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Rhetoric and Argumentation: An Introduction

Cniversity of Windsor
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  • Communication
  • Literature


INFORMAL LOGIC XV. 1 , Winter 1993 Rhetoric and Argumentation: An Introduction JOSEPH W. WENZEL University of Illinois When the editors suggested this special issue on rhetoric and argument, they play- fully appended a sub-title: "What every in- formal logician should know about rhetoric, but was too shy to ask." The com- mon ground on which informal logicians and rhetoricians meet is argumentation, and both parties share a common goal, i.e., understanding argumentation-in theory, practice, and criticism. A well developed theory of argumentation, 1 submjt, requires principles and standards drawn from three sources that, together, make up the contro- versial arts par excellence: rhetoric, logic, and dialectic. If that's a fair statement, then it behooves informal logicians to attend to insights derived from rhetorical studies of argumentation. Argumentation is both a natural phe- nomenon and a unique human accomplish- ment. People argue naturally as one means of managing disagreements, but they typi- cally do so imperfectly and without con- scious art. Argumentation appears as a remarkable human accomplishment, how- ever, when the method is skillfully em- ployed for the sake of resolving differ- ences. Indeed, when the potential of argu- mentation as a method of critical deci- sion-making is fully realized, it is revealed as the paradigm of rational procedures for creating knowledge and achieving wise decisions-at least in the Western tradi- tion. At its best, argumentation is a process whereby problems are brought to attention and analyzed, interested parties become more knowlegable and more critical about relevant facts and values, and solutions are hammered out on the anvil of contro- versy. It is a process both creative and disciplined, depending on the skillful de- ployment of the three controversial arts. First, argumentation arises in a rhetori- cal situation. By that 1 mean a situation in which a human agent perceives an exi- gence, believes tha

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