Pro Logica

January 3, 2010

Logic, Argumentation and Rhetoric

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , , , — Ron Toczek @ 2:44 am

Deductive logic can  be described as reasoning from assumptions i.e. , deriving valid statements from either universal statements generally considered “true” or statements defining a subject of discourse.    The essential problem with using deductive logic in human discourse is one of codification by which is meant that unless the statements used in a deductive sequence are  codified to the extent that everybody reading the statements has the precise same understanding of the statements the reasoning will fail to convince an interested listener with a different interpretation of even one statement within the deductive sequence; however, this does not prevent people from using this form in their arguments, a practice I refer to as pseudo-deductive reasoning.  Proper deductive logic does have its use in such fields as symbolic logic and many of the sciences.

Inferential logic is a process whereby a general statement is claimed to be valid or true on the basis of one or more specific experiential occurrences by the claimant.  It is generally the result of what might be termed as an “aha” moment wherein the memory of past experiences are seen to be but specific instances of a more general statement.  Most of the physical sciences important advances have come about in just this fashion.  One needs to remember that inferential conclusions have no claim to either truth or accuracy–think back to the ether theory of electromagnetic wave propagation, or how about relativity replacing Newtonian gravitational theory and when it comes to human motivation or actions every general statement has its exceptions.  Inferential reasoning can be described as the process of listing specific experiential instances to support a general conclusion.

Argumentation can be described as the process of demonstrating that some statement has  validity within a certain context, but does not include the demonstration of a mathematical proof  since the “proof” can be mechanically verified by either a human or a machine.  With this proviso the tools of argumentation are the two forms of reasoning described above along with the citation of authority and analogy.  Claiming the validity of an assertion  by citing its author is meaningless unless that author’s argument is also cited and is useless in an oral debate if the debatee is unfamiliar with that author’s work or even if familiar, does not have a working knowledge of that author’s particular argument.  Analogy is  weak because  resemblance of one or more aspects does not guarantee a resemblance in the aspect under consideration, for instance, a drug that cures an illness in a chimpanzee does not always cure a similar disease in a human. The tools of argumentation being what they are it can be rightly said that argumentation cannot prove any assertion.

Rhetoric is primarily the art of winning a verbal battle for the purpose of crediting or discrediting a person or an assertion using argumentative tools and other  devices some of which may be labeled as unsavory.  Use of the term “rhetoric” when referring to an argument will always mean the use of these other devices.  There is usually an impending action of some sort such that when it happens the rhetorician can be said to have either won or lost his case.  A skilled rhetorician should be able to represent all views since his/her concern is only the immediate battle.  However, with human beings, nothing is simple and in many situations where the art of rhetoric is used there may be winners, losers and dropouts due to the interplay of people and assertions and/or ideas.  The status may even change at some later date due to unintended consequences or unplanned events.   Written rhetoric will generally be ineffective unless its author knows that all the people who matter will read his rhetoric.

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3 Comments »

  1. What is the point of this? You also left out the most important part of the debate process…Belief or Faith.
    Whether or not a person believes something greatly influences that person ability to believe or even understand the issue being debated.

    Comment by Ronald Toczek — January 4, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

    • I do agree that belief is a very important part of the debate process and it is slated to have an upcoming post. Please read the about page since that is where comments relating to additional topics must be directed.

      Comment by Ron Toczek — January 4, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  2. Sorry, I should have written this first. Very well written and thought out blog!!!

    Comment by Ronald Toczek — January 4, 2010 @ 1:27 pm


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