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Arguing from social status in public discourse.

The aim of this paper is to reformulate Brandom's suggestions (Brandom, 2000) referring to the role of the normative vocabulary and the attribution of patterns of practical reasoning to an agent, in order to make them suitable for the analysis and evaluation of the practical arguments containing the arguer's claim that she or he is committed to a social institutional status as a premise.

In doing this I shall consider Brandom's notion of "making explicit...the endorsement of a pattern of material practical inference" (Brandom, 2000, p. 90) as being more or less equivalent to Walton's notion of identifying and evaluating an argumentation scheme in a text of discourse (Walton, 1996; 2006; 2008), and treat Brandom's "institutional" pattern of practical inference as a defeasible and presumptive argumentation scheme with critical questions associated with it.

Brandom on the role of the normative vocabulary in logical analysis

According to the "expressive" role Brandom attributes to logic, "normative vocabulary (including expressions of preference) makes explicit the endorsement (attributed or acknowledged) of material proprieties of practical reasoning" (2000, p. 89). In other words, "the broadly normative or evaluative vocabulary. is used to make explicit in assertible, propositional form the endorsement of a pattern of material inferences. Different patterns of inference should be understood as corresponding to different sorts of norms or pro-attitudes" (pp. 89-90). For instance, the use of the normative term "obliged" in
   Bank employees are obliged (required) to wear neckties,

   makes explicit the endorsement of the material practical inference:

   I am a bank employee going to work, so I shall wear a necktie.

   And the normative term "want" in

   I want (desire, prefer) stay dry,

   makes explicit the endorsement of the material practical inference:

   Only opening my umbrella will keep me dry, so I shall open my
   umbrella.

   Equally, the normative "ought" or "ought not" in the proposition:

   It is wrong (ought not) to harm anyone to no purpose,

   makes explicit the endorsement of following practical inference:


Repeating the gossip would harm someone to no purpose, so I shall not repeat the gossip.

However, in Brandom's view, propositions containing normative terms are not implicit or unstated premises in the inferences they license. The use of the normative vocabulary has the only role of making explicit "implicit inferential commitments, in the form of claims" (pp. 86-87). Such propositions do not contribute to the force of the inferential relation between premises and conclusion. In other words, they are "not required to make the inferences they explicitate good inferences" (p. 87). Since, according to Brandom's expressivist account on logic, "playing such an explicitating expressive role is precisely what distinguishes some vocabulary as distinctively logical" (p. 87). Instead, the role of these propositions, that express or refer to norms is to make explicit "the inferential commitment that permits the transition" (p. 89) from premise(s) to conclusion. But, making explicit an inferential commitment means different things for different patterns of practical reasoning. For instance, proposition "I want to stay dry" makes explicit the attribution of a preference to an agent, implicitly attributed through a material inference such "Only remaining in the car will keep me dry, so I shall remain in the car", the transition from the premise to the conclusion of which it licenses. But, proposition "Bank employees are obliged (required) to wear neckties" makes explicit the inferential endorsement that permits the transition from the premise to the conclusion in the following material practical inference: "I am a bank employee going to work, so I shall wear a necktie". Therefore, what authorizes the transition from the premise to the conclusion in this material inference is a norm "associated" with a social status (p. 91). To say that what authorizes the transition from the premise to the conclusion, in this case, is a social norm, is, from the point of view of Brandom's deontic scorekeeping model of discursive practice, to say that "[t]aking it that there is such a norm or requirement also just is endorsing a pattern of practical reasoning: taking ["I am a bank employee going to work, so I shall wear a necktie"] to be a good inference for anyone who is a bank employee" (Brandom 2000, p. 90). A special feature of this inference is that it is considered by the scorekeeper "to be a good inference for any interlocutor A such that the scorekeeper undertakes doxastic commitment to the claim that A is a bank employee" (Brandom, 2000, p. 91). Therefore, "[w]hether one has a good reason to wear a necktie just depends on whether or not one occupies the status in question" (Brandom, 2000, p. 91). And, more generally, such a "pattern, where what matters is the scorekeeper's undertaking of a commitment to A's occupying the status rather than A's acknowledgment of that commitment, corresponds to an objective sense of 'good reason for action' (according to the scorekeeper)" (p. 91).

The fact that what authorizes the transition from premises to conclusion it is not a premise is a consequence of non-monotonicity of what Brandom, following Wilfrid Sellars, calls "material inferences".

Non-monotonicity of material inferences, including those having this pattern, is what makes them defeasible inferences (Pinto, 2006, pp. 309, 312-313; Pinto, 2009, pp. 282, 289; Hitchcock, 2009, pp. 18-19; Godden and Walton, 2007, p. 275; Walton and Godden, 2007). Therefore, such models can be seen as argumentation schemes, with the meaning of "argumentation scheme" as it is in informal logic (Walton, 1996; Walton, Reed, Macagno, 2008). However, an argumentation scheme associated with Brandom's "institutional" model (Brandom, 2000, p. 91) is not to be found on the actual lists of argumentation schemes. In its implicit form, an inference having this pattern could be the following one:
   I have the social status S

   Therefore, I shall do A.


An inferential commitment to this material inference could be expressed through the proposition:
   Generally, those who have the status S ought to do A.

   So, the explicit form, which can be treated as an argumentation
   scheme will be:

   In this case, I have the social status S.

   Generally, those who have the status S ought to do A.

   Therefore, I shall do A.


In this scheme, we will call the first premise Social Status Premise, and the second, Normative Premise.

Institutional patterns of inference as argumentation schemes for practical reasoning

Walton treats patterns of practical reasoning in the way Brandom treats what he calls the "prudential pattern of material inferences", that is, by considering them as attributing goals or intentions to an agent. For Walton, the basic scheme for practical reasoning and the scheme for value-based practical reasoning explicitly refer, in the premises, to the goals, intentions or preferences of the agent (Walton, 2007, p. 226). For Brandom, material inferences that contain such references are of the following kind: "Only opening my umbrella will keep me dry, so I shall open my umbrella", or, "It is raining. Therefore, I shall open my umbrella". According to Brandom's expressivist approach to logic, proposition "I want to stay dry" is not a premise, implicit or unstated, of the inference. It only has the role of making "explicit in assertible, propositional form the endorsement of a pattern of material practical inferences" (Brandom, 2000, p. 90). That is, it only makes explicit "the norm implicitly underwriting the inference", a norm that "is associated with...exhibiting a certain desire or preference" (p. 91).

But what if the scheme did contain reference to the social status of the agent, as in the Brandom's institutional pattern of inference in which the norm implicitly underwriting an inference is associated with "having a certain status" (p. 91)? In both cases, the prudential and the institutional, "[t]o endorse a practical inference as entitlement-preserving is to take the doxastic premises as providing reasons for the practical conclusion" (p. 92). However, while in the prudential pattern doxastic premises or assertions refer to the agent's goal or intention, as in the following example: "Only standing under the awning will keep me dry, so I shall stand under the awning", in the institutional one the premises refer to the agent's social status, as in "I am a bank employee going to work, so I shall comb my hair". However, if Brandom's approach is correct, then we have reasons to take into account, for the sake of analysis and evaluation of arguments, not only argumentation scheme for practical reasoning having the general form (Walton, 2007, p. 226):
   Basic Scheme for Practical Reasoning

   I have a goal G.

   Bringing about A is necessary (or sufficient) for me to bring about
   G.

   Therefore, I should (practically ought to) bring about A.

   or (when values are involved) having the general form (Walton,
   2007, pp. 226-227):

   Scheme for Value-based Practical Reasoning

   I have a goal G.

   G is supported by my set of values, V.

   Bringing about A is necessary (or sufficient) for me to bring about
   G.

   Therefore, I should (practically ought to) bring about A,

   but, also, schemes having the form
   In this case, I have the social status S (or I am S).

   Generally, those who have the status S ought to do A.

   Therefore, I will do A.


Brandom's suggestion and the reason for taking into account this pattern of inference is that having a certain status is as good a reason for acting in a certain way (from the point of view of the agent) as to have a certain goal or intention. Given the non-monotonicity and the defeasibility of this pattern of practical reasoning, the inferences corresponding to it can be evaluated using critical questions. But what critical questions do match the institutional pattern of practical reasoning?

If, as Brandom suggests, the proposition making explicit the agent's inferential commitment, that is, the proposition "Generally, who has the status S should do A", is added, then the critical questions matching the argument (taking this proposition as a premise), that can be called (A) Argument from Social Status:

Argument from Social Status

In this case, I (a) have the social status S.

Generally, who has the status S should do A.

Therefore, I (a) will do A,

could be the following:

(A1) In this case, does a have the status S?

(A2) Should anyone having the status S do A?

The questions are general in character, but a comparative analysis taking into account other similar argumentation schemes, such as Argument from Commitment and Argument from Verbal Classification, can detail them. The argumentation schemes for these arguments are as follows (Walton, 2006, pp. 117-118; p. 129):

(I) Argumentation Scheme for Argument from Commitment

Commitment Evidence Premise: In this case it was shown that a is committed to proposition A, according to the evidence of what he said or did.

Linkage of Commitments Premise: Generally, when an arguer is committed to A, it can be inferred that he is also committed to 6.

Conclusion: In this case, a is committed to 6.

The scheme has two critical questions associated with it:

(I.1.) What evidence in the case supports the claim that a is committed to A, and does it include contrary evidence, indicating that a might not be committed to A?

(I.2.) Is there room for questioning whether there is an exception in this case to the general rule that commitment to A implies commitment to 6?

(II) Argumentation Scheme for Argument from Classification

Individual Premise: a has property F.

Classification Premise: For all x, if x has property F, then x can be classified as having property G.

Conclusion: a has property G.

Two appropriate critical questions match the scheme:

(II.1.) What evidence is there that a definitely has property F, as opposed to evidence indicating room for doubt on whether it should be so classified?

(II.2.) Is the verbal classification in the classification premise based merely on a stipulative or biased definition that is subject to doubt?

The pattern (A) has in common with the scheme (I) the fact that in one premise a propriety is attributed to an individual, and the other premise is definitional in character. In terms of Brandom's institutional inferential pattern, the critical questions for the Argument from verbal Classification would be:

(II'.1) What evidence is there that the person who says that she or he has the social status, as opposed to evidence indicating room for doubt on whether it should be so classified?

(II'.2) Is the normative premise based on a stipulative or biased attribution of S?

As for the scheme (I), the critical questions for argument (A) can be:

(I'.1)What evidence in the case supports the claim that the person who said that she or he has the status S is committed to S, and does it include contrary evidence, indicating that she or he might not be committed to S?

(I'.2) Is there room for questioning whether is an exception in this case to the general rule that who is committed to S is also committed to doing A?

Questions (I'.1) and (II'.2) detail the question (A2). But, since the social status premise in (A) is, according to Brandom, a doxastic commitment or an assertion (from the point of view of the arguer), (I'.1) is a better particularization of (A1). Questions (I'.2) and (II'.2), referring to the normative premise, complete each other. (I'.2) questions whether commitment to S implies commitment to doing A, and (II'.2) questions whether the normative premise is a persuasive or stipulative definition. Therefore, both questions are necessary in evaluating arguments that have the form (A). Thus, A can be put in the following form:

Argumentative Scheme for Argument from Social Status

Social Status Premise: In this case, I have the social status S.

Normative Premise: Generally, anyone having the social status S should do A.

Conclusion: I will do A.

The three critical questions matching the scheme are:

(CQ1) What evidence in the case supports the claim that the person who says that she or he has the status S is committed to S, and does it include contrary evidence indicating that she or he might not be committed to S?

(CQ2) Is there room for questioning whether there is an exception in this case to the norm that who has S should do A?

(CQ3) Is the normative premise based merely on a stipulative or biased definition that is subject to doubt?

To answer the first question one has to identify pro and contra evidence for the agent's claim that she or he has the status S. The answer to the second question concerns the degree of generality of the normative premise, and the answer to the third question concerns the cases (if any) in which what one having the status S should do is not defined through a definition that is generally accepted as norm or rule, but rather through a stipulative or persuasive definition. On account of the definitional character not just of the normative premise, but also of the social status premise, one further question can be added:

(CQ4) Is the social status premise based merely on a stipulative or biased definition that is subject to doubt?

The answer to this question concerns the cases (if any) in which attribution or selfattribution of statuses is rhetorical or arbitrary in character.

Conclusions

I have presented here a way of interpreting Brandom's...institutional" pattern of material inferences as a defeasible and presumptive argumentation scheme. Four critical questions matching the scheme have been proposed by analogy with two defeasible argumentation schemes: argumentation scheme for argument from commitment and argumentation scheme for argument from classification. The analogy is authorized by Brandom's suggestion that we should treat as practical, i.e. exhibiting commitment to action as conclusion, not only inferences from goals, intentions, or preferences to intentions to act, but also from commitments to social statuses to intentions to act.

Acknowledgment:

"This work was supported by the strategic grant POSDRU/89/1.5/S/61968, Project ID61968 (2009), co-financed by the European Social Fund within the Sectorial Operational Program Human Resources Development 2007-2013."

Bibliography:

Brandom, 2000, Articulating Reasons, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, London.

Walton, D. 2007, "Evaluating practical reasoning", Synthese, Vol. 157, No. 2, pp. 197-240.

Walton, D., 2006, Fundamentals of Critical Argumentation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York,

Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo.

Walton, D., (1996), Argumentation Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Godden, D. M., Walton, D. (2007), "Advances in the Theory of Argumentation Schemes and Critical Questions", Informal Logic Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 267-292.

Hitchcock, D., (2009), "Non-logical consequences", Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, 16 (29), pp. 1-22.

Pinto, R.C., (2009), "Argumentation and the Force of Reasons", Informal Logic, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 268-295.

Pinto, R.C., (2006), "Evaluating Inferences: the Nature and Role of Warrants", Informal Logic, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 287-317.

Walton, D., Godden, D.M. (2007), "Redefining knowledge in a way suitable for argumentation theory", in H.V. Hansen, et. al. (Eds.), Dissensus and the Search for Common Ground, CD-ROM (pp. 1-13).Windsor, ON: OSSA.

URL: http://dougwalton.ca/papers%20in%20pdf/07OSSAdavid.pdf

Walton, D., Reed, C., Macagno, F., (2008), Argumentation Schemes, Cambridge University Press.

Catalin STANCIULESCU, University of Criova, Faculty of Social Sciences, Political Sciences Specialization

E-mail: cfstanciulescu@yahoo.com
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Title Annotation:ORIGINAL PAPER
Author:Stanciulescu, Catalin
Publication:Revista de Stiinte Politice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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