“Ethical criticism” is an approach to literary studies that holds that reading certain carefully selected novels can make us ethically better people, e.g., by stimulating our sympathetic imagination (Nussbaum). I try to show that this nonargumentative approach cheapens the persuasive force of novels and that its inherent bias and censorship undercuts what is perhaps the principal value and defense of the novel—that reading novels can be critical to one’s learning how to think.
Gilbert Plumer (2011). Novels as Arguments. In Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen, David Godden & Gordon Mitchell (eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation [CD-ROM]. Rozenberg / Sic Sat.
The common view is that no novel IS an argument, though it might be reconstructed as one. This is curious, for we almost always feel the need to reconstruct arguments even when they are uncontroversially given as arguments, as in a philosophical text. We make the points as explicit, orderly, and (often) brief as possible, which is what we do in reconstructing a novel’s argument. The reverse is also true. Given a text that is uncontroversially an explicit, orderly, and brief (...) argument, in order to enhance plausibility, our first instinct is to flesh it out with illustrations and relationships to everyday life. If this process is fictive (e.g., with “thought experiments”) and orderly, it is story-telling. This paper investigates whether there is a principled way of determining a novel’s argument, which should contribute as much to understanding arguments as to understanding novels. (shrink)
One might ask of two or more texts—what can be inferred from them, taken together? If the texts happen to contradict each other in some respect, then the unadorned answer of standard logic is EVERYTHING. But it seems to be a given that we often successfully reason with inconsistent information from multiple sources. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to develop an adequate approach to accounting for this given.
Our thesis is that reasoning plays a greater—or at least a different—role in understanding oral discourse such as lectures and speeches than it does in understanding comparatively long written discourse. For example, both reading and listening involve framing hypotheses about the direction the discourse is headed. But since a reader can skip around to check and revise hypotheses, the reader’s stake in initially getting it right is not as great as the listener’s, who runs the risk of getting hopelessly lost. (...) We also consider how representing the content of discourse and dealing with its pragmatic logic differs in reading and listening. (shrink)
There is ample justification for having analogical material in standardized tests for graduate school admission, perhaps especially for law school. We think that formal-analogy questions should compare different scenarios whose structure is the same in terms of the number of objects and the formal properties of their relations. The paper deals with this narrower question of how legitimately to have formal analogy test items, and the broader question of what constitutes a formal analogy in general.
The nontechnical ability to identify or match argumentative structure seems to be an important reasoning skill. Instruments that have questions designed to measure this skill include major standardized tests for graduate school admission, for example, the United States-Canadian Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Writers and reviewers of such tests need an appropriate foundation for developing such questions--they need a proper representation of phenomenological argumentative structure--for legitimacy, and because these (...) tests affect people's lives. This paper attempts to construct an adequate and appropriate representation of such structure, that is, the logical structure that an argument is perceived to have by mature reasoners, albeit ones who are untrained in logic. (shrink)
Expressing a widely-held view, David Hitchcock claims that "an enthymematic argument ... assumes at least the truth of the argument's associated conditional ... whose antecedent is the conjunction of the argument's explicit premises and whose consequent is the argument's conclusion." But even definitionally, this view is problematic, since an argument's being "enthymematic" or incomplete with respect to its explicit premises means that the conclusion is not implied by these premises alone. The paper attempts to specify the ways in which the (...) view is incorrect, as well as seemingly correct (e.g., the case of a Modus Ponens wherein the major premise is implicit). -/- . (shrink)
In their book EVALUATING CRITICAL THINKING Stephen Norris and Robert Ennis say: “Although it is tempting to think that certain [unstated] assumptions are logically necessary for an argument or position, they are not. So do not ask for them.” Numerous writers of introductory logic texts as well as various highly visible standardized tests (e.g., the LSAT and GRE) presume that the Norris/Ennis view is wrong; the presumption is that many arguments have (unstated) necessary assumptions and that readers and test takers (...) can reasonably be expected to identify such assumptions. This paper proposes and defends criteria for determining necessary assumptions of arguments. Both theoretical and empirical considerations are brought to bear. (shrink)
The paper argues for the applicability of the notion of collective truth as opposed to distributive truth, that is, truth at times or possibilia taken in groups rather than individually. The underlying reasoning is that there are transtemporal and transworld relationships, e.g., those involving the relations of <being a descendant of> and <thinking about>. Relationships are (one type of) truth-makers. Hence, there are transtemporal and transworld truth-makers. Therefore, there is transtemporal and transworld truth, i.e., collective truth. A semantics is developed (...) (formalized in the appendix) which embodies the notion of collective truth, and which thereby, it is argued, has various advantages over standard intensional semantics. For example, it avoids a commitment to certain impossible entities. (shrink)
This paper attempts to define indexicality so as to semantically distinguish indexicals from proper names and definite descriptions. The widely-accepted approach that says that indexical reference is distinctive in being dependent on context of use is criticized. A reductive approach is proposed and defended that takes an indexical to be (roughly) an expression that either is or is equivalent to ‘here’ or ‘now’, or is such that a tokening of it refers by relating something to the place and/or time that (...) would have been referred to had ‘here’ and ‘now’ been tokened instead. Alternative reductive approaches are criticized. (shrink)
The paper interprets Kant’s neglected argument at FOUNDATIONS 401 as consisting of these two premises and conclusion: (1) It follows from consequentialism that in a natural paradise people would not be obligated to be morally good. (2) But this is absurd; one ought to be morally good no matter what. Therefore, consequentialism is false. It is shown that this argument is a powerful one, mainly by showing that independent grounds support (2) and that (1) may survive a number of strong (...) possible objections. One that it does not appear to survive, though, is that the paradise envisioned is not logically possible. (shrink)
Some hold that proper names and indexicals are “Kaplan rigid”: they designate their designata even in worlds where the designata don’t exist. An argument they give for this is based on the analogy between time and modality. It is shown how this argument gains forcefulness at the expense of carefulness. Then the argument is criticized as forming a part of an inconsistent philosophical framework, the one with which David Kaplan and others operate. An alternative account of a certain class of (...) negative existentials is developed, one which eliminates both the inconsistency and the need for Kaplan rigidity. After all, mustn’t whatever is referred to exist? (shrink)
Joseph Almog says concerning “a certain locus where Quine doesn’t exist…qua evaluation locus, we take to it [singular] propositions involving Quine [as a constituent] which we have generated in our generation locus.” This seems to be either murder, or worse, self-contradiction. It presumes that certain designators designate their designata even at loci where the designata do not exist, i.e., the designators have “Kaplan rigidity.” Against this view, this paper argues that negative existentials such as “Quine does not exist” are true (...) only at ordered couples of loci (times or possible worlds) < l, l’ > such that the constituents of the truthmaker are the designatum itself from l and whatever corresponds to “does not exist” from l’. (shrink)
This paper argues that A-determinations (past, present, and future) and B-relations (simultaneity and succession) have the same empirical status in that they are all neither historically discoverable nor sensible, but are detectable and are detectable in the same way. This constitutes a reason for thinking they are in the same class with respect to objectivity, contrary to the Russellian view that “in a world in which there was no experience there would be no past, present, or future, but there might (...) well be earlier and later.” The argument is developed to furnish an explanation of how in fact (and contra McTaggart) we are “immediately certain of the reality of time,” the explanation being that we detect time. (shrink)
It seems a contradiction to hold of something both that it took a while and that no time elapsed or passed between its start and finish; there is a connection between the ideas of temporal extendedness and passage. The article develops this connection into a defense of the passage view of time and shows how without this sort of defense, conclusions of arguments putatively in support of the passage view may be reinterpreted as not in fact being expressions of that (...) view. (shrink)
The doctrine of the specious present holds that sensation at an instant encompasses objects as they are over an interval. Now there actually is intersubjective agreement with respect to past, present, and future determinations, and it is a necessary condition for legitimately postulating them as objective. I argue that the specious present doctrine would make this actuality an impossibility, and that the data on which the doctrine is based do not in fact support it.
Partly following suggestions from Dewey, I show how we may acquire the concepts of Now and time without our being able to sense time. I rationally reconstruct these concepts by ‘deriving’ them from the concepts of ‘required for’ and ‘sensed’ (taken tenselessly). Among other reasons, because activity is explicitly required for succeeding or failing, and because these ubiquitous conditions are sensed, our concept of time is rooted squarely in our experience of these conditions.
I attempt to show, via considering Schlesinger’s device of putting the word ‘now’ in capitals, that the transient view of time can explicate temporal extensivity without presupposing it, and the static view can’t. The argument hinges on the point that duration is generated by continuance of the present—such that ‘the present’ here is used in a nontechnical, nonindexical, and nonreflexive sense, which Schlesinger and others unknowingly give to the word ‘now’ (by “NOW” or “Now” or “’now’”).
The initial one-third of the paper is devoted to exposing the first chapter (“Sense-Certainty”) of Hegel’s PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT as a thesis about reference, viz., that singular demonstrative reference is impossible. In the remainder I basically argue that such a view commits one to radically undermining our conceptions of space, time, and substance (concrete individuality), and rests on the central mistake of construing <this> on the model of a predicable (or property).