Foreign Policy Decision-Making: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Political Argumentation

By Irmtraud N. Gallhofer; Willem E. Saris | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
The Quality of the Arguments

In the previous chapters we have seen that politicians use arguments based on a set of six decision rules and that the simpler rules, those requiring the least information, are used most frequently. We have also shown that nonpoliticians, when confronted with the same information, agree with the choices of the politicians. This means that the arguments seem clear to the general population, but it does not mean that the arguments are correct. In this chapter we would like to study the quality of the arguments. First we will introduce a correct rule; then we will set out to demonstrate that the decision rules identified in the data are not necessarily correct. Finally, we will study the question of how far the arguments used satisfy the principles of proper argumentation.


CORRECT AND INCORRECT DECISION ARGUMENTS

In order to say that an argument is correct or incorrect, one has to have a criterion. A quite commonly accepted criterion would be that one should choose a strategy that leads to a better result than any other strategy, but how we determine what is better depends on the situation. If there is no uncertainty, we have only to compare the utility U(01) with U(Oi). If U(O1) is better for all i then S1 leads to a better result. If S1 leads to several consequences, one has to evaluate the sum of all utilities in a similar way.

In the case of uncertainty, the SEU concept can be used, but for practical purposes this concept is too complicated because it requires too much computation. Apart from that, it was shown that probabilities with intensities and utilities with intensities do not occur simultaneously in practice. This means that one does not need such a complex definition.

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*
An earlier version of this chapter was first published in Acta Psychologica 56 ( 1984): 247-265. Elsevier Science granted us permission to use the tables in this chapter.

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