10.0480 evidence and argument

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 28 Nov 1996 18:00:43 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 480.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Leslie Burkholder <lburkhdl@unixg.ubc.ca> (30)
Subject: Re: 10.0472 evidence and argument?

[2] From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@VMA.SMSU.EDU> (38)
Subject: Re: 10.0472 evidence and argument?

[3] From: "Mark Battersby (x2412)" (37)
Subject: Re: 10.0477 evidence and argument

Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 21:25:37 -0800 (PST)
From: Leslie Burkholder <lburkhdl@unixg.ubc.ca>
Subject: Re: 10.0472 evidence and argument?

I'm not sure how this will be relevant to humanities computing but here
are three textbooks you might want to look at

Ronald Giere, Understanding Scientific Reasoning. Now in its 4th ed.

Colin Howson and Peter Urbach, Scientific Reasoning The Bayesian
Approach. (These guys are at LSE in the philosophy department.)

Davis Baird, Inductive Logic Probability and Statistics

Leslie Burkholder

Date: Wed, 27 Nov 96 19:18:31 CST
From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@VMA.SMSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: 10.0472 evidence and argument?

I see that you've already gotten some good responses to your query.
Allow me to add a couple more.
Drury College has been using a slim volume by Anthony Weston, _A
Rulebook for Arguments_, 2nd edition, from Hackett, as an accompanying
text in both our freshman-level writing/literature classes and in
our sophomore-level Values Analysis classes (the latter being devoted
largely to ethics and philosophical arguments there-about (?));
the Weston text is a minimal introduction to logic and argument, with
a good glossary of elementary fallacies, and a series of chapters
devoted to writing effective argumentative essays. The issues of
argument and evidence receive good, if introductory treatment. Some
instructors beyond the philosophy department do well with it - but not
all find themselves prepared to use it effectively.

If you want something more substantial, there are any number of
critical thinking texts out there that offer good discussions. For
the general undergraduate student, though, my favorite remains the
very reliable Howard Kahane, _Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric_, now
in its seventh edition. Kahane does nothing with sentential logic in
this text (though he does have such a text under a different title) -
but focuses instead almost entirely on informal fallacies and their
ubiquitous presence in the media, textbooks, advertising, and political
discussion. The course I've taught wrapped around this text I've
characterized as a defensive thinking course - analogous to a defensive
driving course: if you don't think for yourself, someone else will - and
to their advantage.

If you're interested in other critical thinking titles, I can come up
with a few next week - they're sitting in my office, and Thanksgiving
is upon us. As well, Stephen Toulmin has had considerable influence in
reshaping how philosophers and others think about argument - focusing
more on notions of warrant and evidence than traditional logical
discussion of structure. I suspect there's an introductory text out
there based on Toulmin's work - perhaps other Humanist readers know of
one off the top of their heads? I'd have to check.

Hope this helps.
Cheers --
Charles Ess
Drury College
Springfield, MO 65802 USA

Date: Wed, 27 Nov 1996 16:52:38 PST8PDT
From: "Mark Battersby (x2412)" <mbatters@claude.CapCollege.BC.CA>
Subject: Re: 10.0477 evidence and argument


I was interested to note that no philosophers replied to your
question. Are there none lurking around out there? I suspect that
the limited participation of philosophers in this group reflects
that ancient and regrettable split between rhetoric and philosophy. A
split that ironically critical thinking and argumentation theory is tending to

Critical thinking and informal argumentation has become a minor
industry in philosophy almost comparable to the status of English
composition classes in English Departments. I have been teaching
critical thinking/informal argument for about 20 years and would
recommend Ralph Johnson's and Tony Blair's book "Logical Self
Defense" as a good an intro as any. On the other hand, the classic
text which is used by both philosophers and rhetoricians in Stephen
Toulmin's "The Uses of the Argument".

Unfortunately I could not tell from your note exactly what kind of
argument/evidence you were concerned with. I suspect that you were
concerned with statistical reasoning--evaluating studies on computer
use etc.. If so, I think you are right that the social science folk probably
have better basic texts. One I know of is
Evaluating information : a guide for users of social science
research / Jeffrey Katzer, Kenneth H. Cook, Wayne W. Crouch.

But there may be better and newer texts. Another interesting text
with the right title is Kathleen Moore's "A Field Guide to Inductive
Arguments" though she covers a lot more than statistical/empirical
arguments (e.g. she has an excellent section on the evaluation of arguments
by analogy).

Hope that helps.


Mark Battersby
Dept. of Philosophy
Capilano College
2055 Purcell Way
North Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V7J 3H5
PH 604 986 1911 L. 2412
FAX 604 983 7520