Argumentation 36 (1):35-60 (2022)

David Godden
Michigan State University
Our meta-argumentative vocabulary supplies the conceptual tools used to reflectively analyse, regulate, and evaluate our argumentative performances. Yet, this vocabulary is susceptible to misunderstanding and abuse in ways that make possible new discursive mistakes and pathologies. Thus, our efforts to self-regulate our reason-transacting practices by articulating their norms makes possible new ways to violate and flout those very norms. Scott Aikin identifies the structural possibility of this vicious feedback loop as the Owl of Minerva Problem. In the spirit of a shared concern for the flourishing or our rational, argumentative practices, this paper approaches the Owl of Minerva Problem from a vantage point that, by comparison with Aikin’s, affords perspectives that are more pessimistic in some aspects and more optimistic in others. Pessimistically, the problem at the root of the weaponization of our meta-argumentative vocabulary is motivational, not structural. Its motivational nature explains its resistance to the normal repertoire of reparative argumentative maneuvers, as well as revealing a profound and deeply entrenched misunderstanding of the connection between our reasons-transacting practices and the goods achievable within them. Optimistically, in the absence of this motivational problem, the misunderstandings and errors made possible by our meta-argumentative vocabularies are amenable to remedy by familiar techniques of discursive instruction and repair. More optimistically, even though our meta-argumentative vocabularies are generated only retrospectively, they can be used prospectively, thereby making possible an aspirational motivation resulting in a virtuous cycle of increasingly autonomous normative self-regulation. Properly harnessed, the Owl of Minerva releases the Lark of Arete.
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DOI 10.1007/s10503-021-09554-2
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References found in this work BETA

The Social Construction of What?Ian Hacking - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
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