Their actual correspondence is a riot and often has me laughing out loud (LOL in webese), on the tram of all places, even without the book at hand (which is no longer an embarrassment at my age.) The two are simply genial scoundrels engaged in scurrilous banter, utterly politically incorrect (with fudgy old Popper as preferred punching bag). It should be required reading here at ET for all those who wish to engage in discussion.
So, all in all, your diary did put me in a good mood.
I cannot respond entirely to your quote of Prof. David A. Frank on Traité de l'argumentation - la nouvelle rhétorique (1958), by Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca since the article is behind "free" walls with the usual gimmick about registering one's credit card number. I just don't do that sort of thing. If you have downloaded the full article it would be appreciated were you to share it's contents , provided, of course, it is worth discussing. However, what little there is to go on, Frank cites Mieczyslaw Maneli who in turn cites an interview of Chaim Perelman conducted by Dr. Wiktor Osiatynski in 1973. Apparently this would refer to a New Rhetoric Project, dear to both Frank and Maneli. (There are several open articles on the web by Frank but that is not the issue.)
It appears that the use of the notion of "dialectics" in the text you cite conflates Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca monumental treatise with Maneli's New Rhetoric Project. Only a careful reading can untangle the two sources, one of which refers presumably to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's New Rhetoric while the other is Maneli's New Rhetoric (Project). The question is solved by simply looking up "dialectics" in the Treatise to see what the two authors wrote on the subject. It is a fairly easy exercise as there are only 14 citations for a total of 19 pages in 514 pages of text in the English edition. One might make a point of quality rather than quantity and say that those 19 pages are the single most important pages in the treatise but one might then wonder why the authors bothered writing all the rest, or why philosophers and scholars since then, with the possible exceptions of Frank and Maneli, have argued for and against Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca on the assumption that Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca were actually talking about what they wrote.
The visible portion of the Frank article does need some help. One must distinguish footnotes from page citations without the references. Footnote Number One refers to something by Maneli while Footnote Number Two refers to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's Treatise on Argumentation since the page citations do effectively correspond to the English edition (pages 5 and 514). However the number 216 refers to something by Maneli which cannot be his Perelman's New Rhetoric which only has 156 pages at the comfortable price of about an euro a page. Whatever, the 216 quote is misleading in that we really don't know what "New Rhetoric" Maneli is talking about. Judging from the statement I may hazard that it's not about Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's New Rhetoric but Maneli's idea of New Rhetoric, surreptitiously pawned off by Frank as Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's New Rhetoric.
Let's have a look at Page Five, which is in the Introduction, and see exactly what our venerable authors say (italics in the original).
[...]logicians and modern philosophers have become totally disinterested in our subject. It is for this reason that the present book is mostly related to the concerns of the Renaissance and, beyond that, to those of certain Greek and Latin authors, who studied the art of persuading and of convincing, the technique of deliberation and of discussion. Our work, therefore, is presented as a new rhetoric.
Our analysis concerns the proofs which Aristotle termed "dialectical," which he examines in his Topics, and the utilization of which he indicates in his Rhetoric. This appeal to Aristotle's terminology would justify the "rapprochement" of the theory of argumentation with dialectic, conceived by Aristotle himself as the art of reasoning from generally accepted opinions (εὔλογος). However, a number of reasons have led us to prefer a "rapprochement" with rhetoric.
The first of these reasons is the confusion which a return to Aristotle's terminology might produce. Although the term dialectic served for centuries to designate logic itself, since the time of Hegel and under the influence of doctrines inspired by him, it has acquired a meaning which is very remote from its original one and which has become generally accepted in contemporary philosophy. The same cannot be said for the term rhetoric, which has fallen into such desuetude that it is not even mentioned, for example, in A. Lalande's philosophical lexicon; we hope our attempts will contribute to the revival of an ancient and glorious tradition.
A second reason, which we consider much more important, has motivated our choice: the very spirit in which Antiquity was concerned with dialectic and rhetoric. Dialectical reasoning is considered as running parallel with analytical reasoning, but treating of that which is probable instead of dealing with propositions which are necessary. The very notion that dialectic concerns opinions, i.e., theses which are adhered to with variable intensity, is not exploited. One might think that the status of that which is subject to opinion is impersonal and that opinions are not relative to the minds which adhere to them. On the contrary, this idea of adherence and of the minds to which a discourse is addressed is essential in all the ancient theories of rhetoric. Our "rapprochement" with the latter aims at emphasizing the fact that it is in terms of an audience that an argumentation develops; the study of the opinionable, as described in the Topics, will have a place in our framework.
You may note that Prof. Frank is misrepresenting Page Five in his paper on several points. The "rapprochement" is clearly with rhetoric both on largely negative (Reason One) and "much more important" substantive (Reason Two) grounds. The phrase, "Accordingly, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca saw their work as a "rapprochement" of a theory of argumentation with dialectic" (5)" is a misrepresentation of what is actually written. The hypothesis that x "would justify" a rapprochement of y with z is not the same thing as a "rapprochement" of y with z, all the more so if the conclusion is entirely different: a preferred rapprochement of y with k. It is further very important to pay attention to what exactly the authors find in Aristotle concerning dialectics, which they individuate as "the art of reasoning from generally accepted opinions." It is this aspect- or even definition- of dialectics that Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca find fertile and, nested within the process of a speaker-audience exchange, is "essential in all the ancient theories of rhetoric." Here again Frank appears to make an error of attribution since it is not Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca who invented the notion but who simply selected and developed an overlooked but key aspect in Aristotle's Topics. (Frank: "the authors sought to expand the reach of dialectic beyond formal logic's laws of identity, non-contradiction and the excluded middle to include the realm of probable opinions and common sense.") We therefore do have a fairly definite idea of what Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca chose to argue as dialectics. We don't have much of an idea what Frank and Maneli mean by the term beyond a sort of ideological panegyric, as there is not much to go on available to public view.
The same passage has been addressed in a collective work by some Very Serious People, Fundamentals of Argumentation Theory in Chapter 4, pages 93-128, but principally page 96.
In this endeavor, modern science proved to have few things to offer, but the classical approach to argumentation of Aristotle and his followers has several important similarities to what Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca envisage. This relationship is expressed in the name for their theory, the new rhetoric. In choosing this name, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca do not react against dialectic: They regard classical rhetoric and dialectic as a single whole. In their view, dialectic is a theory relating to the techniques of argument, rhetoric is a practical discipline indicating how dialectical techniques can be used to convince or persuade people.
Our VSP then turn to the negative Reason Number One with, in my unqualified opinion, undue emphasis on the "substantial" dialectical component of Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's New Rhetoric, unless you recall that Aristotle's (Original) Rhetoric also had a substantial dialectical component. They do reiterate the misunderstandings the Term generates not only because of its modern adoption by Hegel and all that it entailed, but also because of its classical association with analytical reasoning. They do not even bother with Plato here, though you can feel him lurking in the corners amongst his shadows. The term has been purposely narrowed down to Topics I 1 by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca precisely to make it a powerful rhetorical tool. They conclude this phase of their introductory argument on page 9 as follows:
...The term "extra-technical proofs" [Rhetoric I 1, 1355b] is well designed to remind us that whereas our civilization, characterized by great ingenuity in the techniques intended to act on things, has completely forgotten the theory of argumentation, of action on minds by means of discourse, it was this theory which, under the name of rhetoric, was considered by the Greeks the téchne "par excellence."
This, I suppose, is yet another reason for opting to call their work the new rhetoric, the téchne "par excellence." This introductive argumentative strategy of counterpoising the two alternatives (new this or that) served egregiously to illustrate the problematic of the traditional popular opinion that saw dialectic and rhetoric at loggerheads with each other with the latter in the role of kicking bag by certain elites. By focusing on a concise and simple definition of dialectic that acknowledges the rhetorical nature of dialectic the authors can develop a strong heuristic model (héuresis- to invent, explore, discover) in which the contrived separation of the two arts is superfluous. In this view neither exists without the other. When Zeno likened Logike to a closed fist in its rigour and force and Rhetorike to the opened Hande in all its splendour, it was one and the same Hande.
I make no claim of speaking on authority, as I am no more than a enthusiastic reader who has read the treatise a few times with pencil at hand. I do hope that beyond my intellectual limitations- I have no formal superior education and have spent my working life as an artisan- I may actually have learned something from the treatise without noticeably distorting it in my mind. It is in this guise, shaped no doubt by my no-nonsense manual interaction with materials, tools and artefacts, that I may have developed a distaste for "dialectics" as a portmanteau word battered around by the elite, the effete and jolly good old wankers, most often to confound or show off or support a degenerative programme in need of props. While you appear to take issue with "definition" in your Philo-café diary, I do not, as an appeal to Reason Number One demonstrates. Exactly what is dialectics is the issue. There are as many varieties as there are recipes for borsch. The term simply can't be used without being defined beforehand, and one can separate the chaff from the grain, to put it mildly, only when the author(s) not only defines the term beforehand but keeps it as short and simple as possible. As Aristotle put it (Topics I 5), "People whose rendering consists of a term only, try it as they may, clearly do not render the definition of the thing in question, because a definition is always a phrase of a certain kind."
Now this certainly does not mean that discussions should be sabotaged by interminable disagreement on the definition of a term such as "violence", for that too is a rhetorical technique, that under certain circumstances can be of the illicit kinde. For the sake of argument, one need only establish a definition pertinent to the discussion at hand and leave the cosmic codswallop for rainy days.
Let's have a look at that universal audience where from opinions apparently issue from disembodied, impersonal minds. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca do discuss Platonic Dialectics in I.8 Argumentation Before a Single Hearer pages 35 to 40 in the Notre Dame Press edition. Let me type out some passages since I cannot resort to copy and paste. I forewarn you that it is not earthshaking since much more has been written on the subject since 1958.
Argumentation in a dialogue of this nature has no philosophic significance unless it claims to be valid for all. It is easy to see how dialectic, just like argumentation directed to the universal audience, could come to be identified with logic. This was the view held by the Stoics and the medieval thinkers. We think of it as merely an illusion, or a method, which admittedly has played an important role in the development of absolutist philosophy, striving by every means to go from adherence to truth. The philosophic significance of the interlocutor's adherence in dialogue is that the interlocutor is regarded as an incarnation of the universal audience.
The adherence of the interlocutor should not, however, be gained solely on the strength of the speaker's dialectical superiority. The one who gives in should not be beaten in an eristic contest but is supposed to yield to the self-evidence of truth. Dialogue, as we consider it, is not a debate, in which the partisans of opposed settled convictions defend their respective views, but rather a discussion in which the interlocutors search honestly and without bias for the best solution to a controversial problem.
Theoretically, this distinction may be useful. However, it is a very rash generalization to consider the participants in a disinterested discussion as spokesmen of the universal audience, and it is only through a rather schematic view of reality that the determination of the weight of arguments can be compared with the weighing of ingots. On the other hand, the defender of a particular point of view is very often convinced that he is sustaining what is objectively the best thesis and that its triumph will be that of the best cause.
In practice, there are many occasions on which this distinction between discussion and debate seems hard to draw with any exactitude. In most case, it is based on the intention which we, rightly or wrongly, ascribe to the participants in the dialogue, and this intention may vary in the course of the dialogue.
The heuristic dialogue, in which the interlocutor is an incarnation of the universal audience, and the eristic dialogue, which aims at overpowering the opponent, are both merely exceptional cases. In ordinary dialogue the participants are simply trying to persuade their audience so as to bring about some immediate or future action; most of our arguments in daily life develop at this practical level. It is a curious and noteworthy fact that this everyday activity of persuasive discussion has received very scant attention from the theoriticians.
And that, I'm afraid, is just about all our earnest authors have to say about the Socratic variant of Dialectics, "an illusion, or a method,... striving by every means to go from adherence to truth." Get on with the show, theoriticians, everyday activity is where it's at! And the challenge was taken up.
The Canadian philosopher Douglas Walton is indeed quite a mouthful to address. He is a universally recognized authority in his field and there is hardly a matter concerned with critical argumentation that he hasn't addressed and roundly debated with his kind.
He has written some forty books without a single autobiography or novel or poetry collection to break the pace. I note that he has written a book on Dialectics, which I have dutifully ordered from Loving Mother Amazon. I suspect the title The New Dialectics is a hat tip to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca and thus an onerous undertaking. Walton's Informal Logic- a Pragmatic Approach, which doesn't contain the now familiar Term, places him in a position to address Messrs Blair and Johnson, "two of the patriarchs of Informal Logic," all the more so since the parties involved are engaged in a long-standing and interesting discussion.
I do thank you for calling my attention to the paper and emphasizing the deep sympathy, if not praise, a colleague uses when addressing some of the feeble points of another colleague's programme. Casually pointing out inconsistencies, contradictions, ambiguities, shortcomings and vanities is best done with courtesy and subtleness, and left at that. Fortunately the learned reader can go to the link and decide what sort of embrace Walton and Godden have reserved for Blair and Johnson. Perhaps Blair and Johnson are a bit too intent on carving themselves out a patriarchy on ground that has been tread by Walton, Von Eemeren and Grootendorst with their pragmatisms and processes. Even Blair's and Johnson's close colleague and co-editor Christopher Tindale (Rhetorical Argumentation) expresses an enormous sympathy for one of their inventions (the dialectical tier!) while generously noting the weak points in their method to everyone's mutual advancement. I suspect they all get together at their international conferences and have a good laugh at each other's expense as those merry pranksters Lakatos and Feyerabend did. Praise can be devastating when used adroitly, as the learned French philosopher, Marcel Proust, so often demonstrated.
For the courtesy due the learned reader- or Hearer- it would be a good turn to complete the last paragraph of the Walton- Godden paper. You only offered us the first sentence which I repeat in bold:
By and large, we are deeply sympathetic with the conception of the dialectical presented by Johnson and Blair. Clearly, it has deeply influenced their approach to the study of argument, though it has not brought them all the way to a dialog-based methodology. Criticisms of the dialogue approach often amount to saying that not all arguments can be studied, or not all arguments are best studied, from a dialogue perspective. Sometimes a product-based approach is our best, or only, bet given the information we have about the situation of a particular argument. We do not deny this, and agree that several different perspectives can be taken in the study of argument. Yet, we emphasize that our understanding of the nature, purpose, workings and success of argument is deeply enriched by adopting a dialogic perspective wherever possible. Indeed, in many cases a dialogic approach is necessary because without a dialogic understanding of the process of argumentation, an impoverished and inaccurate picture of the argument product will result.
For now I'll leave it at that, although I regret parting company with Walton and cohorts, who as philosophers of argumentation and consummate arguers in turn, are as limpid as possible when it comes to the terms they use. While it would be perfectly normal that theoreticians and philosophers of argumentation discuss Dialectics, not surprisingly they do not use the Term either for Reason Number One or because there are more efficacious approaches, such as the above-cited dialog-based methodology dear to Walton or the pragma-dialectical method of Von Emeren and Grootendorst. Certainly this latter case would serve to confute my initial broadsides but not my observations here. The theory of argumentation developed by Von Emeren and Grootendorst considers "dialectification" as one of the "four meta-theoretical principals" of their investigative process and regard it "as part of an attempt to resolve a difference of opinion in accordance with critical norms of reasonableness." The definition is concise and somewhat more narrow than Aristotle's definition above and, certainly, "dialectification" absolves a role in the architecture of their method.
I do hope I've given you enough to gnaw on and am looking forward to being demolished. But above all I hope our learned readers may weigh in and contribute to the discussion for a better understanding of whatever we're talking about. If anything it might wet someone's curiosity to read some very serious people on a fascinating subject, all the more so that it is our capacity and right to argue and discern the underbelly of arguments that makes us active citizens.