Saturday, June 18, 2016

What makes one argument better than another?


care of (and for) the other (to be convinced) by flexible perspectivity
through an event of appropriation



For a given decision (whether or not I vote for issue “I”), one looks at the arguments for each case and may argue for choosing acceptance (“Yes”) or rejection. I’ll say I do that, but this is not about a choice I have to make. One says or thinks “I look at the arguments...”

If I make an argument for a choice, then that presentation is based in the way I “look at” the arguments for each—how I regard each argument—such that the argument for one option is better than the other (judged better, but maybe as my deliberative recognition that one is better—”simply” is better: more appealing, more compelling, even though I haven’t reconstructed my deliberative process for the sake of self-reassurance or persuasive efficacy).

I don’t have to justify my choice to others; but if I do so, then it’s because I want to do so; or I’m called upon to do so. My justification of my choice between two options may parallel my actual deliberations—or maybe not. Maybe I make my choice because one option “feels” better to choose than the other, but my later wanting to influence others or being called upon to warrant my choice occasions a rationale that is anticipated by me to be acceptable or persuasive, somewhat regardless of my real reasons.

This may be warrantable, as a genuine choice about my way of proceeding to warrant. For example, I may have a complex political-theoretical view of why one option is better than another, but I’m warranting my choice to someone who needs reasoning that is cogent to them. Good reasoning to a person with no college education may be very different from what’s regarded as good reasoning to a person with professorial commitments.

But also, one may ungenuinely rationalize their choice instrumentally, as if there’s no difference between what really brought them to their choice and what they anticipate will be most efficacious for another decider. (I wouldn’t choose to do that, but a phony stance is often considered shrewd in marketing, don’t we know: “Buyer beware” etc.)

Whether or not my warranting activity genuinely expresses my own deliberations may be less relevant than genuineness of engagement with the other. In such a case (common case: teaching, therapy), genuineness is about the relationship, more than about accuracy of self representation. A personal representation (inter-personal) in a genuine engagement is commonly different from a representation of my ownmost deliberations.

Warranting my choice to a high schooler could be quite genuine, yet very unrepresentative of my actual deliberations. The two would be congruent to me—my own earlier deliberations and my present warranting—because I have a sense of developmental difference that I’m genuinely respecting (being genuinely attuned with the other), for the sake of genuinely held reasons that are presumably inacccessible to the other.

That also applies to non-developmentally considered cultural distance. In both cases, there’s interpersonal distance that prevails in our difference of views.

Our difference may be cultural or developmental, but interactively, it’s just distance—and I’m genuinely engaged inasmuch as I’m attuned to our distance.

In a sense, any person’s identity is a self-encultured singularity that belongs only to that one life—not basically as temporally-idiosyncratic embodiment of general cultural aspects (nominal individuality); rather, as long-made individuation that has composed one’s life as a culture of one, a richly individuated singularity (not as some abstracted end-in-itself, rather as “me: how I am my specific way of living,” in one’s own gravity of Time.

So (back on Earth), warranting works with interpersonal distance, however that’s understandable. Not only may my real reasons be inaccessible (though in-principle laudable, worthy, and authentically derived), but also the appropriativity of warranting may be inaccessible as such for the other. (Indeed, the cogency of the latter is retrospective, only available in any case as a reconstruction of “our” temporal engagement, apart from my intent to warrant a recommendation.)

The other might gladly accept that my ownmost reasons are different from what I present, because I’m a professor and he’s not. Yet, how that distance/difference “goes” (exists, works in practice) may be inaccessible. If the other chooses to have a private sense of the difference, it’s probably in terms of accepting the mystery that is representable: professor vs. student—which may also contribute to accepting my recommendation without warrant: because I presumably know better (which would be an ungenuine feature of deliberation—but it’s so common, isn’t it). But accepting my presumed authority when I genuinely endeavor to warrant my choice is not the same as me recommending my choice because I’m authoritative; i.e., I’m not “arguing” (simply warranting) from avowal of my authority when I genuinely seek to warrant, yet “have” professional authority.

In any case, I warrant my choice because I want to; or because I’m called upon to do so, and the dynamic of warranting is appropriative, relative to my constructed engagement (or presumed engagement) with the other.

I may be called upon to recommend a choice without warrant, simply because my sense of the best choice is regarded by others as good reason in their own deliberations, if not good enough reason to-and-for the other to cease deliberation, thus being decided.

My warranted recommendation may even be not about my choice, rather about my sense of the best choice, which I would choose if I were in a position to choose effectively (i.e., my “voice” seeks to count as a generally-valid recommendation). As a non-voter, my voice counts through recommendations that contend to have general merit, presumably warrantable (and avowed with selfless confidence) or are actually warranted effectively (gaining general merit). I may be called upon to recommend the best choice, which would be my choice. It is my choice, virtually speaking. (I’ve put aside the common situation of organizational role which gives authority to a delegated decision-maker whose discretion becomes policy, at best due to good consensus processes that create effective support for managerial decision).

So, what’s the better argument? We say it’s the more-principled or better-principled argument, relative (let’s say) to arguments that are based in conventional views, where the conventionality of that counter-view fares worse (it is [to be] argued) relative to its implied principles than the principled background of the view that’s proffered as better (the post-conventional view).

Indeed, a conventionally-based view wouldn’t probably attend to what principles are implied by it, but such a conventionally-backed view isn’t thereby invalid. Clarifying (or having the other clarify) the implicit, but actually operative, principles that are implied doesn’t by itself invalidate a view. The conventional view may be based in admirable and durable values. The implicit principledness of the conventional view might be its reliance on such implicit values that are generally admirable.

To argue a non-conventional view as better may be to argue that one principle (or set of principles) is better than the conventional set-up. The non-conventional view might promote itself as post-conventional, but it meets the conventional view as just different, non-conventional. A conventional view can accept that there are non-conventional views, while not yet finding cogent that a non-conventional view is allegedly post-conventional (which implies a graduated scale of views, in the manner of developmental modeling). A non-conventional view would have to be appealing to a conventional view regardless of any claim to post-conventionality, because a conventional view may not make sense of post-conventionality (thus seeing what’s relatively called “pre-conventional” as simply “immature,” where conventionality is “mature”). Part of conventional thinking is that a graduated scale doesn’t yet make sense (except nebulously, like a difference to a high schooler between high school understanding and thoroughly mysterious college understanding “makes sense”). A post-conventional view is partly that views develop beyond “mature” conventionality. Views may develop to be post-“mature.”

So, a post-conventional view might need to make its case as the better “maturity” that happens to be different “laterally.” The better view can be understood as better, relative to conventional, “mature” thinking, because the better argument is not proximally a claim about the better maturity—though, basically, a better maturity results from more-developed thinking. Post-conventional identity makes a person better, which is to become a better person, one could argue, because flexible thinking is better than inflexible thinking. All in all, the better argument relies on claims about better thinking, e.g., more-flexible perspectivity which can acommodate a greater range of actual diversity. Yet, drawing one to there is beyond making the better argument with a given stage of sensibility.

The better claim could be immanently appealing only if it appealed to better values or principles that the conventional viewer can appreciate as better. The better argument works inasmuch as it appeals to better values/principles that the other can appreciate. So, the better argument is likely about enabling appreciation of proffered values as better.

Anyway, the better argument is less about compelling a change of view than about enabling a better view. The better argument teaches. Yet, as argument (which is different from overtly intending to teach with someone overtly endeavoring to learn, rather than defend a view—though, of course, defending a view can be instrumental to learning which is intended as such by the student-teacher alliance), the better values/principles would either have to already belong to the other implicitly (such that warranting is a matter of disclosing the other’s relevant values or good reasons that advance the promoted, better view); or the process of warranting “connects” with the others’ admitted values/principles in a way that can then be logically employed to show that the better view (being promoted) is already implicitly inferable from the other’s admitted values/principles. This latter approach becomes logical in light of disclosure, either of what’s ready-to-hand or what’s unconcealed through shared reflective analysis. (This is a convoluted formulation of Socratic maieutic.)

Standardly, theory of argument idealizes kinds of logical analysis and operation that presumes given elements, not processes of disclosure that are commonly considered rhetorical in a presentational interest, rather than in a sense that I call enablative, associable with a tutorial alliance or therapeutic alliance. Commonly, poetic thinking is not seeking to control evocation, rather to open oneself into realization and discovery.

Nonconcealment of one’s already-effective values, interests, intrinsic desires, etc. has high potential in changing views through the appeal of the better engagement (which is associable with Heidegger’s notion of higher with-ness, so to speak, between “us”: there belonging together in “the same” thinking).

Valuing developed ability to persuade through caring disclosure and caring nonconcealment is as old as Platonic valuation of Socratic maieutic, Hellenic “therapy of desire” (Martha Nussbaum), emancipatory interest that evolves across the history of philosophy, and mid-20th century conceptions of philosophy as a therapeutic (Wittgenstein, Ordinary Language Philosophy, Habermas). Philo-sophy: love of learning, which is the basis of eventual wisdom. Love of enriched capability for insight, love of creative intelligence—that was and is philosophy.

Yet, the efficacy of disclosure in enablative warranting isn’t evident by writing about it. It’s about actually being with, in a mutuality of there being issues at hand—or text at hand which is intimately appreciated—so-called “close reading” that seems rare. I think it’s all great fun, because textual intimacy can become literally a dialogue with the text.

One doesn’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. Maybe I’m good at it, maybe not. I want to make the point that the endeavoring to play in The Open, so to speak, fearlessly is valuable. Pathmaking is intrinsically good, regardless of expertise. No happy child needs to be told that adventure calls. Dark woods are primally inviting. Not the darkness scares us away; someones steer us away from love of mystery. For we who love learning, the better argument rests in knowing that love of learning never ends.

More likely than not, one’s opponent can be found to be—as already having implicitly been—one’s complement in a shared venture, if not one’s unrealized partner. That may seem precious and na├»ve, but I know: The Shadow can disclose itself to be one’s own potential emerging. One’s conception of The Other can grow to mirror one’s own potential for enrichment. A frightful ending can turn out to open a new way.



This, by the way, is an improvised posting, not a treatise on argumentation that confuses developmentally-relative persuasiveness with generalizable validity. But it’s an interesting distinction, isn’t it: difference between (a) advancing better views and (b) gaining unassailability that secretly longs for timeless formality. Careful thinking (which I believe belongs to this posting) is not curricular detailing. (I’d love to develop the discussion above into a stepwise, pedagogically efficacious discourse.)

I can do formality. Yet, would you do protracted accompaniment? Would we dwell together in the path? Can I anticipate clear dwelling well enough to detail a path to a reader I’ve never met?

At best, we can have here an allegory of tutorial.

I write to you who would welcome the venture,
even though I just do postcards.