome.
He can forego the bearing of burdens and skip the grunting and sweating required by a weary life
He can end it and have the final say with a bare bodkin
conscience makes cowards of us all;
And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.
In death, there is sleep.
Sleep will end a thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to
We fear death.
The oppressor’s wrong,
the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love
the law’s delay,
The insolence of offic e
the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes
All of the burdens that are being borne in life can be skipped altogether, if life could be foregone.
A bodkin, appropriately applied, will end all argument, allow him to have the final say.
the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
Hamlet loses his nerve to kill himself because he thinks about all of the unknowns in the equation, and can't stand it.
The claim must be true, given the meanings of the terms.
100% of the shock s that the flesh inherits are discarded when this temporal body is cast off.
No traveller ever comes back from it.
Death is not yet known to us personally.
We would rather bear the known, than run to other burdens, scorns, whips, etc., that are unknown.
He realizes his own pallor at the actual prospect of relinquishing all control to the control of another
Historical data at the time, of no actual resurrections from the dead.
Hamlet indicates that he has not yet walked the road of the dead, a has no actual experience within its realms.
This is the fulcrum of the entire argument, in my opinion.
Textual Analysis & Evaluation
As Hamlet’s life hangs in the balance of this particular argument, it is no small thing to evaluate carefully the argument (or self-argument) being made in this speech act, especially prior to taking action. To formally analyze the soliloquy would require effective abstraction of the implicit premises/contentions, a determination of validity, the identification of fallacies, and an evaluation of each claim. However, using The New Rhetoric, we see the presentation of facts, truths, presumptions, values and value hierarchies.
Barron: Final Examination The text that follows is an outline of the analysis completed on an excerpt from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
To Be or Not to Be … That Is the Question. Then within this question lies an implicit Contention: We should choose to answer the question with … “To Be” -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. We should endure the slings and arrows of fortune -- No stand 1. Supported by: a. Being involves a world where fortune reigns over us. -- No stand 1. Expert Opinion: Hamlet is the king, he knows a lot about reigning and being in control, and finds himself completely out of control, thus he deduces that he can not be in control. b. It is noble to endure. -- Accepted 1. Common Belief: The claim is widely believed. b. etc. 1. Opposed by: a. We are not required to remain in a realm where fortune reigns. -- Accepted 1. Law: The law of life and death says that we can move into a different realm if we leave t realm of life. b. Fortune may be outrageous, but suffering its slings and arrows can be avoided. -Accepted 1. Supported by: a. Avoidance of troubles can be accomplished by resistance -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. By taking arms against a sea of troubles, we can end them (or at least avoid them) -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. In death, there is sleep. -- Accepted 1. By Definition: The claim must be true, given the meanings of the terms. b. Sleep will end a thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to -- No stand 1. Statistic: 100% of the shocks that the flesh inherits are discarded when this temporal body is cast off. c. We wish for such a consummation devoutly -- Rejected 1. Supported by: a. No one would bear these whips -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. The burdens of life are wearisome. -- Accepted 1. Example: The oppressor’s wrong, 2. Example: the proud man’s contumely 3. Example: The pangs of despised love 4. Example: the law’s delay, 5. Example: The insolence of office 6. Example: the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes b. He can forego the bearing of burdens and skip the grunting and sweating required by a weary life -- Accepted
Barron: Final Examination
1. Law: All of the burdens that are being borne in life can be skipped altogether, if life could be foregone. b. No one would bear these scorns -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. He can end it and have the final say with a bare bodkin -- Accepted 1. Law: A bodkin, appropriately applied, will end all argument, allow him to have the final say. c. etc. 1. Opposed by: a. conscience makes cowards of us all; -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. We fear death. -- Accepted 1. Supported by: a. No traveller ever comes back from it. -- Accepted 1. Data: Historical data at the time, of no actual resurrections from the dead. 2. Supported by: a. Death is not yet known to us personally. -- Accepted 1. Personal Experience: Hamlet indicates that he has not yet walked the road of the dead, a has no actual experience within its realms. b. We would rather bear the known, than run to other burdens, scorns, whips, etc., that are unknown. -- Accepted 1. Assertion: This is the fulcrum of the entire argument, in my opinion. b. the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, -- Accepted 1. Personal Experience: He realizes his own pallor at the actual prospect of relinquishing all control to the control of another b. And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. -- Accepted 1. Personal Experience: Hamlet loses his nerve to kill himself because he thinks about all of the unknowns in the equation, and can't stand the idea of being out of control.
III. Exposition on universal rationality versus fielddependent (or company-dependent) rationality
Finally, to the reader who has endured this far, but really has very little experience with theories in argumentation, what follows is a brief tour of two important concepts within the discipline of rhetorical argumentation. Unlike the field of formal logic, arguers are far less concerned with being proven correct than they are with winning. It is important to note that these two outcomes are not mutually inclusive. In argumentation, knowing one’s audience well and working to increase (or decrease) the acceptability of your contention … this is all
Barron: Final Examination key. In this case, “winning” in an argument is far more important than showing one’s own opinion to actually be correct.
This reality makes it absolutely essential that the arguer knows his interlocutor well, or in the realm of written literature, requires the author/composer to define his audience well. Basically, it seems he has two options: appeal to one specific person (or group), or to speak more generically, appealing to the greater at-large public audience. So, to the layperson out there, I offer this: if you are trying to convince one specific individual of something, then you have met your “particular audience.” If you are addressing a more nebulous public, some theoretical group that embodies a certain set of characteristics and ideals, then you are arguing with the “universal audience.” Field-dependent (or company-dependent) rationality would sit somewhere in-between these two extremes. This is true primarily because, within a particular sphere or field of discipline, the argument is aimed at a particular type of persons, all of whom share certain “universal” characteristics that are held primarily in the mind of the author. Just remember, who you are trying to convince … this is important. Your grandmother and your girlfriend will not likely respond similarly to a surprise gift of lingerie. Nor will your girlfriend and all girlfriends respond identically, given the same scenario. How then, do we proceed with a practical and valuable understanding of audience? We do so by focusing on the rationality of whomever the audience may be, and in our effort to win the argument, make certain that we are hitting the target by analyzing the intended audience appropriately in advance.
IV. Just For Fun
To maintain consistency with the element of fun I’ve determined to bring with me to this course, to this program, and to life in general, I offer the following clip …
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