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114 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 can be >chained forward= in a connected sequence of reasoning that has as its ultimate conclusion the thesis of the proponent in the dialogue. The plausibility of an argument made by the proponent (or respondent) in a dialogue may depend on her credibility. For the purpose of modelling argumentation where the credibility of a participant in a dialogue is a factor in evaluating the plausibility of her argument, a >credibility function= needs to be added to formal dialectic. The way to do this, Walton holds, is to think of a participant in a dialogue as what is now called an agent in multi-agent systems in computer science. In any dialogue an agent will begin with a particular credibility rating which can be adjusted in the light of evidence about his character (e.g., his veracity), with a consequent adjustment in the initial >plausibility value= of his argument. On this approach, then, the character of an arguer can be relevant to the assessment of his argument, contrary to logical tradition. Impressively researched and clearly written, this book is a notable contribution to the study of legal argumentation. A pity, then, that it is annoyingly repetitious. And in places the discussion is insufficiently rigorous; in particular, more careful attention needs to be given to the logical issue of when a plausibilistic inference is correct. (DEREK ALLEN) Randal Marlin. Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion Broadview. 328. $29.95 It is a common belief that people are essentially reasonable and that they act and believe well only when their actions and beliefs can be supported by good B if possible conclusive B reasons. It is also well known that people are creatures of emotion, with limited time and a need to elicit the co-operation of others. These considerations produce a tension between the generally desirable aim of conviction and the often necessary, commonly practised but less praiseworthy activities of persuasion. It is true that a convincing communication can also employ persuasive techniques (and that it can sometimes be so delivered that people are not, in fact, convinced), but persuasion is clearly quite independent of conviction and is usually practised without it. These facts raise descriptive questions about the means and aims of persuasion, particularly those varieties that have come to be called propaganda, and ethical questions about its moral justifiability. Randal Marlin addresses both these matters. After a preliminary chapter on the value of studying propaganda, which also introduces two seminal figures in that study, George Orwell and Jacques Ellul, Marlin proceeds to outline briefly the history of the practice, especially as an instrument of state control of opinions, and the principal techniques employed. These subjects occupy the second and third chapters of the book, but are revisited in the final chapter, which is devoted to the Internet as a means of communication. Ethical questions about both state humanities 115 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 propaganda and commercial persuasion are taken up in chapters 4 and 5, while the social and political issues of freedom of expression and control of the media are the focus of the sixth and seventh chapters. In each of these areas Marlin is erudite, sensitive to nuance, and sensible. What is more, as befits a Broadview Press book, both the descriptive points and the ethical issues are illustrated by a wealth of Canadian, as well as other, examples. Broadly speaking, Marlin favours those social arrangements that permit widespread reasoned discussion of public issues and reliable access to the information required to make good decisions both about public policy and private consumption. Nevertheless he recognizes that it is not desirable or even possible to eliminate merely persuasive discourse and that even the state may be justified in applying it in certain limited circumstances. He worries about reasonable limitations on the right of free expression, notably in cases of hate propaganda generated by private citizens and organizations . He is also concerned about the dangers presented to rational discourse and genuine democracy by the persuasive power of wealth, particularly when it leads to a monopoly over sources...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 114-115
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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