Tricks of the Argumentative Trade

My ANU philosophy colleagues are running a fascinating-looking event on ‘Tricks of the Argumentative Trade’ from 3.30-5.30pm on Mon 25 June. Details over the fold.

Also, just a quick reminder that I’ll be speaking at an early childhood event in Melbourne from 5.30-7.30pm on Wed 20 June. Details here.


Monday 25 June 2007
Ross Hohnen Room, Chancelry Bldg

‘Tricks of the Argumentative Trade’
‘Philosophical Heuristics”
Alan Hajek (Philosophy, RSSS, CASS, ANU)
Chess players typically benefit from mastering various heuristics: ‘castle early’, ‘avoid isolated pawns’, and so on. Indeed, most complex tasks have their own sets of heuristics. Doing philosophy well can be a very complex task; are there associated heuristics?  I find the grandmasters of philosophy repeatedly using certain techniques, many of which can be easily learned and applied.  Some are pointers to where good arguments, or good counterexamples, may be lurking. Some suggest ways of generating new arguments from old ones. Some are heuristics for creating new arguments from scratch. Some provide self-defence against fallacies. These various techniques can especially help philosophers to be self-critical: they help us spot problems in our own work before others all too helpfully spot them for us. And many of them generalize beyond philosophy, providing inoculations against poor reasoning, wherever we might find it, or improving our own reasoning, whatever our purpose. I will identify many such techniques, each illustrated by numerous examples. Topics to be discussed include:
– definite descriptions;
- arbitariness, and multiplicity of candidates for some philosophical job;
- self-undermining positions;
- reflexivity and self-reference;
- extreme and near-extreme cases;
- the ‘proves too much’ strategy (which, I argue, proves too much).
‘Argumentative Tricks in Politics and Journalism’
Morag Fraser (The Age)
Politicians and journalists use many argumentative and rhetorical techniques, some of their own devising, others thrust upon them. This talk will survey a field of examples from the media and politics – from the ways and means of factual communication to ‘spin’ – and take an occasional detour through historical precedents and prescriptions.

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8 Responses to Tricks of the Argumentative Trade

  1. Verdurous says:

    “Ah…yes..hello…I’d like to buy an argument.”

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    It’s a while since I’ve heard that line! When I was 15, I could recite the entire sketch. Misspent youth…

  3. Matt Cowgill says:

    can you post a link if there is a transcript available of this speech after the event? ta

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    Matt, there won’t be a transcript of the arguing event – sorry. (If you were wondering about early childhood, there may be more that comes out of that – I’ll keep you posted).

  5. Pingback: John Barrdear » Blog Archive » Heuristics in academic economics

  6. bryan says:

    Andrew, I am interested in attending – who do I need to contact?

  7. Andrew Leigh says:

    Bryan, for the ANU argumentative event, there’s no registration process. Just turn up (you’ll find the chancelry building on this map).

    The Melbourne early childhood event has its own registration procedure – see the website for details.

  8. ChrisPer says:

    I would be fascinated to go, if it were within a day’s expenses to travel. I attended the Austhink training (Advanced Reasoning, using argument mapping) and it was very valuable; but I believe there are lots of broader techniques to be made habitual before I could be called a clear thinker!

    I particularly like Thouless’ 38 Tricks of dishonest thinking. ‘Emotional Language’ for instance… (hangs head in shame).

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