The Compliment of Rational Opposition: Disagreement, Adversariality, and Disputation

Topoi 40 (5):845-858 (2021)
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Disputational models of argumentation have been criticized as introducing adversariality into argumentation by mistakenly conceiving of it as minimally adversarial, and, in doing so, structurally incentivizing ancillary adversariality. As an alternative, non-adversarial models of argumentation like inquiry have been recommended. In this article I defend disputational, minimally adversarial models of disagreement-based argumentation. First, I argue that the normative kernel of minimal adversariality is properly located in the normative fabric of disagreement, not our practices of disputation. Thus, argumentation’s minimal adversariality is a hereditary, rather than an acquired, trait. Second, I show how attempts to model disagreement-based argumentation non-adversarially, as co-inquiry, misrepresent the normative commitments of disagreers. Indeed, such attempts backfire in their efforts to make argumentation less adversarial, by removing the normative, discursive mechanisms by which we may hold each other to rational account for our commitments. Finally, I show how regulative models of disputation, like the Pragma-Dialectical critical discussion, are designed to minimize ancillary adversariality thereby preventing its escalation.



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David Godden
Michigan State University

Citations of this work

Asking before Arguing? Consent in Argumentation.Katharina Stevens & John Casey - forthcoming - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-14.
Burdens of Proposing.David Godden & Simon Wells - 2022 - Informal Logic 42 (4):291-342.

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