Dialectic and rhetoric have acquired negative connotations in the last several decades. This presentation suggests that a return to the Aristotelian notions of dialectic and rhetoric can recover the valid senses of those terms, and provide a standpoint from which contemporary contributions to rhetoric and argumentation theory (e.g., Perelman, Grootendorst/van Eemeren) can be viewed in a positive way. An overview of fallacies rounds out how logic, argumentation theory and rhetoric intersect to comprise the subject matter of modern critical thinking as a locus of interdisciplinary study.
Here are some contentious questions guaranteed to start an argument:
- Do oil companies fund research that is more likely to minimize the threat of climate change or downplay the risks of fracking?
- Do tobacco companies fund research that is more likely to minimize the health risks of smoking?
- Do pharmaceutical companies fund research that is more likely to minimize the health risks of a novel drug?
For some people, these are rhetorical questions. Their intuition in such cases cries “yes!” Do maxims like “follow the money” and “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” spring to mind as relevant under these circumstances? For others, these questions are tantamount to ad hominem fallacies driven by a knee-jerk anti-corporatist mentality. Who is right?
Argumentum Ad Hominem
For many years, any ad… Continue reading