Improving Practical Reasoning and Argumentation

Dissertation, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (2015)
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This thesis justifies the need for and develops a new integrated model of practical reasoning and argumentation. After framing the work in terms of what is reasonable rather than what is rational (chapter 1), I apply the model for practical argumentation analysis and evaluation provided by Fairclough and Fairclough (2012) to a paradigm case of unreasonable individual practical argumentation provided by mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik (chapter 2). The application shows that by following the model, Breivik is relatively easily able to conclude that his reasoning to mass murder is reasonable – which is understood to be an unacceptable result. Causes for the model to allow such a conclusion are identified as conceptual confusions ingrained in the model, a tension in how values function within the model, and a lack of creativity from Breivik. Distinguishing between dialectical and dialogical, reasoning and argumentation, for individual and multiple participants, chapter 3 addresses these conceptual confusions and helps lay the foundation for the design of a new integrated model for practical reasoning and argumentation (chapter 4). After laying out the theoretical aspects of the new model, it is then used to re-test Breivik’s reasoning in light of a developed discussion regarding the motivation for the new place and role of moral considerations (chapter 5). The application of the new model shows ways that Breivik could have been able to conclude that his practical argumentation was unreasonable and is thus argued to have improved upon the Fairclough and Fairclough model. It is acknowledged, however, that since the model cannot guarantee a reasonable conclusion, improving the critical creative capacity of the individual using it is also of paramount importance (chapter 6). The thesis concludes by discussing the contemporary importance of improving practical reasoning and by pointing to areas for further research (chapter 7).

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Michael D. Baumtrog
Toronto Metropolitan University


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