Dr Simon Wells

sesquipedalia verba

New Paper in Studies in Logic, Grammar & Rhetoric

My latest paper, titled “Thou Shalt Not Squander Life - contrasting five theoretical approaches to argument strength”, has just been published in volume 69 of Studies in Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric.

The paper is joint work with Frank Zenker of Nankai University, Kamila Debowska-Kozlowska of Adam Mickiewicz University, David Godden of Michigan State University, and Marcin Selinger of the University of Wrocław.

In the paper we considered the arguments put forward within a single text, “Epicureans on Squandering Life” by Aikin & Talisse (2019), from the perspective of five different theoretical approaches to argumentation, viz. The dialectical, structural, probabilistic (Bayesian), computational, and empirical approaches.

Different theoretical approaches analyze the strength of a natural language argument in different ways. To contrast these analyses, we exemplarily apply the dialectical, structural, probabilistic (or Bayesian), computational, and empirical approach to a single argumentative text (Epicureans on Squandering Life; Aikin & Talisse, 2019). Rather than pitching these approaches against one other, our main goal is to show the room for fruitful interaction. We focus on a dialectical analysis of the squandering argument as an argumentative response that voids the interlocutor’s right to assertion. This analysis addresses the pragmatic dimensions of arguing and implies a specific argument structure that is consistent with indirect empirical evidence of perceived argument strength. Among the five approaches, only the dialectical approach is natively sensitive to the pragmatic dimension. Given assumptions, the squandering argument can thus be evaluated as a strong (non-fallacious) ad hominem argument, although not necessarily stronger than the counter-arguments attacking it.