The goal of the conference is to investigate the intricate relationships between argument and value. Given an understanding of argument as articulated reason and a broad conception of values, stretching from individual preferences to deep moral principles and convictions, are these two friends or foes? There is a long tradition of arguing from values, arguing about values and arguing for values: from Perelman’s articulation of the theory of argumentation as “the logic of value judgments” to on-going work in practical philosophy, meta-ethics, applied ethics and value theory in general. The chief problem today is, however, what role argumentation can play in a situation of value pluralism, value conflicts, even deep disagreements. This problem permeates both practical and theoretical reason, given the feeble fact-value distinction. While we have been recommended to respond by resorting to sound argumentation directed to rational “universal audience” (Perelman, Tindale), the reality of the public discourse today seems dominated by appeals to propaganda in order to convert the divided public to one “authoritarian value-system” (Stanley). Is there any way to challenge the simple but ever-stronger uses of arguments supporting that value-system? In any case, we need to re-examine the values in and of argumentation.
These questions, we believe, run deeper than simple semantic ambiguities of the concepts of argument and value. They concern key issues regarding the force of the better argument in the public sphere, the power of values to govern our theoretical and practical reason, and the possible compatibilities and incompatibilities between the two concepts. Accordingly, the focus of the conference is theoretical but not without some practical importance. While the investigation of values and arguments continues among different branches of philosophy – as well as humanities and social sciences in general – the “post-truth society” of today challenges many of the recognised truths. Our aim is to deepen this important current debate.
The Conference is open for attendance without presentation. Register here please.
(See Call for Papers - closed!)
Jason Stanley (Yale University, USA)
Mass communication works by focusing the audience's attention upon certain cherished values, for example equality, social justice, law and order, security, Christianity, European identity, or national pride. Demagogues seek to shift the focus of attention to values that can be strategically manipulated, such as "traditional values". In this talk, I will set out how demagogic speech changes the conversation by shifting mass focus of attention to certain values. For example, by switching attention to values of "law and order", and connecting immigrants to crime, demagogues can gather support by appealing to racist ideologies, or by switching attention to "traditional values", demagogues can gather support by appealing to homophobia, misogyny, or religious prejudice. I will describe how switching the frame of values can alter the discussion space by excluding legitimate policy options. In the final part of the talk I will address how we can respond to these strategic shifts in value. Focusing on concrete struggles for social justice in Switzerland and the United States, I will attempt to answer the question: what methods exist to return the space of public reason to one in which policy options obscured by demagogic tactics are once again in view?
Christopher Tindale (University of Windsor, Canada)
Some views are so extreme they focus the attention of entire societies, consume public debates, and monopolize the energy of a generation. And yet many of those views that “may disrupt the whole course of civilization,” do so successfully and move from the extreme to the accepted. Canadian suffragist Nellie McClung, from whom I take my title, held such a view. She argued the radical position that women should be entitled to vote. She is an interesting example of argumentation that transforms what is reasonable, and how this can be accomplished. In fact, such examples point to a number of important ways argumentation operates: to modify the cognitive environments in which we live; to promote an appreciation of diversity and an understanding of alternative positions; to provide standards of reason by which we measure ourselves relative to our goals and the goals of others.
In this talk, I explore some of the strategies involved in addressing extremism and transforming the values at the heart of extremist discourse to make it more accessible, and even acceptable, and, in some instances, melding it with the status quo. Through some conceptual analysis and the discussion of several case studies, including that of McClung in Canada and the civil rights movement in the US, I will consider how some views are modified over time through the production of argumentation directed at society rather than individuals.
Download the Book of Abstracts here
Other Practicalities, see here
The conference is a part of the “Values in Argumentative Discourse” project sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT: PTDC/MHC-FIL/0521/2014), and managed by Erich Rast (PI) at the ArgLab, Nova Institute of Philosophy (IFILNOVA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal.
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