Apprehending the value of an argument

Forthcoming presentation for the two-day conference “Apprehending Value” 15 & 16 September 2022, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Any philosophical discussion on the apprehending of value seems to necessarily instantiate a particular form of apprehending value, namely apprehending the value of the argument(s) involved in that very discussion. This is not peculiar to philosophical discussions on apprehending value, but for the philosophical discussion on apprehending value, it can elucidate a particular transcendental ring to it.

There is a classical and familiar range of arguments that the denial of truth can quickly lead the proponent of that position into a form of self-defeat (Bardon 2005), in an explicit philosophical tradition that goes at least back to Aristotle. In a kind of extension of that argument, Frank van Dun has pointed out that one is similarly caught in a kind of self-defeat if one denies that one ought to be rational, i.e. ought to value truth over falsehood, sound arguments over fallacies, etc. (van Dun 1982). Any argument in that direction would rely on the very commitment to value argumentation over blind adherence to random philosophical positions. And if it were to be successful in convincing an opponent, it would thereby undermine the very foundation of that success, i.e. the commitment of the opponent to value argumentation. Hence, we are (arguably) always already apprehending the value of argumentation, and this particular argument merely makes it explicit. 

But in doing so, qua argument, it relies on the apprehension of its very own value (or lack thereof) by those who read or hear it. It is a particular instantiation of the general value of argumentation for which it is arguing, and thereby relying on the (possible) apprehension thereof. This is not peculiar to that particular argument, but to any and every argument, in virtue of which its denial indeed leads to a form of self-defeat. Apprehending value is thereby not only the enabling condition of our very discussion about the apprehension of value, but of any philosophical discussion whatsoever in its very reliance on the apprehension of the value of the arguments involved.The focus on ‘arguments’ leaves open the discussion on the proper nature (e.g. analytic or continental) of philosophical argumentation itself. Whether philosophical arguments are more valuable if they can be formulated as clear syllogisms, or as an entire book by a particular author, is orthogonal to this point. On the kind of Platonist epistemology illustrated in the Meno, the point is rather that we are always already capable of apprehending, and committed to adhering to, that which is valuable in the realm of thinking and arguing. 

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom

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