31 March 2018 at 5:30 pm
I love this opening, not least because it echoes an experience I had leading a number of former students (who were now college students) in a summer reading seminar. One of them found “three critiques” of the text instead of appreciating it for what it was. One of the “critiques” was that the author didn’t follow a particular thread of thought to its logical conclusion, even though such deeper investigation there would have lost the the author’s intended audience (given the academic journal in which it appeared). Basically, the author “hadn’t been academically honest” by not pursuing that logical end, even though the author’s audience wouldn’t have been interested nor was it central to his thesis. My former student attends a university where critical thinking is the supreme virtue, a form of thinking I sometimes term “weaponized critical thinking.” That is, a flaw must always be found; and any disagreement must be because of a logical error or unseen bias, not disagreement by any other means.
I do think there’s a place for critiquing a lack of exploration of what Howard Gardner describes as ‘rhetorical brinkmanship’. That is “Instead of stating the unpalatable, the authors lead readers to a point where they are likely to draw a certain conclusion on their own.” (Intelligence Reframed, p. 9) That certainly would be open to the critique of a lack of intellectual honesty. But in this essay we were discussing, the thread my student wanted investigated further would have been of little interest or use to its intended audience, which I would note was not us. So my student’s critique, while in the remotest of senses true since I suppose the author could have written more, “frankly…missed the point.” Merciless takedowns is an equally apt description.
Regardless, I think the personal narrative to open is powerful, particularly as taken from a teaching experience with graduate students. I came back to comment on this opening after reading all the way through because this vignette helpfully shaped my consideration of your argument.
See in context
31 March 2018 at 4:37 pm
Love the Audrey Watters shoutout. Her indefatigable work is invaluable.
29 March 2018 at 3:32 pm
[Where I am asking for generosity then—for giving it away—it is from those who are fully credited and compensated, those who can therefore afford to be generous:]
So I’ll bring up Govier again here, as she is a great example of this generosity. The forthcoming second edition of Problems in Argument Analysis and Evaluation will be available online for free via Windsor Studies in Argumentation. She had to go through some serious hoops to reclaim the copyright from the original publisher. My copy cost of the original edition cost over $100. It was worth it for my research, but my goodness that took a chunk out of my research budget. And that’s one of the most cited books in argumentation theory and informal logic. Her willingness to offer that work up, not just as a cheaper version but for free, is incredible.
I should also note that the journal Informal Logic also provides its resources for free. As an independent researcher, that journal’s openness has been invaluable. Of even greater benefit, I’ve been able to introduce some of its articles to high school students encountering academic writing for the first time, something they relish. Oh, and that journal is also an offshoot of University of Windsor.
Those aside, I truly love this sentiment here and in the rest of this paragraph.
29 March 2018 at 2:05 pm
Thank you for this! It is an enormous help. I’ll very much look forward to reading her work.
29 March 2018 at 12:54 pm
Certainly! I realize you don’t have endless time for research, so here are my suggestions:
Reasonable Responses: The Thought of Trudy Govier
–This one as introduction to her overall thought. It’s a lighter read.
The Philosophy of Argument by Trudy Govier
–from its intro by philosopher J. Anthony Blair, “More than any philosopher I know she is open to the merits of criticisms of her favored views, and she sympathetically gleans illumination from ‘opposing’ positions that others would have overlooked in the rush to refutation. The Socratic honesty, humility, and tenacity of these essays makes reading them a particular pleasure and inspiration.”
I think you’ll struggle to find a spirit more kindred than hers in the project you’re undertaking! Not to say she’s a perfect representative of generous thinking, but she’s certainly an excellent example of the human attempt towards such thinking, particularly as a top scholar in her field.
28 March 2018 at 7:10 am
Oh absolutely! This is not a local issue, at all. I’m going to be thinking a good bit in revision about how to balance the specificity of my own community of practice with the larger groups (researchers; intellectuals; humans) of which it is clearly part.
28 March 2018 at 7:06 am
These are really important correctives, Erik; thanks for them. Community colleges in particular play an enormous role in higher education as a public good today, and they don’t yet figure enough into the argument I’m making here. What I want to ponder a bit is the tension between the enormity of that role and the clear hierarchy (in terms of resources and in terms of prestige) among the various kinds of institutions that constitute public higher education today. Fabricant and Brier explore the ways that public disinvestment has exacerbated that hierarchy, with a resulting stratification of the kinds of education that are available to students that replicate and deepen race and class disparities. That hierarchy isn’t in and of itself competition of the kind I’m describing here, but it is a related aspect of the prestige economy, something I need to think a good bit more about. Thanks again!
28 March 2018 at 6:41 am
I hadn’t come across her work; thanks so much for the reference!
28 March 2018 at 6:39 am
I’m increasingly convinced that “leading” is not what I’m actually after… a key point to ponder as I move into revision.
28 March 2018 at 6:37 am
Ooh, thank you for that reference!
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