Location

University of Windsor

Document Type

Paper

Start Date

6-6-2007 9:00 AM

End Date

9-6-2007 5:00 PM

Abstract

I inquire into the issue of how to evaluate fear appeals. I propose modifications to Douglas Walton's position in Scare Tactics: Arguments that Appeal to Fear and Threats that will help improve assessment of fear appeals in complex argumentation such as political discourse. Walton has argued for attending to the underlying practical inference structure involved in fear appeals as well as the type of dialogue in which they occur. I propose, first, that theorists understand the practical reasoning not in terms of an underlying inferential structure but rather as an account of how discourse strategies give fear appeals force; and, second, that theorists not deduce norms and standards from so-called dialogue types but rather explain how discourse strategies engage norms of argumentation that give fear appeals force. This approach generates a normative pragmatic theory of fear appeals that has more explanatory power than Walton's theory, because it explains how discourse strategies agents actually use engage norms of argumentation and are therefore compelling. I submit that compelling fear appeals are designed to show addressees (1) risks to themselves of not carefully assessing the fearful circumstances and (2) risks to the arguer of misjudging whether circumstances merit fear.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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Stephen Pender, Commentary on Innocenti

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Stephen Pender, Commentary on Innocenti (June 2007)

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Jun 6th, 9:00 AM Jun 9th, 5:00 PM

Evaluating Fear Appeals

University of Windsor

I inquire into the issue of how to evaluate fear appeals. I propose modifications to Douglas Walton's position in Scare Tactics: Arguments that Appeal to Fear and Threats that will help improve assessment of fear appeals in complex argumentation such as political discourse. Walton has argued for attending to the underlying practical inference structure involved in fear appeals as well as the type of dialogue in which they occur. I propose, first, that theorists understand the practical reasoning not in terms of an underlying inferential structure but rather as an account of how discourse strategies give fear appeals force; and, second, that theorists not deduce norms and standards from so-called dialogue types but rather explain how discourse strategies engage norms of argumentation that give fear appeals force. This approach generates a normative pragmatic theory of fear appeals that has more explanatory power than Walton's theory, because it explains how discourse strategies agents actually use engage norms of argumentation and are therefore compelling. I submit that compelling fear appeals are designed to show addressees (1) risks to themselves of not carefully assessing the fearful circumstances and (2) risks to the arguer of misjudging whether circumstances merit fear.