Monday, November 25, 2019

Evening Note for Monday, November 25

Thought for the Evening: Argumentational Virtues

Andrew Aberdein has an interesting typology of argumentational virtues (from "Virtue in argment", "The vices of argument", and "Fallacy and argumentational vice"):

1. willingness to engage in argumentation
(a) being communicative
(b) faith in reason
(c) intellectual courage
--- i. sense of duty

2. willingness to listen to others
(a) intellectual empathy
--- i. insight into persons
--- ii. insight into problems
--- iii. insight into theories
(b) fairmindedness
--- i. justice
--- ii. fairness in evaluating the arguments of others
--- iii. open-mindedness in collecting and appraising evidence
(c) recognition of reliable authority
(d) recognition of salient facts
--- i. sensitivity to detail

3. willingness to modify one’s own position
(a) common sense
(b) intellectual candour
(c) intellectual humility
(d) intellectual integrity
--- i. honour
--- ii. responsibility
--- iii. sincerity

4. willingness to question the obvious
(a) appropriate respect for public opinion
(b) autonomy
(c) intellectual perseverance
--- i. diligence
--- ii. care
--- iii. thoroughness

This is a pretty decent typology, although Aberdein himself takes it to be tentative. There are certainly things that can be questioned, and no doubt different people would have somewhat different views. For instance, if we keep (1), (2), and (3) the same, I think I don't think (4) should be in the typology at all; its virtues are better understood as falling under the other categories. For instance, appropriate respect for public opinion should be understood as belonging to (2), both because public opinion has a certain authority, limited though it may often be, and because respect for public opinion is clearly related to fairmindedness. Autonomy in the sense meant here should be under (3d), and (4c) I think should be under (1).

The division into these four categories is taken from Daniel Cohen, and while I think Cohen's attempt at identifying the virtues of a the ideal arguer is useful for certain limited kinds of argumentation, and I like the attempt to use the Doctrine of the Mean to do it, I don't think the particular categories selected generalize well. I think it would make more sense to arrange a list of argumentational virtues into three major categories:

(I) integrity as inquirer (dealing with context of argument)
(II) integrity as discussant (dealing with arguing-with, dialogue, or at least taking others into account)
(III) integrity as arguer (dealing with argumentation itself)

These are, so to speak, the three stances of an ideal arguer; he is constructing arguments, but is not doing so solipsistically, and is doing so in order to discover truth and the like. (III), I think, will end up being remarkably like the kind of virtues you would expect from an excellent engineer or craftsman, virtues that directly organize skills toward appropriate ends. (II) will be closely related to interpersonal moral virtues.
Aberdein notes that we should distinguish argumentational virtues from epistemic virtues and moral virtues, because the adjectival specification of 'virtue' in each case is identifying something different about what is being tracked -- argumentational justice is not precisely the same as justice in other cases, for instance. I think we have to be careful with this idea. We can sometimes say that they are different subjective parts, or in some cases of different integral parts, of the same virtue; but sometimes they are different virtues entirely, and only get the same name due to some similarity or other. But I think it's necessary to recognize overlap. Some virtues directly relevant to argumentation just are moral virtues already, for instance -- prudence and studiousness (curiosity, as we call it colloquially), for instance, both of which I think are necessary for (I), or honesty, which I think is necessary for (II). After all, while argumentation has its own distinctive features, it is nonetheless the case that we argue as persons.

Various Links of Interest

* James R. Hamilton, Philosophy of Theater, at the SEP.

* Fr. Stephen Freeman, The Ark Returns to the Temple

* Eric Schwitzgebel, You’re Almost Definitely More of a Jerk Than You Think You Are. I am not in agreement with some of his theory of jerks, though; I think his account of the intellectual defects of a jerk is mostly unconvincing, he overassimilates 'jerkitude' to psychological traits as opposed to behaviors (which is what we really use the word 'jerk' to describe), and his account of the opposite of a jerk is just wrong.

* The George Eliot Archive

* Mark Graber, The Unwritten Constitutions of the United States (PDF)

* Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Why Newman Matters to Religious Jews

* The Credo from Arvo Pärt's Berliner Messe, in his famous tintinnabuli style:

* Emily Thomas discusses three idealist philosophers: Mary Calkins, May Sinclair, Hilda Oakeley.

* Agnes Callard, Is Plagiarism Wrong? I thought I had a strong skepticism of plagiarism as a moral concept (I've argued here and there on the blog for relativism about plagiarism -- what counts as plagiarism, and whether it is bad, depends on how reputational the field is), but Callard is more strongly skeptical yet.

* In college, I spent about half a summer in a program in Morelia, Michoacan. One of the trips we took was to Uruapan, the avocado capital of the world. It's sad to read about how the entire area has degenerated through the encroachment of cartels. I suppose it was inevitable; avocados are big agricultural business, and as the cartels have expanded, they have tried to get their fingers in every profitable pie.

* Fulton Sheen will be beatified in December, a very sudden announcement that apparently has everyone in the Peoria diocese scrambling. Fulton Sheen's "How to Improve Your Mind":

(It also has a good introductory discussion of the virtue of studiositas, studiousness.)

* Iona Italia, How to Write a Letter

* J. R. R. Tolkien and the OED

Currently Reading

Irving Stone, Love Is Eternal
Justin Martyr, The First Apology, The Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Exhortation to the Greeks, Discourse to the Greeks, The Monarchy of the Rule of God
Seneca, Dialogues and Essays
Isaac Asimov, Foundation and Earth

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