The roles of each in preparing the book (Fundamentals 93).

Philosophical background of each, esp. P's initial logical empiricism, his concern for the justification of value claims, and the role of Eugène Dupréel. (Fundamentals 93)

Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca (translated by John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver), The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969; French-language original first published 1958)

Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (hereafter "Perelman") understands by "argumentation" a looser form of argument than "demonstration". He self-consciously attempts to revive the ancient Greek and Roman rhetorical tradition, especially those parts of it which concern the invention of arguments. Starting from the conception of the function of argumentation as that of intensifying or securing the adherence of the audience, he introduces a concern for the quality of arguments as a concern about the quality of the audience the speaker constructs. His concept of the "universal audience" is a key concept in this connection. Cf. Christopher Tindale's Acts of Arguing (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999) for an attempt to defend a basically rhetorical approach to the study of argumentation and to reformulate the concept of universal audience in the light of criticisms of Perelman's conception.

The body of Perelman's book consists of a typology of methods of argumentative persuasion, derived partly from classification schemes in such ancient rhetoricians as Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian, and partly from examples of persuasive arguments in the western philosophical and literary tradition. Part Two, "The Starting Point of Argument", classifies premisses as facts and truths, presumptions, values, hierarchies and loci (the "places" of Aristotle's Topics and Rhetoric, interpreted as general premisses). It also discusses the selection and presentation of data. Part Three, "Techniques of Argumentation", classifies arguments into quasi-logical arguments, arguments based on the structure of reality, relations establishing the structure of reality, and dissociation of concepts; it is remarkable for the absence of any discussion of objective validity of the specific argument schemes distinguished under each type, e.g. the argument of waste (an argument based on the structure of reality, 65, 279-281). Part III also discusses the interaction of arguments.

Points to be included in summaries:


I. Inadequacy of logical empiricism, which restricts methods of proof to formal logic based on what is empirically verifiable. Use of reason not confined to demonstration based on the self-evident.

II. Why rhetoric as an alternative to demonstration (rather than dialectic)? partly to avoid confusion, mainly to focus on variable intensity of adherence to theses as an alternative to self-evidence [reflection: why not variable degree of support?]

Note error in Greek on page 5: eulogos (reasonable) for endoxa (reputable opinions)

Why new? not restriction to spoken argumentation or to crowds in squares as addressees. (Audiences include readers of written texts, single interlocutors, oneself.) Discourse = argumentation, speaker = presenter of argument, audience = those to whom argument is addressed.

Focus on argumentative schemes in a discussion.

III. To be investigated not by psychology but by an analysis of the methods of proof used in arguments put forward by advertisers, politicians, lawyers, judges, philosophers-analogous to the analysis in modern formal logic of the methods of proof used by mathematicians. [Reflection: This is not how modern formal logic developed. It was a normative discipline, imitating mathematical methods of proof, but being much more rigorous. And note the similarities to ancient Aristotelian and Stoic syllogistic.]

PART ONE: The framework of argumentation

1. Demonstration and argumentation: Modern logic is constrained only by avoidance of doubt and ambiguity in the choice of rules and symbols; the interpretation of the elements of an axiomatic system is left to those who will apply it, and their origin is irrelevant. [This is an erroneous characterization, since logical constants in an axiomatic system have a standard interpretation, and the adequacy of the rules of deduction is measured against that interpretation.] By contrast, all argumentation aims at gaining the adherence of minds, and thus assumes an intellectual contact. [Reflection: all?]

Clarification (Leslie): How does Perelman distinguish argumentation from demonstration? Note that he begins his work with a rhetorical strategy of dissociation, to which he later devotes an entire section of part three on techniques of argumentation (pp. 411-459), and to which Agnes van Rees later devoted an entire book investigating it from a pragma-dialectical perspective: Dissociation in Argumentative Discussions: A Pragma-Dialectical Perspective (Argumentation Library , Vol. 13), Springer, 2009. See also Takuzo Konishi, "Establishing informal logic through dissociation", a paper presented at the IL@25 conference at the University of Windsor in 2003, for a case study of the techniques of dissociation used to establish informal logic as a distinct field of study.

Clarification (Kelly): Apart from its negative characteristic as not aiming at persuasion, what positive characteristics does demonstration have, according to Perelman?

Clarification (Leslie): Does adherence flag a type of measurement? If so, in what sense of "flags"? What type of measurement? Measuring what?

Clarification (Khameiel): In what sense is their approach to argumentation rhetorical? They take persuasion to be the aim of argumentation (creating or intensifying adherence to a thesis).

Reflection (Nancy): Is Perelman selling out, embracing a relativistic conception of the truth?

Reflection (Nancy): Should one make arguments with the sole purpose of persuading other(s) to adhere to one's point of view? Winning for its own sake is a shallow and dishonest goal.

2: The contact of minds: Requires a common language, socially based rules prescribing how conversations may be begun, speaker attaching importance to gaining interlocutor's adherence, a certain modesty in the speaker, having attention of the audience. Facilitated by membership in same social class, social relations. [These are very important points. Cf. importance in pragma-dialectical theory of confrontation stage and opening stage.]

3. The speaker and his audience: To be listened to, a speaker must have some quality, which may be provided by some institution (e.g. a scientific society or journal). The audience is not necessarily those to whom a speaker is actually speaking, or who are actually reading a writer's words; better to define an audience as the ensemble of those the speaker wishes to influence by his argumentation.

4. The audience as a construction of the speaker: To be effective in argumentation, a speaker must know the audience he wishes to win over: the premisses it accepts, its culture, its social function(s). And he must know how to "condition" it by his speech. [What is meant by "condition"?]

5. Adaptation of the speaker to the audience: To be effective, the speaker must adapt himself to his audience. If such adaptation requires the use of ignoble means, the speaker has the option of not trying to persuade it. For a speaker to try to convince a corrupt audience while remaining moral requires difficult distinctions and dissociations. [This puts all the blame for demagoguery on the speaker. Speakers can appeal to more or less ignoble aspects of their audiences.]

Clarification (Nancy): To what extent is the audience a real group of people to whose beliefs and other characteristics the speaker must adapt, and to what extent is it a projection of the speaker?

Reflection (Nancy): To communicate effectively, one must acknowledge the beliefs and opinions of one's audience. One is not so much trying to secure or intensify their adherence to one's own point of view as to explain the reasons why one has a (possibly) different one.

6. Persuading and convincing: P & O-T call argumentation persuasive if it only claims validity for a particular audience, convincing if it presumes to gain the adherence of every rational being. Contrast criteria based on isolating one argument from its context and calling it convincing but not persuasive, or Kant's distinction of persuasion as subjective and conviction as valid for every rational being. An argument is convincing if it aims to be persuasive to the universal audience of all normal adult persons. The single interlocutor whom the speaker addresses in a dialogue and the subject himself when he deliberates are only floating incarnations of the universal audience.

Clarification (Kelly): Note that the definitions of persuasive and convincing argumentation are stipulative.

Clarification (Leslie): Perelman does not distinguish persuasion from conviction by the strength of the adherence produced.

Clarification (Khameiel): Although there is some analogy between the subjective-objective distinction and the persuasive-convincing distinction, note that the latter distinction is a distinction about the aspirations of the speaker, not about the validity status of the arugmentation.

Clarification (Kelly): Why does Perelman distinguish persuading from convincing in the way that he does?

Clarification (Kelly): How does the distinction as Perelman proposes it express "indirectly" (29) the frequently established connection between persuasion and action on the one hand, and between conviction and intelligence on the other?

Clarification (Khameiel): What is the relation between the notion of the universal audience and the distinction between persuasion and conviction?

7. The universal audience: Agreement of the universal audience is not a fact but something imagined by the speaker and claimed as a right. Each speaker constitutes the universal audience from what he knows of his fellow men, in order to transcend the oppositions he is aware of. If some do not in fact agree, one can disqualify the recalcitrant or, in case there are too many of them, set the universal audience against an elite audience. Certain specialized audiences (one's fellow specialists in a scientific discipline, morally reflective persons) can be assimilated to the universal audience.

Clarification (Leslie): The claim about fact and right is not a claim about the adherence brought about by argumentation that convinces a universal audience.

Clarification/Reflection (Khameiel): How can we reconcile the apparent inconsistency between the claim that argumentation addressed to a universal audience must convince its audience of reasons which are self-evident and possess a timeless validity (32) with the claim that the universal audience is characterized by the image the speaker has of it (33).

Clarification (Leslie): Note that the universal audience is not literally all human beings, but is a projection by the speaker of all rational beings.

Clarification (Nancy): Note that the "rhetoric employing nothing but logical proof" spoken of at the bottom of page 32 is not argumentation but demonstration

Reflection (Patrick): While the concept of the universal audience properly constrains the production of argumentation, the quality of argumentation is not entirely relative to the audience:

"However, the notion that argumentation is entirely relative to the audience seems unacceptable to me; audiences are sometimes persuaded by bad arguments, and they are sometimes not persuaded by arguments that they ought to accept. Even the universal audience can sometimes accept what ought to be regarded as bad arguments, because the universal audience is constituted by what the arguer knows about the concrete audience at hand and about what is common to different concrete audiences (about what is reasonable), and an arguer can be mistaken both about the audience at hand and about what is reasonable. Furthermore, the reaction of the particular audience at hand is an important indicator of whether the universal audience would accept the argument presented, but the particular audience can fail to be reasonable. The reaction of either the particular, concrete audience or the universal audience, then, fails to be sufficient for the evaluation of an argument. I take it that argumentation therefore cannot be entirely relative to the audience."

Reflection (Leslie): Perelman's relativism about the universal audience (33) fits Foucault's point that "truth" changes with each new discovery. Lacan's notion that the self is other suggests that any individual's or culture's universal audience can be shown to coincide with an other's by highlighting their common core values.

8. Argumentation before a single hearer: Speaker can regard hearer as incarnation of the universal or a particular audience. Distinction between discussion (unbiased search for best solutions to a controversial problem) and debate (defence of settled convictions) hard to sustain without independent grasp of the truth. Most one-on-one discussion is intermediate.

9. Self-deliberating: Self-deliberating sometimes regarded as privileged; cf. Descartes, Mill. But it is really a special case of argumentation. Hence the possibility of rationalization. Arguments to others resting on different reasons than those used in reaching a decision, perhaps not even accepted by the speaker, are OK; a new argument can intensify the speaker's adherence, and different audiences need to be addressed in different ways. Hypocrisy is OK.

Clarification (Leslie): Where on page 41 does Perelman say that the addressee is persuaded first by the arguer and then by himself?

Clarification/reflection (Nancy): To what extent does Perelman endorse hypocrisy when on page 44 he allows a speaker to use premisses that the speaker does not accept in order to persuade a particular audience that does accept them?

10. The effects of argumentation: An efficacious argument is one which intensifies adherence to theses in such a way as to prompt to action. The case in which a thesis within a certain domain can be agreed by all interlocutors to be proved or shown probable is a special case. Where it is possible to argue pro and con, we are not in such a special domain. Argumentation is directed towards action in the future.

*NB: Perelman rejects the contrast between philosophic discourse which silences particular passions to facilitate objective consideration and action-oriented speech which has to excite the audience.

Clarification (Khameiel): Is adherence part of persuasion or conviction? Both, since persuasive and convincing argumentation both aim to create or intensify adherence by an audience to a thesis. The difference is that the intended audience of persuasion is a particular audience, whereas the intended audience of convincing is the universal audience.

11. The epideictic genre: Contrary to the traditional disparagement of epidictic oratory as a mere display of the speaker's eloquence, it serves the function of intensifying adherence to accepted values, so that they may prevail over other values with which they might come into conflict. It is prone to appeal to a universal order.

Clarification (Leslie): Deliberative (political), forensic (legal) and epidictic are types of oratory, not types of audience. They were first distinguished by Aristotle, and have been generally accepted in the western rhetorical tradition since then as the three main types of oratory.

Clarification (Leslie): Perelman rejects the notion, common in antiquity and since, that the aim of epidictic oratory is to please the audience.

Reflection (Khameiel): This approach rejects an important part of argumentation, that of changing beliefs. What about argumentation that leads to action by creating values rather than reinforcing accepted values? This approach ignores ways in which argumentation may make normative claims on actions.

12. Education and propaganda: Education is argumentation either expressing truths or defending values which are not controversial in the commissioning group. It contrasts with propaganda in seeking to intensify adherence to already accepted theses rather than to change the opinions of the audience. [This is a subjectively based, relativistic distinction. A more objective distinction would distinguish between the impartial presentation of information about a subject, including existing differences of opinion on controversial questions, and the partial presentation of selected and possibly even distorted information in support of an antecedently determined position.]

13. Argumentation and violence: Argumentation is an alternative to violence as a way of achieving prized unanimity in a society. [In an authoritarian or totalitarian society, it may be part of a system which stifles freedom of thought and expression; much depends on whether social institutions allow and encourage individuals to question and challenge.] There are limits to discussion (of subject-matter, persons, places, and times). Various institutions provide for re-opening discussion on matters previously settled by argumentation, not only in legal systems but also outside them.

14. Argumentation and commitment: Where thought and action are closely connected, as is commonly the case with argumentation, objectivity is an illusion. What may help to resolve a heated conflict of opposing arguments is an impartiality which stands between being a complete outsider to the group involved and being a partisan in the group of some position. Fanaticism: refusing to submit to free discussion a disputed thesis. Scepticism: refusing to adhere to any thesis because of a demand for absolute proof of absolute proof. Both are inclined to give violence a free hand.

CONCLUSION: The theory of argumentation sets itself against all absolutist philosophical positions in philosophy and the stark dualisms which stem from them. It provides a middle way between a tyrannizing objectivism which allows no room for human freedom and an arbitrary subjectivism which encourages violence.

Questions for discussion

Is Perelman fair to other philosophers? Did they not use argumentation to support their claims that some propositions are self-evident? (Amy)

Is the function of argumentation in fact to secure or intensify the adherence of an audience? (Jay)

What exactly is a (the?) universal audience? What is the difference between persuasive and convincing argumentation? (Mark)

How adequate is an appeal to the quality of the audience as a response to concerns about the indifference to the quality of arguments implicit in a rhetorical perspective? (Kerry)

Is it true that all societies forbid questioning of certain basic values? Is this right? Is it necessary? (Mark)

Objections raised in Fundamentals:

1) The standard of rationality is relativistic, even taking into account the concept of a universal audience. (This objection will of course promote a counter-challenge to provide a non-relativistic standard of rationality which does justice to the variety of methods of argumentation actually used.)

2) If the theory is supposed to encompass all types of argumentation used to secure or intensify the adherence of an audience to a thesis, why does it systematically exclude logically valid arguments which occur in argumentative discourse?

3) Whether the starting-points (facts, truths, presumptions; values, value hierarchies, loci) and argumentation schemes (quasi-logical, based on the structure of reality, establishing the structure of reality, dissociation of concepts) are empirically adequate is difficult to maintain, because the classification scheme is not coherent and the types of premisses and argumentation schemes are not clearly defined. In response, an empirical study which developed coding guidelines for 13 of Perelman's schemes claimed both completeness and inter-rater reliability for the typology.

Influences of Perelman's theory:

1) Investigation of argument schemes and associated critical questions (e.g. Kienpointner).

2) Philosophy of law: legal, esp. judicial, reasoning.

3) Philosophical defences of the universal audience as a standard for judging the quality of arguments (e.g. Crosswhite, Tindale)