Monday, May 7, 2007

And now for something completely different

Alright, this one's for my argument theorist homies. I'm trying to put together argument diagrams for different ways of talking about the past. These are the latest results of those attempts (thank you, Tootsie Roll Pops). Collective Memory soon to come...

Warrants, cultural litmus tests that they are, reveal more than just the arguments they inhabit—they are also capable of showing critics the underlying assumptions of claims, as well as the structure and connections between differing grounds used to prove those conclusions. In the previous chapter, I examine the argumentative structure of Experienced History, Professional History, and Collective Memory, and as I talk about each of the rhetorics, I discuss the ways in which they formulate their arguments—as well as the reasons why those arguments are rhetorically believable. The discussion of warrants in this chapter, though, begs a question: what do the warrants in the previous three rhetorics look like? At this point in the project, it would be beneficial to name explicitly some of the warrants under girding Experienced History, Professional History and Collective Memory—in order to compare and contrast them with some of the warrants we might see in a simulational culture, or a Simulated History.

Warrants live in between claims proposed and the grounds provided. The three dimensions of each history (Materiality, Perspective, and Practitioners) are composed of all sorts of different, interwoven claims, warrants, and grounds. For the sake of space and parsimony, I will dissect one aspect of each rhetoric—naming and labeling the claim, the grounds, and the warrant (or warrants) used to connect each claim with its corresponding grounds. I choose each argument specifically—because it reveals some major, underlying claim of each rhetoric. Moreover, each of the arguments diagrammed displays an aspect of the culture in which that argument (and its warrants) thrive. I begin with Experienced History.

Experienced History, because it is based so much in the rhetoric of the body, bases most of its claims on the indivisibility of sense and sense-making. The arguments of Experienced History grow in a culture of suspicion; the desire to hear and believe stories of Experienced History springs from vague distrust of historically official institutions (like the White House or the Ivory Tower). In such a culture, credibility occurs in generalizable, familiar, bodily stories—tales with which everyone can relate.

To tell a story of experience, then, one must possess and express some intimate, tangible interaction with a historical event. Therefore, a claim made by Experienced History is this: Personal stories are both universal and individual. Such a claim might further be modified to include a specific example—like trauma or heartbreak. In the first chapter, I explore the rhetorical links between, say, the testimony of a body and descriptions of suffering or trauma. The grounds used to support such a claim, that personal stories are simultaneously universal and individual, vary from moment to moment. In one instance, the grounds might be a sympathetic appeal—something like, we all know what it is to be heartbroken—issuing from the lips of a melancholy singer/songwriter onstage. Or, at another point, the same grounds might be provided by a scientist explaining the latest advances in emotional and palliative care for a bereaved widow. Or, these grounds might emerge from a student attempting to negotiate a more forgiving testing environment. Each of these grounds is used to support the “bodies are believable” claim proposed by Experienced History.

Now, in order to make the inferential leap between such a claim and the grounds provided by each arguer, we need a warrant. The warrant, connecting claim and grounds, must demonstrate that heartbreak is, in fact, a universal (and individual) experience—and it must be believable. I propose that warrant might look like this: we believe our own bodies, so we must believe others as well. Here is the argument put together:

Claim: Personal stories are both universal and individual.
Grounds: We all know what it’s like to experience heartbreak.
Warrant: Individual bodies (our own) are to be believed, therefore so must other bodies be believed.

The warrants of Experienced History, occasionally mentioned but often unspoken, look like this. They must connect the individual to the general—and prove that certain specific events and understanding are generalizable to more than the moment in which they occur.

Professional History warrants look a little bit different because the culture in Professional History lives is distinctly (and purposefully) separate from the everyday experiences of individuals. The claims of Professional History depend upon, as I mention in the first chapter, the notion that certain, specially trained individuals are best prepared to make observations about the past. The primacy of writing, the possibility of (and desire for) objectivity, and the importance of disciplinization all lend to Professional History’s claims about the past. Whereas Experienced History places its credibility in the shared/sympathetic understanding that bodies everywhere act or feel similarly, the arguments of Professional History attempt to diminish this universalizing push. Control, specialization, and particularity are the bywords of History as Discipline. So, for example, a claim made by Professional History might be: “History should be done by professionally trained experts.” This claim works to sharpen the lens of historical observation at the same time that it grants believability to a certain group—the only group capable of either correctly using (or interpreting correctly) the information gleaned from such a directed inspection of the past.

The grounds used to support such a claim must demonstrate that this group of experts does, in fact, observe the past correctly. Sounding the call of academics and scientists everywhere (Professionally trained experts draw correct, objective conclusions about the area for which they are trained), these grounds work to do two things. The first thing that they do is make correct and objective desirable; the second thing that they do is create a space (a specific area of training) in which being correct and being objective are both possible and almost the same. Such a claim, supported by data that makes the possibility of objectivity automatically correct, would best be connected by two warrants. Here is Professional History’s argument diagrammed:

Claim: History should be done by professionally trained experts.
Grounds: Professionally trained experts draw correct, objective conclusions about the areas for which they are trained.
Warrant 1: Professional training equips people for correct/objective observations about the world (or field of study).
Warrant 2: Objectivity is the most correct way to observe the functioning of world events.

The warrants for Professional History’s claims work to make the space of historical study smaller and smaller. The focus on training, the focus on discipline, the focus on control—each of these claims are bolstered and made possible by warrants in which specialization and training are highlighted, to the exclusion of all other kinds of historical investigation. To build a case for specialists and members of the discipline, warrants for Professional History emphasize the particularity of skills required to interpret history correctly.

1 comment:

smartypants said...

You might want to check out Warnick and Klein's article on argument schemes.

Warnick, Barbara & Susan L. Kline. “The New Rhetoric’s Argument Schemes: A Rhetorical View of Practical Reasoning.” Argumentation and Advocacy 29 (Summer 1992): 1-15.

Argument schemes are the inferences made to connect an argument’s premises with the conclusion. The argument schemes proposed by Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts Tyteca are used in this article as a springboard to focuses on common patterns of reasoning that function as tools to help understand argument use more effectively.

this might even be helpful...

Blair, J. Anthony. “Walton’s Argumentation Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning: A Critique and Development.” Argumentation 15 (2001): 365-379.

This might help ground what you are talking about (which is very interesting) in the current literture.


your argument homie :)