Question-Reply Argumentation

Question-Reply Argumentation

Question-Reply Argumentation

Question-Reply Argumentation


"Walton's book is a study of several fallacies in informal logic. Focusing on question-answer dialogues, and committed to a pragmatic rather than a semantic approach, he attempts to generate criteria for evaluating good and bad questions and answers. The book contains a discussion of such well-recognized fallacies as many questions, black-or-white questions, loaded questions, circular arguments, question-begging assertions and epithets, ad hominem and tu quoque arguments, ignoratio elenchi, and replying to a question with a question. In addition, Walton develops several artificial dialogue games and has an excellent discussion of burden of proof in nonlegal contexts. The discussion is for the most part nontechnical and does not presuppose any training in formal logic. It is illustrated with many (sometimes overlong) examples of fallacies drawn from real life--mostly debates in the Canadian House of Commons. . . . Walton's book breaks new ground on a number of issues." Choice


What is most important about the argumentative use of language in questioning is that a questioner may try to occupy the high ground by using terms in his question that are defined or used in such a way as to bias the question in favor of his own case or against the respondent's case. When an Israeli border town is bombed, the newspapers in Israel are likely to describe it as a terrorist attack, whereas Arab sources may describe the same event as an action taken by freedom fighters in defense of their rights. However, when an Arab town is bombed, its inhabitants may describe the event as a terrorist attack while the Israelis describe it as a defensive strike against terrorists. Each side tries to occupy the high ground by describing its own individuals as "freedom fighters" whereas the other side is always the "terrorists." in effect, the words are used as weapons.

It is most important to be aware that the use of loaded terms in a question is often woven into a complex question, making it more difficult for the respondent to give a straightforward reply. the strategy here would seem to be the hope that the stacked nature of the definition or term may not be so easily noticed, and thereby achieve its effect more subtly, within a complex question that calls for a direct answer rather than a questioning of the definition of a term or phrase. Another complication is that such a question may occur alongside other questions in an extended sequence of dialogue.

1. terminologically loaded questions

In answering questions, it is useful to check the language used in the phrasing of the question to see whether any of the terms in the question are loaded, meaning that the term itself leads to a specific commitment on the . . .

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