Tag Archives: Perelman

Modern Rhet – Week 4

Toulmin, Stephen. “From the Uses of Argument.” The Rhetorical Tradition. 2nd ed. Ed. Bruce Herzberg and Patricia Bizzell.

In this text, Toulmin does not believe that he is writing about rhetoric, but rather about reasoning that is not based on syllogism. He sets up a system in which we can understand and make a case for lines of thought that are not derived from all or always statements, but those based on likelihoods given certain contingencies. So, he suggests a model that has six parts (which Brian has summed up nicely, so with his permission I will excerpt here):

These are the six features in Toulmin’s pattern of an argument

  1. (D)=Data
  2. (W)=Warrant
  3. (B)=Backing
  4. (Q)=Qualifier
  5. (R)=Rebuttal
  6. (C)=Claim

Data is the information on which a claim is based.

The warrant is the assumption, within the parameters of a specific field, that under-gird the claim made by a speaker-writer.

Backing is the taxonomy, set of facts, legal statutes, theoretical readings or empirical studies which move the speaker-writer to form her warrant when arguing for a claim.

A qualifier is an explicit reference to the degree of force which data confers on the claim made by a speaker-writer. They are usually some type of modal.

Rebuttal refers to a condition of exception.

The claim, or conclusion, is the thing the speaker-writer professes exists or asserts is a fact.

(For a diagram of these terms in action, please see page 1419 in The Rhetorical Tradition.)

A key feature of Toulmin’s argument is the idea that, while the criteria and meaning behind any assessment of an argument is field-dependent, there is a sort of universal “force of assessment.”
Good can mean something different in each field, but in every field it situates itself as positive or effective to some extent. Toulmin’s model attempts to find ways that an argument can be deemed effective or not effective based on the force of the argument rather than the specific criteria used to argue or reject it.

Toulmin and Jonson. “Theory and Practice.”

Toulmin and Jonson set up distinctions between theory and practice in order to examine arguments concerning ethical issues. First they look at the classical approach in which geometry was considered theory, and anything that could be derived from the real world was merely practice. Theory was: idealized, atemporal, and necessary, while practical statements were concrete, temporal, and presumptive. The reason to invoke this is to consider the distinctions, which become especially important when attempting to apply principles (theory) to cases (practice). In cases such as science, there is a universal starting point that yields a firm conclusion. In practical cases, the outcomes are more provisional, and may have to be revised more often, because the goal is not to find a universal truth, but to do what is best within the given circumstances. T&J use clinical medicine as their example because, while it relies on theoretical scientific knowledges while still being tied to the specific practicalities of their current patient. They explain how the taxonomy of illness requires doctors to reason from analogy (125). They argue that a similar procedure of establishing a taxonomy and then reasoning from analogy (rather than something firm like a syllogism) is the method often used to decide ethical issues.

Verheij, Bart. “Evaluating Arguments Based on Toulmin’s Scheme.” Argumentation (2005): 347-371.

Verheij puts Toulmin’s method through the rigors of “formal logic” in order to provide a way to evaluate arguments. I’m not sure exactly what this article adds to Toulmin’s scheme, other than to break each of his parts into smaller bits (which he states that he leaves out in order to avoid a clunky style and to sound more like conversational argument).

I will post more on this essay after class, when I understand better the purpose.

Perelman, Chaim. “The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning.”

Perelman wants to introduce a “New Rhetoric,” which, in many ways, is more a revival of classical rhetoric than something totally new. However, he argues for a coalescence of the philosophical dialectic and the rhetorical stance of persuasion. We can understand this “new” rhetoric by comparing it to the idea of demonstration, which “is a calculation made in accordance with rules that have made beforehand” (65). Thus, our actions/speech is judged either correct or incorrect in accordance with these rules, and presupposes our acceptance of the rules or axioms to which they are being judged. Argumentation, on the other hand, is always about an orator (where spoken or written) and an audience, and thus the “new” rhetoric is a type of informal logic where the speaker is concerned with “obtaining or maintaining the adherence of an audience” (67).

Perelman stresses ethos when he states that good men must be listed to and others prevented [from speaking or being heard], and thus hearkens back to a very hegemonic definition of rhetoric (66). He appeals to ethos again when warding off Plato’s warning that rhetoric is about winning rather than truth – this time by appeal to the audience’s ethos – by claiming that untruthful arguments would not win if presented to a better and better educated audience (69).

Through all this, Perelman seeks to demonstrate how philosophers should be interested in the study of rhetoric, both because the ancient rhetoricians have an impact on philosophy, but also because the study of rhetoric will demonstrate how to reach justifiable conclusions without formal logic or syllogism (similar to Toulmin in this way).