Argumentation Modes

Argumentation Modes

In this paper, I shall argue that the visceral mode is the most useful of the argumentation modes. The logical mode and the kiseral mode are the building blocks of the visceral mode. The visceral mode, which stems from the physical, is readily observable. Unlike other modes, the visceral mode does not require language to emphasize the intensity of a dispute.

Let us discuss the various modes of argumentation and strive to identify them in well-reasoned arguments. Let us begin with Gilbert’s explanation of the various modes of argumentation. Gilbert states:

I suggest that these arguments can be categorized by not one, but four distinct identifiable modes. These are, in addition to the (1) logical…(2) the emotional, which relates to the realm of feelings, (3) the visceral, which stems from the arena of the physical, and (4) the kisceral (from the Japanese ki meaning energy), which covers the intuitive and non-sensory arenas. (Gilbert, p. 164)

Let us strive to understand each mode if argumentation, individually, before we attempt to employ all four modes to argumentation theory. Let our examination beg with the explanation that Gilbert provides us with for the logical mode of argumentation. “…’logical is not being used in the sense of deductive, but in the sense one has in mind when one says of a thought or argument, That’s logical’”, (Gilbert, p.166), which is the sense twill be that will employed throughout this paper. Gilbert also states, “Paradigm arguments…which are not at all deductively correct, are so-called dialectical arguments”, (Gilbert, p. 166). But that is not all that he explains.

Gilbert claims that the emotional modes are displayed through the other modes. “Emotional arguments…communicate to us aspects of a dispute partner’s world that logical arguments do not. These include elements, such as a degree of commitment, depth, and extent of feeling, sincerity and degree of resistance” (Gilbert, p. 170).  To explain the visceral mode, he tells us “…a kiss, a look, a touch, a feeling, may be an argument, provided it is communicated in a dissensual interaction” (Gilbert, p. 165). “The kisceral mode of communication that relies on the intuitive, imaginative, the religious and the spiritual, and the mystical” (Gilbert, p. 173).

Having noted Gilbert’s explanation of the four possible modes of argumentation, we can proceed to determine the purpose that each mode serves. Also, we can endeavor to evaluate the levels of communication that each mode utilizes. We strive to discover hidden and linguistic levels. The levels of argument are the ways, by which various mode are in conjunction. Our first example will focus on the visceral mode of argumentation.

John and Sue are discussing which movie to see. Sue suggests: “Steel Magnolia’s”, (an emotional drama) and John suggests that they see a science fiction or action movie instead. The physical responses / gestures displayed by John and Sue show us how each of them really feels about watching the other’s chosen movie. Upon John hearing Sue’s suggestion, he might exhibit a disgruntled facial expression, along with a sigh. This would indicate that he is totally against viewing the “Steel Magnolia’s”. Did John, by his expression, just start an argument? That would, after all, depend upon Sue’s interpretation of John’s physical reaction to her recommendation.

Sue might interpret John’s physical expressions to indicate that he would be miserable watching “Steel Magnolia’s”. She might interest his sigh as meaning: “But why?” If she assumes his sigh means: “But why?”, then we now begin to observe an argument. John is the reluctant, but guilty protagonist. A reciprocal scenario might also apply. Sue could viscerally display her response to John. Then John would know that Sue did not want to a science fiction, or action flick. If she expressed her opposition solely through facial expressions, then John might not be personally offended.

If neither John nor Sue responded, to one another, verbally, but both viscerally conveyed their own opinion about the other’s choice in movies, then an argument might have begun in silence. What’s more, neither John nor Sue knows how the argument began. If either or both of them had provided a verbal response, then an argument might have been avoided. If they had politely and verbally objected to seeing the movie that the other one had suggested, then, as long as the rejection was not perceived as personal affront, an argument might have been avoided.

Within the above-noted example, various levels of argumentation are clearly demonstrated. While only the visceral mode was intentionally employed, we are able to able other modes of effective communication. The actors strove to limit the modes they used to the visceral mode. When this mode is utilized other modes will surface. The visceral mode is the readily apparent mode. While the visceral mode centers on physical expression, actors might employ logic in their perceptions of the argument and its issues.

The logical mode might not employ the other noted modes, or even have adjoining levels. A logical argument might follow a set pattern of reasoned discourse. Only if the argument was structured and / or evaluated according to logical rules could it then be labeled a ‘logical argument’. Let us offer an example of a logical argument. But before endeavor to do so, we must first explain what is required for an argument to be considered logical. In The Concept of Argument, Hamblin states, “An argument is generally regarded as being whatever it is that is typically expressed by the form of the word ‘P, therefore Q’, and so Q’, ‘P, hence Q’; or perhaps, ‘Q, since P’, ‘Q, because P’” (Hamblin, p. 228). Hamblin continues “…there is something repugnant about the idea that Logic is a vehicle for the expression of the logician’s own judgments of acceptance and rejection of statements of arguments.” Hamblin outlines the role of the logician where the states, “The logician…is not a judge…he is, at best a trained advocate…It follows that it is not the logician’s particular job to declare the truth of any statement, or the validity of any argument” (Hamblin, p.244). Wenzel, however, provides us with a different explanation of logic.

Wenzel claims, “An argument,’ says the logician, ‘is a set of statements consisting of premises and conclusion, or claim and support (Wenzel, p. 176). He further claims, “A good argument…from the standpoint of logic…is a sound one” (Wenzel, p. 126). But there are still more requirements for logic to play a role in argument. Toulmin asks: “Is the logical form of a valid argument something quasi-geometrical, comparable to the shape of a triangle or the parallelism of two straight lines…Supposing valid arguments can be cast in a geometrically tidy form, how does this help to make them any more cogent” (Toulmin, p.95). Modeling an argument does not the discourse. Making diagrams of arguments does not make them easier to evaluate. Displaying the argument in its parts, however, might make them easier to evaluate.

There are varying opinions as to what constitutes a logical argument. It must have a premise, a claim entailed in the premise, backing for the claim and a conclusion, which confirms the claim. Gilbert however, explains logic differently. In his article, Multi-Modal Argumentation, he uses the term logic to mean: “Hey, that makes sense.” He is not employing the use of logic to entail any deductive reasoning process. Rather, Gilbert suggests that the social actor might immediately and inherently know what ‘logic’ means.

Logical arguments are embedded within the other modes of argumentation. In a visceral argument, however, logic is communicated by the inflamed expression of an actor, who readily displays his response to a verbal communication. The argument would then be partially visceral and partly verbally communicated, but it also contains an emotional mode. The argument would not be said to have begun, however, until the antagonist responded to the protagonists’ harassment. The protagonist would be aware of the logic he/she used to provoke the response he/she instigated. Other than viscerally arguing, or using logic in an argument, the kisceral mode might be used to start or possibly solve an argument.

Let us now examine the emotional and kisceral modes of argument together. They are often used cooperatively in arguments. Let us provide another example. Dave and Michelle are married and they are eating dinner. Michelle acts Dave why he was at work so late last night. Dave explains that he had a lot of work to complete. Michelle replies: “I don’t like you working late and I think that your secretary might be working late with you.” This is a kisceral argument. It is certainly not a logical one, but it is definitely based on emotions. Dave might reply in an emotional way and thus begin an argument. He might say: “I have to work late to support our lifestyle. If you don’t want us to live in this house or maintain our lifestyle, then I will quit my job and thus have nothing to do with my secretary. Would that make you happy?”

In the example, illustrated above, we have the emotional mode of argument where there seems to be an exacerbating of an otherwise moot issue to aggravate the kisceral mode. But while the kisceral mode is dependent on ‘intuition’ and ‘hunches’ it operate in other modes, as well. Gilbert says: “Even such mundane occurrences as a married couple’s simultaneously thinking the same thing would suffice to keep the category from being void” (Gilbert, p. 173)/ But within this mode, and more specifically within the example above, the emotional mode played a vital role. For a husband and wife to share the same thought at the same time, they would, as in the case of any thinking, be recalling or reflecting upon a shared prior experience that led to their current thought. But while a couple can share thoughts, they will not necessarily have logical arguments with each other, due to the overlap of emotional and imagined or real intuitive reads into the others mindset. Let us now return to the visceral mode and observe how it unintentionally encompasses the remaining modes of argumentation.

John and Steve are neighbors, who happen to be outside at the same time, in the warm summer climate. John is mowing his lawn and wearing headphone. Steve is barbecuing on the porch. As Steve flips hamburgers, with a spatula, he notices John mowing his lawn with the lawn mower Steve lent him last Spring. Steve did not have access to last Summer. Steve owns the lawn mower and wants to get it back immediately from his ungrateful neighbor, who mindlessly failed to return the lawn mower on his own initiative. Steve motions to John, by raising his spatula and then by pointing it towards the lawn mower, then pointing the spatula back towards himself. John, who happens to be facing Steve, stops mowing the lawn and halts the operation of the lawn mower, but does not turn it off. John abruptly raises his arms outward and opens his hands and mouths the word: “What?” John then proceeds to continue mowing his lawn and turns away from Steve.

Did an argument just ensue between Steve and John? If so, then what modes of argumentation were employed? We will assume that an argument did occur. We will further assume that Steve initiated the dispute. But would this be an accurate assessment of the scenario? Do we know if John recalled that the lawn mower he was recently using, actually belongs to Steve and that its’ reasonable return is long overdue. If Steve perceives that John understood his visceral motions, then we would reasonably conclude that Steve did not actually attempt to instigate a heated discussion. Rather, John started the argument. John knows that the lawn mower belongs to Steve. By the expression on Steve’s face, John knows that Steve is disappointed that John was still continuing to use his lawn mower. John also knows that Steve’s lawn is now outrageously overgrown – having not being mowed for a few seasons. Moreover, John knows that Steve lent him the lawn mower in good faith that it would be returned not long after it was lent to him.

Both John and Steve fully understand the argument. John knew, before he viscerally responded, that he would be wrong to state any defense. Because John did not turn of the lawn mower, he initiated the argument. John could have turned off the lawn mower and asked Steve what it was that he was trying to say to him. Also, John could have immediately apologized to Steve for, not returning the lawn mower, prior this bizarre encounter. If he had done so, then Steve might have unconditionally forgiven him, and an argument could have been avoided.

The emotional mode was also utilized during the argument between Steve and John. The argument began when Steve displayed an angry face towards John. The kisceral mode might have been use as well, that is, if Steve assumed that John intuitively understood his actions to be directly related to the lawn mower not being returned.

The logical mode might have also been in use throughout their ordeal. John may have realized Steve’s anger, but did not seem to care about. John intentionally turned off the lawn mower, motioned as he did, to indicate that he did not care that the lawn mower he was using belongs to Steve. The logic employed by John was of the unspoken type, but clearly guessable, as to say: “I know I am still using your lawn mower. So what? Just continue flipping your hamburgers and leave me alone!” By John failing to remove his headphones and / or turn off the music to which he seemed to be listening, he demonstrated his use of the logic mode of argumentation.

By John expressing his reply, or lack thereof, and then resuming his cutting of the grass, he was utilizing the logic of in the style of: “I will finish mowing my lawn and then maybe I’ll speak with you. If you are lucky you will get the lawn mower back sometime this coming year. John and Steve had an argument, even though Lawyers or argumentation theorists were absent. Whether or not the various modes of argumentation were actualized, intentionally, they were used throughout the various modes of argumentation. “Were Grice’s maxims adhered to in the noted example? Furthermore, would his maxims need to be applied for an argument to be valid, or for an argument to be perceived in actuality?

Let us endeavour to answer these questions independently. Firstly, were Grice’s maxims, entailed in his Cooperative Principle, adhered to in the argument Steve and John had? Secondly, do Grice’s maxims need to be adhered to for a multi-modal argument to occur? Let us respond first by posing another question. Can Grice’s maxims applied, or even expected in an argument involving multi-modal argumentation that has few or no verbally communicative acts?

Both John and Steve followed the maxim of Quantity. But we might suggest that only Steve followed the maxim of Quality. He was truthful in his claim. John, however, was deceptive. Both John and Steve made relevant claims. Therefore, both John and Steve satisfied Grice’s maxim Relation. The maxim of Manner might be problematic in multi-modal argumentation. Steve failed to satisfy the maxim Manner. His claim was obscure. Steve also failed to avoid ambiguity. John might not have been unable to discern the intended meaning of the wild movements that Steve made in his motions towards him. While Steve clutched and pointed his spatula he might have misstated his case. John would have fulfilled the maxims of Manner category, except he failed to satisfy the requirement of orderliness. He would have satisfied the claim if he had first turned off the lawn mower and then stopped it and took off his headphones. The argument John and Steve had was a silent ordeal, but it satisfied some of Grice’s categories. Let us now move to the second question.

Grice’s categories and maxims do not need to be followed by social actors. This is especially true when actors enter into a multi-modal argument that combines the four modes. The question then depends on not whether the social actors are involved. “But, do non-verbal arguments adhere to Grice’s maxims?” This questions, however, should be examined elsewhere.

Let us conclude by claiming that the best mode of argumentation is the visceral mode. The reasons for this were clearly explained above and they will be recapitulated here. The visceral mode is the mode existing mode of argumentation. It employs the remaining modes in the most communicative way, while not requiring the use of verbal statements.  The visceral mode, however, is the most intense mode, because initially words are not used, rather communication can begin solely by way of facial expressions and physical gestures. Eventually the visceral mode can blend both physical and verbal expression.The inability of observers to be able to be able to identify the protagonist adds complexity to the argument and possibly confusion as to what is being disputed. To answer the questions that we asked at the beginning of the paper, we must explain visceral arguments even further.

In response to the questions initially posed during our discussions, ‘ What modes of communication are in argumentation? How much is hidden? How much is linguistic? Do Gilbert’s levels tell us anything valuable about argumentation? The answers to these questions are obvious. Gilbert presents us with four communicate modes. There are the visceral mode, the logical mode, the emotional mode and the kisceral mode. These modes interact with each other throughout various types of arguments.

To answer how much is hidden, we will reply by saying, “The right question is not how much is hidden, but rather how much is really revealed, and when it is fully expressed?” How much is hidden depends on the type of argument and what is communicated throughout it. If the argument is visceral, then only language is hidden. For the other modes of argument, what is hidden depends on what is projected by the actors. What is perceived or ignored by on actor benefits the other actor, or vice versa. How much is linguistic depends on whether the argument is verbal. All of the modes, except the visceral mode, could be linguistic. The logical mode is knowable through the employment of the three other modes.

Firstly, Gilbert’s modes clarify approaches to argument. The length and shared perception of the argument depends on the mode that is used. The four modes, and the way they act in cooperation with one another, dictate the intensity of the argument. Gilbert’s modes assist social actors in understanding argumentation. As well, Gilbert’s modes illustrate that one can have an argument without saying a word!




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