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Michael Gilbert, Ph.D.
York University
Multi-Modal Argumentation
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Argument has traditionally been closely associated with language and, even more strongly with reasoning. Recently this has been extended to cover the wider notion of communication between people. This has been exemplified in work as varied as that of Balthorp (1979), O’Keefe (1982), Willard (1983, 1989), and Eemeren and Grootendorst (1986). Certainly, instances of argument that are spoken or written by persons in order to effect some difference in another person form the most obvious instances of argument. Beyond that non-verbal communication or contextual ramifications tend to be included only insofar as they are linguistically explicable (D. O’Keefe, 1982). The assumption is that to be linguistically explicable is a necessary condition of being rational, and what, after all, must be rational if not an argument?

The difficulty with this approach is that if we are concerned with how people do argue, with what sorts of material, evidence, modes of communication, manoeuvres, fallacies, and what have you people actually do draw upon then we must go beyond the rational. There are ways around this. We can, for example, change the sense of the word “rational” and relativize it so that whatever a field/group/individual allows as reasonable argumentative input is ipso facto, rational. Frankly, I have no objection to this approach other than a strong feeling that the word has a history and tradition that creeps in even when applied relativistically. This sense, the sense of being reasoned, linear, orderly is the one that strikes me as being harrow and restrictive. This is the sense applied in such admonitions as, “I’m not going to argue with you if you can’t argue rationally.”

In this sense of the word, "‘irrational" is often used as an honorific, and more importantly, as a way of negating and/or trivializing modes of argument not in keeping with one arguer’s precepts. This sense requires the rational person to think in a certain, generally logical, way and adhere to standards of evidence, deduction, and induction established by the scientific, rationalist, male tradition. Other forms of argument are 1ooked down upon by the protectors of this tradition and never so forcefully as when on the losing aide of an argument.

In order to isolate this sense of "rational" I will use the term "logical". I do not, by using this term, mean to indicate that the arguments so-called are deductively correct or even intended to model deductive arguments. Rather, it is intended to indicate not merely a respect for orderliness of presentation, but also a subscription to a certain set of beliefs about evidence and sources of information.

I want to urge an expansion of our modes of argument beyond the logical. We need to include modes of evidence, warrant, backing and presentation that allow us to identify forms of argument that are actually used as opposed to those that one particular group, even a group of argumentation theorists, believes ought to be used. In thereby separating the normative and descriptive elements of logicality we cease to condemn when we should be describing.

I suggest that arguments can be categorized by not one, but four, modes. These modes are, in addition to 1) the logical, 2) the emotional, which relates to the realm of feelings, 3) the visceral, which stems from the area of the physical, and 4) the kisceral (from the Japanese term “ki” meaning “energy”) which covers the intuitive and non-sensory arenas. At its most extreme this view holds that arguments may be given (almost) wholly within one mode and not be at all susceptible to those methods of argument analysis pertaining to other modes. On this interpretation of the view a kiss, a look, a touch, a feeling, may be an argument provided it is communicated and used to convince or persuade. A more cautious statement, using D. O’Keefe’s (1982) terminology, allows that any argument-2 will (possibly) contain arguments-1 from various modes. Further, to attempt to reduce these all to the logical is prejudiced reductionism.

Before continuing it is important to clarity two terms basic to my thesis. The first is "argument", the second "mode." For "argument" I will begin with Willard’s definition, most recently restated in A Theory of Argumentation (1989:1): “Argument” is a form of interaction in which two or more people maintain what they construe to be incompatible positions.” Explicating this, Willard says (1989:92) that arguers, “use any or all of the communication vehicles available to them…once we have an argument anything used to communicate within it is germane to an analysis of how the argument proceeds and how it affects the arguers.” In short, we have to worry less about the necessary and sufficient conditions of argument and more about what people who are arguing actually do.

Arguments can be classified in as many ways as there are scholars to classify them. One common way is to describe an argument as logical or not. An argument that takes its information, e.g., warrant, backing, evidence, from traditional rationalist sources, and which, in addition, is or can be put into traditional rationalist form, viz., linguistic, is said to be in the logical mode, realm or form. What is crucial is not that there is anything wrong with the logical mode, but rather that there are others as well. Indeed, the logical is only pre-eminent because most argumentation scholars are highly trained in that mode and value it above all others. Most of our arguments, however, do not, in fact, follow a particularly logical model, but rather involve various modes at various times.

I would now like to turn from general issues to the specific explication and exemplification of the four modes of argument. Let me begin with an example that is apparently in the logical mode, and, indeed, follows an identifiable logical pattern.

Example 1
Harry held a finger over his lips to signal for silence. He pointed to the door with his revolver. “He’s in there,” he said to Jane.
“How can you be sure?” she queried.
“He had to take the left or right door before, and they both lead into that room there.”
“O.K., then,” Jane replied, “I’m ready when you are.” 

The reasoning with which Harry reassures Jane is classically rational, and follows fairly closely the pattern known as v-Elimination or Disjunctive Syllogism in a natural deduction system. The pattern is as follows.

Example 2: A v B, A Þ C, B Þ C ÷ C

In Example 1, let A be, “he took the right door,” B be, “he took the left door”, and C be “he’s in that room”. Without too much difficulty we can see the connection. This is helpful in understanding the persuasive force of Harry’s argument. Given, as we witnessed, that Jane accepted the three premises, she was persuaded that their man had to be in the room. Now a great deal more occurred in this argument. Harry’s relation to Jane, his apparent knowledge of their surroundings, her lack of objection or rejoinder, the participants’ likely fear and/or tension in being in a dangerous situation all compose significant parts of the interaction. Still, the argument does lend itself to a linear, rational mode of analysis.

A second, less formally correct, but still highly logical example is as follows.

Example 3
Linda: "Let’s go over to the Bijou and see that new film."
Zack: "Nah, it’s almost eight, and it’s always packed there by now."

This argument is straightforwardly logical. Zack inductively draws on experience to conclude that their mutual objective, entrance to the show, would not be accomplished if Linda’s suggestion were followed. Even had he stated his argument by simply making a face and pointing to the clock, the argument would still be in the same mode. In other words, being verbal or non-verbal is not a telling difference.

Let me now turn to several examples of the alternative three modes. In these instances what I need to show is that the sources of information and/or mode of presentation are essentially non-logical. In addition, as I will argue later, it will be made clear that even when reductions to the logical are possible, there is no good reason to perform them.

Consider, for a moment, the idea of pure emotion. Clearly, this in an abstraction, a concept, and not to be found in nature, just as purely formal arguments are not found in nature. We can imagine pure hate, pure love, pure jealousy, pure fear, but since the word "pure" is not being used in the romantic sense, these things do not exist. By this I mean that every emotion is, to a greater or lesser degree, "tainted" by say, rational thought or physical feelings. It is no accident that this is similar to what we say about logic being tainted by emotion. Consider the next example:

Example 4
Jill: "But why should I marry you, Jack?"
Jack: "Because I love you as life itself." 

Some people will think Jack’s argument a good one, others not. And, no doubt, it could be fleshed out with half a dozen other “hidden” premises and made into a logical argument. But it is not a logical argument; it is an emotional one; its force and persuasive power come almost entirely from its emotional aspect. To try and construe it otherwise is to force a square peg into a round hole. We all understand Jack’s argument whether we consider it a good one or not, and, I do not think we reduce it to logical terms in order to do so. Another example:

Example 5
Paula is sitting in Processor Tome’s office. She is pleading for an ‘A’ in his logic course. “Don’t you see,” she explains plaintively, tears in her eyes, "if I don’t get an ‘A’ in your course I won’t make medical school and my life will be ruined. I won’t have anything left to live for.”

I take Example 5 to be an example of an emotional argument. Paula’s appeal is not essentially based on anything other than her desire. She does not separate herself from other students by her longing to become a doctor, which is not something typically figured into a grade. Others may prefer the tantrums of children, the despair of rejected suitors, or the plaints of frustrated spouses. All the same, whatever the reader’s paradigmatic case, the point remains: emotional arguments are arguments that rely more or less heavily on the use of emotion. As the usage departs from the paradigm it becomes less obvious that the argument is emotional, and, one might argue, that another category would suit it best.

Emotional arguments show us aspects of a dispute partner’s world that logical arguments do not. These include such notions as degree of commitment, depth and extent of feeling, sincerity, and degree of resistance. These are important, nay vital, components in communicating a position. Often emotion is essential to break a deadlock by bringing attention to one dispute partner’s level of involvement. Anyone living with a mate knows that sometimes high emotion can be as simple as a call to attention, or as complex as the revelation of deeply hidden motivations. None of this can be or should be reduced to another dimension or dismissed as non-argumentation.

Logical arguments have reasoning as their essence, and their mythic source is the mind. They are based on an appeal to the linear patterns that lead us from one statement or set of statements to a claim. Emotional arguments have feeling as their essence, and their mythic source is the heart. They demonstrate how we feel about certain claims and communicate emotional reactions to a dispute partner. A third category of argumentation stemming from and appealing to conceptually distinct sources I call the "visceral." These arguments are primarily physical and can range from a touch to body language to force. Consider the following:

Example 6 
John is sautéing some shrimp for the dinner he is making. Mary goes to the kitchen cupboard and begins searching all around. She seems to give up, but then gets a stool and begins rummaging through the upper shelves of the cupboard. John notices, but, busy with his shrimp, does not say anything. After a bit, Mary climbs down, goes over to John, stands very close, and holds out a can of curry. 
“How does adding a little curry powder sound?” 
John, taken by surprise, looks from Mary to the can of powder, and says, “Well, yeah, sure.” 

Mary’s rummaging through the cupboards, climbing about, and putting a good deal of effort into finding the curry powder was a crucial part of her argument. Had she simply asked John before doing any searching he may well have rejected the suggestion out of hand. It was the physical actions that comprised the argument, and comprised them in a way that precludes translation into the linguistic, logical mode. Consider another example:

Example 7
Mr. Burns entered his house and slammed the door behind him. Mrs. Burns looked up warily. 
"Where," Mr. Burns railed, "is the damn newspaper?" 
Mrs. Burns went over to the foyer hat stand where the paper lay as always. "You seem very tense, dear. Did you have bad day?’"
Mr. Burns glared at her. “No,” he insisted, “I did not have a bad day, and I am not tense.” 
Mrs. Burns watched as he went and fell into his chair. She waited a minute, then came up behind him and began to gently rub his shoulders. At first he tried to flinch her off, but slowly Mrs. Burns felt him give way as his muscles relaxed. 
“Well,” Mr. Burns said after several minutes, “maybe I am a little tense.”

I believe that Mrs. Burns offered a visceral argument in the context of the dispute about Mr. Burns’ state of tension. Her argument was a directly visceral one, one communicated primarily by physical sensations which, in this case, brought Mr. Burns to an awareness of his own state. Mrs. Burns could have argued logically with Mr. Burns indefinitely and not made any persuasive progress. It was her choice of mode that allowed her to persuade him she was right.

One last charge can be laid at Example 7 (or the others, for that matter.) Namely, that it is not an argument at all. But why not? It certainly is persuasive. It stems from the initial disagreement and is intended, at least in part, to move Mr. Burns from a position of disagreement to one of agreement. It is clearly an attempt on Mrs. Burns’ part to get Mr. Burns to see the world from her perspective and admit her insights. In fact, the only reason for denying its status as an argument is that it is not linguistic, and to do that is to beg the entire question.

Only by assuming in the first place that all arguments are ultimately linguistic, or even “linguistically expressible” to use O’Keefe’s (1982) expression, can one prove that there are no non-linguistic arguments. There is, after all, non-verbal communication, and, I take it as obvious, that where there is communication there is argumentation. Furthermore, I assume that any mode of communication will also serve as a mode of argumentation (cf. Willard, 1989). The human mind draws from where it can.

The term "kisceral" derives from the Japanese word "ki" which signifies energy, life force, connectedness. I introduce it as a generic, non-value-laden term to cover a wide group of communicative phenomena. The kisceral is that mode of communication that relies on the intuitive, the imaginative, the spiritual, the (dare I say it?) extra-sensory. Let me quickly explain before a lynching date is set.

To begin with, we all refer to such phenomena as "hunches", “feelings”, even “coincidences.” These occurrences are common and ordinary even, for the rationalist, entirely explicable in ordinary terms. That is fine. The category, kisceral, carries with it no metaphysical, and certainly no spiritual, baggage. It refers to a category of communication recognizable to most people. Going further, making that category into something that is very extraordinary, that includes, say, life regressions or tarot readings, is entirely up to the individual arguer. The researcher, however, should bear two things in mind. First, the category is not empty by even the most positivist standards. Even such mundane occurrences as a married couple’s simultaneously thinking and talking about the same thing would suffice to keep the category from being void. Secondly, the argument theorist must be careful not to do metaphysics when studying the modes of argument used. Many people, indeed, most of the world’s population, believe the kisceral category is quite full, and that means that communications and, therefore, arguments will stem from it. So regardless of one’s own thoughts with respect to the legitimacy, correctness, or even existence, of kisceral arguments, they will be encountered because they are used.

It is difficult to create examples of kisceral arguments that are not problematic. The following is as safe an example as I can think of.

Example 8
Greg looked at Lisa expectantly. "Don’t you think we should raise the offer? He didn’t seem too pleased with it."
Lisa shook her head, no. “Don’t change a thing,” she said. "Just wait, he’ll take it.”

The key to Example 8 is Lisa’s feeling, her unprocessed belief that the offer they made will be accepted. One could explain this phenomenon by appealing to explicit experiences and showing how the process Lisa believes is her intuition is really a series of deductions based on her business experience. Such are explanation might go a long way toward comforting a positivist, but it does nothing to deal with the mode of argument Lisa chose. Regardless of why Lisa actually came to her conclusion, the reason she gives to Greg is kisceral. That is, it relies on a form of non-logical communication that is a synthesis of experience and insight.

One further quick example:

Example 9
“Did you buy that house, Paul?”
“No, I got a really creepy feeling when I was there, and turned it down.” 

The kisceral category includes many sources of information that are not respected in the rationalist tradition. The examples I have presented, primarily to avoid red herrings, are, I believe, recognizable and perhaps even sensible to everyone. Others, however, may very well go beyond what is considered rational into such oddities as astrology, Bible quotation, life regressions, and so on. It is not my concern as an argumentation theorist to judge the validity of such sources, but rather to be open to their use in argument interactions. Remember that astrology, according to the press, was accepted at the White House during Reagan’s term as reasonable argumentation.

The four categories suggested here form a model of the modes of argumentation I believe are useful for various analyses of disputes and arguments. First of all, by explicitly opening up means of argument that are not logical we come closer to capturing the richness of everyday disputing. One might, of course cavil at my categories. Perhaps there should be five modes, or seven of three. Future discussions will, I hope, examine these possibilities.

One of the advantages to be garnered from examining argumentation in this way is the ability to distinguish between good and bad, effective and ineffective modes in various circumstances. Are there times when one mode is inappropriate? Appealing, for example, to an inner voice as grounds for a grade increase in a logic course would not seem a wise choice of modes. On the other hand, if we recognize, let us say, crying in a dispute as a legitimate visceral or emotional argument we then open up new possibilities for investigation.

The issue of fallacies of argument becomes more precise on this analysis as well. There certainly has been a vast amount of work done on the logical fallacies. But what might, for example, be a fallacy in one mode might not be a fallacy in another. Special pleading, for example, is generally fallacious in a logical mode, but less often in kisceral. In addition, other less traditional fallacies might be added depending on certain viewpoints. Emotional blackmail, for example, suggests that my ill fortune or unhappiness is your responsibility. By viewing this as an argumentative move we open up the possibility for analysing those circumstances in which the claim is, if ever, legitimate and those in which it is not. Ad baculum, to cite another example, becomes more specifically a visceral fallacy, and yet is open to interpretation as a fallacy in other modes.

The above are merely some pointers to the considerations that might be undertaken when the categories of argument available have been opened up. The main point, though, is that this particular story allows us to consider more of the human facets involved in argument. If disputes are, as I believe, invitations to view the world in a certain way, then all the central modes we use for constructing and presenting the world should be grist for the argumentation theorists’ mill.

Balthorp, Bill (1980) “Argument As Linguistic Opportunity: A Search For Form and Function” in Rhodes, J. and S. Newell, eds. (1980) Proceedings of the Summer Conference on Argumentation (1979) SCA/AFA
Brockriede, W. (1975) “Where is Argument?” JAFA 13:129-132. 
Cox, J.R., & C.A. Willard (1982) Advances in Argumentation Theory and Research. Illinois: AFA/SIU Press.
O’Keefe, D.J. (1977) “Two Concepts of Argument.” JAFA 13:121-128.
O’Keefe, D.J. (1982). “The Concepts of Argument and Arguing” in Cox, J.R., & C.A. Willard (1982) Advances in Argumentation Theory and Research. Illinois: AFA/SIU Press: 3-23. .
Rhodes, J. and S. Newell, eds. (1980) Proceedings of the Summer Conference on Argumentation (1979) SCA/AFA.
Wenzel, J. (1977) “Toward a Rationale for Value-Centered Argument.” JAFA 13:150-158.
Wenzel, J. (1900) “Perspectives On Argument.” in Rhodes, J. and S. Newell, eds. (1980) Proceedings of the Summer Conference on Argumentation (1979) SCA/AFA.
Willard, C.A. (1976) “On the Utility of Descriptive Diagrams for the Analysis and Criticism of Arguments.” Communication Monographs 64:308-319. 
Willard, C.A. (1979). "The Epistemic Functions of Argument." JAFA 15:169-191.
Willard, C.A. (1983) Argumentation and The Social Grounds of Knowledge. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 
Willard, C.A. (1989) A Theory of Argumentation. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

The following are copies of my overheads from my lecture on Multi-Modal Argumentation
Four Kinds of Argument
1. Logical – at the level of the mind, from intelligence and principles
2. Emotional – from the heart, with feeling
3. Visceral – at the physical gut level 
4. Kisceral – at the intuitive or sensory level

Four Terms We Need From Logic

1) Premises – if they are true or false
2) Inference – if it’s valid or invalid. Do the premises lead to that conclusion?
3) Sound – if the argument has true premises, in which case the argument is sound
4) Truth – When the argument is sound, the conclusion must be true.


 1. Logical and Non-Fallacious:
 All frogs are amphibians.
The creature in my pool is a frog.
Therefore, the creature in my pool is an amphibian.

 2. Logical but Fallacious:
All frogs are amphibians.
I am a frog.
Therefore, I am an amphibian.

3. Emotional and Non-Fallacious:
I think frogs are adorable.
P&G destroyed a stream where frogs live
Therefore, we should stop polluting.

4. Emotional and Fallacious: 
Frogs are crucial to earth's survival.
People who pollute streams are jerks.
Therefore, I can kill anyone who pollutes

5. Logical/Emotional & Non-Fallacious:
Anything which upsets the delicate balance of the ecosystem is likely to harm the wonderful little creatures who inhabit the delicately balanced world we share with them.

Pouring foul chemicals into a woodland stream upsets the fine balance of the ecosystem which makes possible the beauties of nature that we enjoy.

Therefore, we should stop the pollution that is destroying the homes and lives of frogs and other defenseless creatures.

6. Logical/Emotional & Fallacious:
All frogs are disgusting, revolting, slimy, warty creatures. 

Anything that is slimy and warty should be killed immediately without a thought to further consequences.

Therefore, we must stomp out these hideous abominations of nature called frogs wherever we find them.

Syllogisms from the ads

Duo-Pro Syllogism

Pipes that meet standards are worth buying.
Duo-Pro pipes meet standards.
Duo-Pro pipes are worth buying. 

Logic: A=B, C=A,  therefore  C=B

A = “Safe Pipes”
B = “Worth Buying” 
C = “Duo-Pro pipes” 


Message: Buy Duo-Pro pipes

Chrysler Syllogism

Of two identical items, lower priced is a better buy
Chrysler is identical to Mercedes and lower priced
Chrysler is the better buy

Logic: A=B, C=A, therefore  C=B

A = “Identical to Mercedes and lower priced”
B = “Better Buy” 
C = “Chrysler”

Message: Buy the Chrysler

Ryka Syllogism, First Level

Organizations that donate money to a worthy cause deserve your business
Ryka donates money to a worthy cause
Ryka deserves your business

Logic: A=B, C=A, therefore C=B

A = "Organizations that donate"
B = "Deserve Your Business" 
C = "Ryka"

Message: Buy Ryka Shoes

Ryka Syllogism, 2nd Level

There is pain in the world.
Buying something will cure pain.
Buy something.

Message: Buy Ryka Shoes

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AP/ADMS 4280 3.0 Social Marketing
York University, Toronto
© M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.