Keeping an Open Mind and Having a Sense of Proportion as Virtues in Argumentation


  • Daniel H. Cohen Department of Philosophy, Colby College, Maine, United States


Virtue-based approaches to epistemology have enjoyed notable success recently, making valuable contributions to long-standing debates. In this paper, I argue, that many of the results from Virtue Epistemology (VE) can be carried over into the arena of argumentation theory, but also that a virtue-based approach is actually better suited for argumentation than it is for justification.  First, some of the unresolved challenges for VE, such as the limitations of voluntarism with respect to beliefs, do not have counterparts in argumentation. Second, a new argument for VE based on the concept of cognitive achievements broadens its applicability to arguments. Third, because virtue-based approaches shift in focus from products and processes to agents, and arguments are essentially inter-agent transactions, important new questions come into focus, along with signposts leading to their resolution. Questions about different roles in argument (protagonists, antagonists, judges, spectators) and the virtues needed for each, come into focus, as do questions about when, why and with whom to argue, which often get lost in the shadow of the primary question, how we should argue. Finally, two specific virtues - open-mindedness and a sense of proportion - are offered as test cases for Virtue Argumentation Theory.