Reply to Botting.

Author:Gilbert, Michael A.

David Botting, in the essay, "Why modal pluralism does not require normative pluralism," wants to demonstrate that my introduction of multi-modal argumentation (Gilbert 1997) (a) does not require introducing diverse forms of argument appraisal, and (b) all arguments in any of the modes, whether logical, emotional, kisceral, or visceral, can be reduced to logically deductive arguments. I would like to briefly respond by making several points.

I Surrender

To begin with I have to admit that Mr. Botting has me dead to rights. All we have to do is accept his initial assumptions, and I am a goner: there is no need to analyze arguments, let alone appraise them using any but the logical mode. I quote:

To persuade rationally is to give reasons. Only in the logical mode (and not in other modes) arguers state reasons in support of their thesis, and argumentation in this mode can be translated into a formal argument with only the customary problems of resolving ambiguous and vague formulations. The function of argumentation is rational persuasion. Therefore, all legitimate argumentation is in the logical mode and to evaluate it is to assess the strength of the reason's support for the conclusion. Then, because rational persuasion is, by definition, considered by the analyst to be the goal of argumentation, the argument is appraised against whatever norms might be countenanced in the logical mode. (Botting, this issue, p. 170)

If we accept this statement, viz., that argument is about giving reasons to support a thesis and that those reasons are all reducible to logically deductive arguments, then Botting is correct. But that assumption and the assertion that "by definition" assessment of arguments is in the logical mode flies in the face of a great deal of work in Argumentation Theory.

Botting's definition amounts to claiming that:

  1. All arguments must be deductively reducible.

  2. Deductively reduced arguments all use the same form of appraisal.

  3. Gilbert's argument modes are deductively reducible,

  4. So, Gilbert's modes do not require distinct forms of appraisal.

    But the difficulty is that my entire theory is a critique of his assumption. Following Brockriede, Wenzel, Willard, Tindale, and a host of others, I argue that persuasion goes beyond the logical mode, and that persuasion is perfectly rational (Brockriede, 1990; Tindale, 1999; Wenzel, 1979; Willard, 1989). I also want to underscore the phrase, "with only the customary problems of resolving ambiguous and vague formulations," which I will refer to later.

    The Foundational Error

    A great deal of Botting's argument relies on his assertion that any discursive argument is in the logical mode. He writes, "The kind of argument we normally deal with-the kind that we get from a written or spoken text, for example--is in the logical mode and can be appraised against logical norms" (p. 169). I am at a loss as to where the idea comes from that I put all arguments that are presented in written or spoken "texts" into the logical category. Throughout the book, I give written examples or scripts of arguments in various modes that are completely verbal and completely in "written or spoken text." I am clear in various places that the way in which an argument is presented, verbal or non-verbal, is not necessarily a factor in contributing a mode to it. Moreover, I find it hard to refer to a spoken argument as a "text." Does Mr. Botting mean the transcript of the argument? If so, the question is begged once again, insofar as he begins by stripping away much of what I insist requires examination, viz., tone, expression, context and a host of rhetorical considerations.

    In short, the assertion that, "Only in the logical mode (and not in other modes) arguers state reasons," cannot be attributed to me. I never said it and do not believe it. The only source for this belief I can imagine is the idea that any argument in whatever mode can be shoehorned...

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