Question-Reply Argumentation

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Walton's book is a study of several fallacies in informal logic. Focusing on question-answer dialogues, and committed to a pragmatic rather than a semantic approach, he attempts to generate criteria for evaluating good and bad questions and answers. The book contains a discussion of such well-recognized fallacies as many questions, black-or-white questions, loaded questions, circular arguments, question-begging assertions and epithets, ad hominem and tu quoque arguments, ignoratio elenchi, and replying to a question with a question. In addition, Walton develops several artificial dialogue games and has an excellent discussion of burden of proof in nonlegal contexts. The discussion is for the most part nontechnical and does not presuppose any training in formal logic. It is illustrated with many (sometimes overlong) examples of fallacies drawn from real life--mostly debates in the Canadian House of Commons. . . . Walton's book breaks new ground on a number of issues. Choice

This first full-length study of logical fallacies, errors, faults, illicit attacks, blunders, and other critical deficiencies in interrogation and reply has been written in the tradition of informal fallacies in logic. It is especially valuable, readable, and interesting because of the 139 case studies it presents, many of these case studies come from political debates and some from interviews, legal cross-examinations, and other sources. Walton uses these challenging examples of tricky, aggressive, argumentative, or fallacious questions to develop coherent and pragmatic guidelines for criticizing questionable questions (and in some cases their replies) on logical grounds. Among the types of problematic questions analyzed are: the traditional so-called fallacy of many questions, illustrated by the famous Have you stopped beating your wife?; black and white questions; terminologically loaded questions; and questions containing personal attacks. These and other types of problematic questions as well as evasive replies and replying to a question with a question are studied. Critical errors of reasoning are identified and analyzed by developing context-based, normative models of reasonable dialogue in which a questioner must have freedom to ask informative and probing questions, and the respondent must be constrained to give reasonably direct, not overly evasive answers.

In this era of negative and evasive political campaigning, with candidates employing skillful tactics of manipulating public opinion to assure election rather than taking clear stands and seriously debating issues in an informed and sincere manner, Question-Reply Argumentation is especially relevant reading for those who take democracy seriously. The methods used reflect a significant shift from earlier semantically based theories to current pragmatic, dialogue-based models, and will be of interest to logicians and linguists. The volume's conclusions should challenge some current preconceptions. Recommended reading for courses in logic, speech communications, linguistics, philosophy of language, areas of political science relating to political discourse and debate, courses on questioning in cognitive psychology, and courses on critical thinking in education.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

DOUGLAS N. WALTON is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Winnipeg and is currently a Killiam Research Fellow (1987-1989) of the Canada Council.

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Table of Contents


Basic Assumptions, Goals and Methods of Inquiry

Have You Stopped Beating Your Spouse?

Black-and-White Questions

Terminologically Loaded Questions

Personal Attack in Question-Answering Dialogue

Relevant Answers

Replying to a Question with a Question

Games of Dialogue

Pragmatic Dimensions of Dialogue

Rules, Goals, and Strategies of Questioning



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