Virtue theories have become influential in ethics and epistemology. This paper argues for a similar approach to argumentation. Several potential obstacles to virtue theories in general, and to this new application in particular, are considered and rejected. A first attempt is made at a survey of argumentational virtues, and finally it is argued that the dialectical nature of argumentation makes it particularly suited for virtue theoretic analysis.
What do mathematicians mean when they use terms such as ‘deep’, ‘elegant’, and ‘beautiful’? By applying empirical methods developed by social psychologists, we demonstrate that mathematicians' appraisals of proofs vary on four dimensions: aesthetics, intricacy, utility, and precision. We pay particular attention to mathematical beauty and show that, contrary to the classical view, beauty and simplicity are almost entirely unrelated in mathematics.
Several authors have recently begun to apply virtue theory to argumentation. Critics of this programme have suggested that no such theory can avoid committing an ad hominem fallacy. This criticism is shown to trade unsuccessfully on an ambiguity in the definition of ad hominem. The ambiguity is resolved and a virtue-theoretic account of ad hominem reasoning is defended.
What should a virtue theory of argumentation say about fallacious reasoning? If good arguments are virtuous, then fallacies are vicious. Yet fallacies cannot just be identified with vices, since vices are dispositional properties of agents whereas fallacies are types of argument. Rather, if the normativity of good argumentation is explicable in terms of virtues, we should expect the wrongness of bad argumentation to be explicable in terms of vices. This approach is defended through analysis of several fallacies, with particular emphasis (...) on the ad misericordiam. (shrink)
Deep disagreements are characteristically resistant to rational resolution. This paper explores the contribution a virtue theoretic approach to argumentation can make towards settling the practical matter of what to do when confronted with apparent deep disagreement, with particular attention to the virtue of courage.
Analysis of online mathematics forums can help reveal how explanation is used by mathematicians; we contend that this use of explanation may help to provide an informal conceptualization of simplicity. We extracted six conjectures from recent philosophical work on the occurrence and characteristics of explanation in mathematics. We then tested these conjectures against a corpus derived from online mathematical discussions. To this end, we employed two techniques, one based on indicator terms, the other on a random sample of comments lacking (...) such indicators. Our findings suggest that explanation is widespread in mathematical practice and that it occurs not only in proofs but also in other mathematical contexts. Our work also provides further evidence for the utility of empirical methods in addressing philosophical problems. (shrink)
It has been a decade since the phrase virtue argumentation was introduced, and while it would be an exaggeration to say that it burst onto the scene, it would be just as much of an understatement to say that it has gone unnoticed. Trying to strike the virtuous mean between the extremes of hyperbole and litotes, then, we can fairly characterize it as a way of thinking about arguments and argumentation that has steadily attracted more and more attention from argumentation (...) theorists. We hope it is neither too late for an introduction to the field nor too soon for some retrospective assessment of where things stand. (shrink)
Many of the methods commonly used to research mathematical practice, such as analyses of historical episodes or individual cases, are particularly well-suited to generating causal hypotheses, but less well-suited to testing causal hypotheses. In this paper we reflect on the contribution that the so-called hypothetico-deductive method, with a particular focus on experimental studies, can make to our understanding of mathematical practice. By way of illustration, we report an experiment that investigated how mathematicians attribute aesthetic properties to mathematical proofs. We demonstrate (...) that perceptions of the aesthetic properties of mathematical proofs are, in some cases at least, subject to social influence. Specifically, we show that mathematicians’ aesthetic judgements tend to conform to the judgements made by others. Pedagogical implications are discussed. (shrink)
This chapter focuses on alternative logics. It discusses a hierarchy of logical reform. It presents case studies that illustrate particular aspects of the logical revisionism discussed in the chapter. The first case study is of intuitionistic logic. The second case study turns to quantum logic, a system proposed on empirical grounds as a resolution of the antinomies of quantum mechanics. The third case study is concerned with systems of relevance logic, which have been the subject of an especially detailed reform (...) program. Finally, the fourth case study is paraconsistent logic, perhaps the most controversial of serious proposals. (shrink)
This book explores the results of applying empirical methods to the philosophy of logic and mathematics. Much of the work that has earned experimental philosophy a prominent place in twenty-first century philosophy is concerned with ethics or epistemology. But, as this book shows, empirical methods are just as much at home in logic and the philosophy of mathematics. -/- Chapters demonstrate and discuss the applicability of a wide range of empirical methods including experiments, surveys, interviews, and data-mining. Distinct themes emerge (...) that reflect recent developments in the field, such as issues concerning the logic of conditionals and the role played by visual elements in some mathematical proofs. -/- Featuring leading figures from experimental philosophy and the fields of philosophy of logic and mathematics, this collection reveals that empirical work in these disciplines has been quietly thriving for some time and stresses the importance of collaboration between philosophers and researchers in mathematics education and mathematical cognition. (shrink)
This paper proposes that virtue theories of argumentation and theories of visual argumentation can be of mutual assistance. An argument that adoption of a virtue approach provides a basis for rejecting the normative independence of visual argumentation is presented and its premisses analysed. This entails an independently valuable clarification of the contrasting normative presuppositions of the various virtue theories of argumentation. A range of different kinds of visual argument are examined, and it is argued that they may all be successfully (...) evaluated within a virtue framework, without invoking any novel virtues. (shrink)
The last century has seen many disciplines place a greater priority on understanding how people reason in a particular domain, and several illuminating theories of informal logic and argumentation have been developed. Perhaps owing to their diverse backgrounds, there are several connections and overlapping ideas between the theories, which appear to have been overlooked. We focus on Peirce’s development of abductive reasoning , Toulmin’s argumentation layout , Lakatos’s theory of reasoning in mathematics , Pollock’s notions of counterexample , and argumentation (...) schemes constructed by Walton et al. , and explore some connections between, as well as within, the theories. For instance, we investigate Peirce’s abduction to deal with surprising situations in mathematics, represent Pollock’s examples in terms of Toulmin’s layout, discuss connections between Toulmin’s layout and Walton’s argumentation schemes, and suggest new argumentation schemes to cover the sort of reasoning that Lakatos describes, in which arguments may be accepted as faulty, but revised, rather than being accepted or rejected. We also consider how such theories may apply to reasoning in mathematics: in particular, we aim to build on ideas such as Dove’s , which help to show ways in which the work of Lakatos fits into the informal reasoning community. (shrink)
Some authors have begun to appeal directly to studies of argumentation in their analyses of mathematical practice. These include researchers from an impressively diverse range of disciplines: not only philosophy of mathematics and argumentation theory, but also psychology, education, and computer science. This introduction provides some background to their work.
Informal logic is a method of argument analysis which is complementary to that of formal logic, providing for the pragmatic treatment of features of argumentation which cannot be reduced to logical form. The central claim of this paper is that a more nuanced understanding of mathematical proof and discovery may be achieved by paying attention to the aspects of mathematical argumentation which can be captured by informal, rather than formal, logic. Two accounts of argumentation are considered: the pioneering work of (...) Stephen Toulmin [The uses of argument, Cambridge University Press, 1958] and the more recent studies of Douglas Walton, [e.g. The new dialectic: Conversational contexts of argument, University of Toronto Press, 1998]. The focus of both of these approaches has largely been restricted to natural language argumentation. However, Walton’s method in particular provides a fruitful analysis of mathematical proof. He offers a contextual account of argumentational strategies, distinguishing a variety of different types of dialogue in which arguments may occur. This analysis represents many different fallacious or otherwise illicit arguments as the deployment of strategies which are sometimes admissible in contexts in which they are inadmissible. I argue that mathematical proofs are deployed in a greater variety of types of dialogue than has commonly been assumed. I proceed to show that many of the important philosophical and pedagogical problems of mathematical proof arise from a failure to make explicit the type of dialogue in which the proof is introduced. (shrink)
Stephen Toulmin once observed that ”it has never been customary for philosophers to pay much attention to the rhetoric of mathematical debate’ [Toulmin et al., 1979, An Introduction to Reasoning, Macmillan, London, p. 89]. Might the application of Toulmin’s layout of arguments to mathematics remedy this oversight? Toulmin’s critics fault the layout as requiring so much abstraction as to permit incompatible reconstructions. Mathematical proofs may indeed be represented by fundamentally distinct layouts. However, cases of genuine conflict characteristically reflect an underlying (...) disagreement about the nature of the proof in question. (shrink)
We investigated whether mathematicians typically agree about the qualities of mathematical proofs. Between-mathematician consensus in proof appraisals is an implicit assumption of many arguments made by philosophers of mathematics, but to our knowledge the issue has not previously been empirically investigated. We asked a group of mathematicians to assess a specific proof on four dimensions, using the framework identified by Inglis and Aberdein (2015). We found widespread disagreement between our participants about the aesthetics, intricacy, precision and utility of the proof, (...) suggesting that a priori assumptions about the consistency of mathematical proof appraisals are unreasonable. (shrink)
This paper argues that new light may be shed on mathematical reasoning in its non-pathological forms by careful observation of its pathologies. The first section explores the application to mathematics of recent work on fallacy theory, specifically the concept of an ‘argumentation scheme’: a characteristic pattern under which many similar inferential steps may be subsumed. Fallacies may then be understood as argumentation schemes used inappropriately. The next section demonstrates how some specific mathematical fallacies may be characterized in terms of argumentation (...) schemes. The third section considers the phenomenon of correct answers which result from incorrect methods. This turns out to pose some deep questions concerning the nature of mathematical knowledge. In particular, it is argued that a satisfactory epistemology for mathematical practice must address the role of luck. (shrink)
Much work in MKM depends on the application of formal logic to mathematics. However, much mathematical knowledge is informal. Luckily, formal logic only represents one tradition in logic, specifically the modeling of inference in terms of logical form. Many inferences cannot be captured in this manner. The study of such inferences is still within the domain of logic, and is sometimes called informal logic. This paper explores some of the benefits informal logic may have for the management of informal mathematical (...) knowledge. (shrink)
Charles Stevenson introduced the term 'persuasive definition’ to describe a suspect form of moral argument 'which gives a new conceptual meaning to a familiar word without substantially changing its emotive meaning’. However, as Stevenson acknowledges, such a move can be employed legitimately. If persuasive definition is to be a useful notion, we shall need a criterion for identifying specifically illegitimate usage. I criticize a recent proposed criterion from Keith Burgess-Jackson and offer an alternative.
If good argument is virtuous, then fallacies are vicious. Yet fallacies cannot just be identified with vices, since vices are dispositional properties of agents whereas fallacies are types of argument. Rather, if the normativity of good argumentation is explicable in terms of virtues, we should expect the wrongness of fallacies to be explicable in terms of vices. This approach is defended through case studies of several fallacies, with particular emphasis on the ad hominem.
The published works of scientists often conceal the cognitive processes that led to their results. Scholars of mathematical practice must therefore seek out less obvious sources. This article analyzes a widely circulated mathematical joke, comprising a list of spurious proof types. An account is proposed in terms of argumentation schemes: stereotypical patterns of reasoning, which may be accompanied by critical questions itemizing possible lines of defeat. It is argued that humor is associated with risky forms of inference, which are essential (...) to creative mathematics. The components of the joke are explicated by argumentation schemes devised for application to topic-neutral reasoning. These in turn are classified under seven headings: retroduction, citation, intuition, meta-argument, closure, generalization, and definition. Finally, the wider significance of this account for the cognitive science of mathematics is discussed. (shrink)
Imagine a dog tracing a scent to a crossroads, sniffing all but one of the exits, and then proceeding down the last without further examination. According to Sextus Empiricus, Chrysippus argued that the dog effectively employs disjunctive syllogism, concluding that since the quarry left no trace on the other paths, it must have taken the last. The story has been retold many times, with at least four different morals: (1) dogs use logic, so they are as clever as humans; (2) (...) dogs use logic, so using logic is nothing special; (3) dogs reason well enough without logic; (4) dogs reason better for not having logic. This paper traces the history of Chrysippus's dog, from antiquity up to its discussion by relevance logicians in the twentieth century. (shrink)
This paper proposes an account of mathematical reasoning as parallel in structure: the arguments which mathematicians use to persuade each other of their results comprise the argumentational structure; the inferential structure is composed of derivations which offer a formal counterpart to these arguments. Some conflicts about the foundations of mathematics correspond to disagreements over which steps should be admissible in the inferential structure. Similarly, disagreements over the admissibility of steps in the argumentational structure correspond to different views about mathematical practice. (...) The latter steps may be analysed in terms of argumentation schemes. Three broad types of scheme are distinguished, a distinction which is then used to characterize and evaluate four contrasting approaches to mathematical practice. (shrink)
This paper considers the application to mathematical fallacies of techniques drawn from informal logic, specifically the use of ”argument schemes’. One such scheme, for Appeal to Expert Opinion, is considered in some detail.
Ralph Johnson argues that mathematical proofs lack a dialectical tier, and thereby do not qualify as arguments. This paper argues that, despite this disavowal, Johnson’s account provides a compelling model of mathematical proof. The illative core of mathematical arguments is held to strict standards of rigour. However, compliance with these standards is itself a matter of argument, and susceptible to challenge. Hence much actual mathematical practice takes place in the dialectical tier.
Bullshit is not the only sort of deceptive talk. Spurious definitions are another important variety of bad reasoning. This paper will describe some of these problematic tactics, and show how Harry Frankfurt’s treatment of bullshit may be extended to analyze their underlying causes. Finally, I will deploy this new account of definition to assess whether Frankfurt’s definition of bullshit is itself legitimate.
I intend to bring recent work applying virtue theory to the study of argument to bear on a much older problem, that of disagreements that resist rational resolution, sometimes termed "deep disagreements". Just as some virtue epistemologists have lately shifted focus onto epistemic vices, I shall argue that a renewed focus on the vices of argument can help to illuminate deep disagreements. In particular, I address the role of arrogance, both as a factor in the diagnosis of deep disagreements and (...) as an obstacle to their mutually acceptable resolution. Arrogant arguers are likely to make any disagreements to which they are party seem deeper than they really are and arrogance impedes the strategies that we might adopt to resolve deep disagreements. As a case in point, since arrogant or otherwise vicious arguers cannot be trusted not to exploit such strategies for untoward ends, any policy for deep disagreement amelioration must require particularly close attention to the vices of argument, lest they be exploited by the unscrupulous. (shrink)
Is it possible to distinguish communities of arguers by tracking the argumentation schemes they employ? There are many ways of relating schemes to communities, but not all are productive. Attention must be paid not only to the admissibility of schemes within a community of argumentational practice, but also to their comparative frequency. Two examples are discussed: informal mathematics, a convenient source of well-documented argumentational practice, and anthropological evidence of nonstandard reasoning.
The status and limits of science are the focus of urgent public debate. This paper contributes a philosophical analysis of representations of science and the supernatural in popular culture. It explores and critiques a threefold taxonomy of supernatural narratives: (1) reduction of the supernatural to contemporary science; (2) reduction to a `future science' methodologically continuous with contemporary science; (3) the supernatural as irreducible. The means by which the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer adroitly negotiates the borderlines between these narratives (...) is related to the `science wars', the two cultures debate, and the ancients vs. moderns dispute. (shrink)
Douglas Walton’s multitudinous contributions to the study of argumentation seldom, if ever, directly engage with argumentation in mathematics. Nonetheless, several of the innovations with which he is most closely associated lend themselves to improving our understanding of mathematical arguments. I concentrate on two such innovations: dialogue types (§1) and argumentation schemes (§2). I argue that both devices are much more applicable to mathematical reasoning than may be commonly supposed.
Virtue theories have lately enjoyed a modest vogue in the study of argumentation, echoing the success of more far-reaching programmes in ethics and epistemology. Virtue theories of argumentation (VTA) comprise several conceptually distinct projects, including the provision of normative foundations for argument evaluation and a renewed focus on the character of good arguers. Perhaps the boldest of these is the pursuit of the fully satisfying argument, the argument that contributes to human flourishing. This project has an independently developed epistemic analogue: (...) eudaimonistic virtue epistemology. Both projects stress the importance of widening the range of cognitive goals beyond, respectively, cogency and knowledge; both projects emphasize social factors, the right sort of community being indispensable for the cultivation of the intellectual virtues necessary to each project. This paper proposes a unification of the two projects by arguing that the intellectual good life sought by eudaimonistic virtue epistemologists is best realized through the articulation of an account of argumentation that contributes to human flourishing. (shrink)