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        insight and the better argument

gary e. davis
May 2003 / March 2014

This discussion was initially part of “A Brief Sense Of
An American Pragmatism”
Any tenable claim about the relationship between (the belonging together of) what’s good [for “my” life] and what’s just [or equally good] must be explicated cogently to each potential endorsee, in order to have credibility, then to be evaluated, lastly to be endorsed. This is unfeasible. So, we do discursive work relative to ideal-typical audiences, in effect wagering a shared humanity among all those affected that we don’t engage. At best, we do polls about pieces of the argument or about upshot views. No enlightened or enlightening discourse is tenable without implying a basis of insight which can never be fully certified, but which implies a generalized capability for appreciation that remains ideal-typical for our always time-limited deliberation opportunities. This is the basis of what may eventually educe agreement because it’s the more cogent and appealing argument. But the “is” remains ultimately prospective for real time. Though the evaluation of an argument as the generally better one is certainly a matter of its evaluability by all who are in a position to insightfully evaluate it, that evaluation by each is a matter of the cogent appeal of generality for that life, which is always prospective, implying claims to insight that are wagers about general cogency.

The “force” of the better argument is a matter of its prospected appeal. Something is only validly compelling inasmuch as it’s genuinely appealing by prospectus. The best-made arguments don’t convince, if one doesn’t see its appeal as cogent appeal, yet the convincing is never finished. What’s well-made to academics probably won’t look well-made to “mere” high school graduates; so, the argument isn’t made without a literature appropriated to developmental levels. A life-based event of appropriation is integral to the mutuality of interaction, but the scale of appropriativity is largely emblemized by prospective arguments. Faith-based reasoning won’t look good to jurists and conversely; so an entire ecology is the horizon of “all those affected.”

There is a developmental relativity to good argument that makes tutorial the ideal form of teaching. There is an evolutionary relativity of social ecology that makes public policy a nearly-endless Project of education. (The argument for the prevailing importance of environmental factors is decades in the making, and it continues.) The event of appropriation in discourse is endless, except that opportunity for deliberation is always time-limited. The importance of educed level of insight for the recognition of an argument as the better one makes the landscape of cogency endless, mountainous, rolling on sea change—and deaths of the convinced, births of the unconvinced. The better argument becomes a literature that pretends it can become canonical across generations.

But I digress.... Yet, aren’t you engaged!

One might tenably argue that there is no good argument without due care for (or anticipated engagement with) the audience. More important than finding vindication (a rather subject-centered interest that a focus on justification may reflect), good argument seeks to educe understanding by appropriating oneself with the other. Living engagement with each other often annuls the need to derive a contractual common ground that is procedurally warranted. The better argument is not about justification; it’s about better engagement with each other on our shared ground. The primacy of interest in understanding that’s vital to communicative dailiness pertains to argument, too: less about creating justification, more about creating engagement with each other—less about resolving critical differences, more about avoiding critical difference through as much insight as feasible among us.



    Be fair. © 2017, g. e. davis