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"Nuevo y divertido" detail from Library of Congress, P&P Online, LC-DIG-ppmsc-04508 Philosophy 103: Introduction to Logic
Varieties of Disagreements


Abstract: The analysis and methods of resolution of disagreements in belief and attitude are discussed. 

I. A significant aspect of the import of language in everyday life is recognizing that language is used for both literal and emotional communication. Words have both a literal meaning and an emotional impact.

 

A. Words with emotive significance or emotive meaning are slanted positively or negatively. Consider the following three observations of little Maryís room.

 

 

1. "Little Maryís room is a pigsty."

 

 

2. "Little Maryís room is untidy."

 

 

3. "Little Maryís belongings are strewn about the room in gay profusion."

 

B. All three examples exhibit a similar literal significance but differ greatly in emotive significance. Several features of this example should be noted.

 

 

1. Almost any state of affairs, no matter how unfortunate, can be put in a positive or negative light without changing the factual significance of what is said.

 

 

 

a. Thus, the technique of changing the emotive significance has a great effect on shaping the attitudes of others and is sometimes used for manipulation and persuasion.

 

 

 

b. The number of ways we can communicate the same state of affairs is limited to some extent by the richness of the language we use and our facility of that language.

 

 

 

c. The larger arena of the study of shaping the attitudes of other people through language is called, "rhetoric and persuasion" and includes many different techniques, including informal fallacies.

 

 

2. Slanting or emotive significance is a matter of degree and not of kind. Often the emotive significance of words or phrases differs from place and time to time.

 

 

 

a. Consider the use of the words "sack or bag," "bucket or pail," or "tennis shoes or sneakers" in different parts of the United States.

 

 

 

b. Compare the use of the word "virtue" today with its use in the 1800ís.

 

 

 

c. Persons disagree to some extent about the degree of positive and negative emotive significance. For our purposes, we will try to use only examples here where there is widespread intersubjective agreement.

 

C. When the statement of one person is positively slanted and the statement of another person is negatively slanted, the persons disagree in attitude. In other words, there is an emotional difference between the disputants.

 

 

1. For the introductory purposes of this course, we shall also say that if one statement is neutral and another statement is positive (or negative), we shall say that there is a disagreement in attitude.

 

 

2. Once we work through some simple examples, our techniques can become more sophisticated.

 

 

3. Generally disagreements in attitude come about by our approval or disapproval about the matter at issue.

 

D. When statements have a different literal significance or a different denotative significance, there is a disagreement in belief. A disagreement in belief is a disagreement about the facts of the matter.

 

 

1. It is very helpful, although not technically correct, to think of a disagreement in belief as a factual disagreement. (Strictly speaking, there cannot be a factual disagreement since there seems to be no consistent use for the terms "false" or "negative facts.")

 

 

2. In general, a good way to distinguish the attitude component from the belief component is to ask if the statement can be, in principle, falsified in some observable manner. Other examples are not quite so easily distinguished.

 

 

 

a. In the example above concerning little Maryís room, all three statements could be taken to confirm the same state of affairs.

 

 

 

b. We would know how to falsify all three statements about little Maryís room even though there might be some vagueness present concerning the question, "At what point of disarray does little Maryís room become Ďuntidyí?"

 

 

 

c. For now, we acknowledge that language is, in principle, vague and ambiguous. When that difference makes a difference, we can clear up the vagueness and ambiguity by stipulative or precising definitions of the terms we use. Operational definitions are often helpful in more rigorous fields of study for resolving disputes.

II. Letís look at a simple example of the kinds of agreement and disagreement that can arise over disputes about facts or events and feelings about the facts or events. The analysis of this example will be summarized after we suggest a method to analyze the varieties of agreement and disagreement.

 

A. Consider the following four situations concerning "The Distance to the Sun."

 

 

Situation 1

Mr. Smith

The sun is incredibly far from the earth; itís 60 million miles away.

 

 

Ms. Smith

Yes, the sun is extremely far from the earth, but itís 90 million miles away.

 

 

Situation 2

Mr. Jones

The sun is not so far; itís only 93 million miles away.

 

 

Ms. Jones

The sun is, indeed, very far since itís 93 million miles away.

 

 

Situation 3

Mr. Baker

The sun is very far since itís 90 million miles away.

 

 

Ms. Baker

Yes that is very far, indeed.

 

 

Situation 4

Mr. Cade

The sun is really very close to earth, only 60 million miles.

 

 

Ms. Cade

No, the sun is incredibly far away; itís over 93 million miles from earth.

 

B. Although these disputes are straightforwardly analyzed, the following rules of thumb are useful to analyze more difficult cases and so will be used here.

 

 

1. Find the fact at issue: Establish the fact at issue as a question in emotively neutral language without using the exact language of either disputant.

 

 

 

a. When the parties agree in belief, the fact at issue will be trivial.

 

 

 

b. The exact wording of either party should be avoided in our posed question.

 

 

 

c. In every disagreement in belief, there are some facts agreed uponóthese are not the facts at issue. For example, in the above situations, all parties agree the sun is some distance away from the earth; obviously, this fact is not at issue.

 

 

2. Determine each personís emotive significance toward the fact at issue: The emotive significance toward subsidiary issues is not directly relevant to establishing a disagreement in attitude.

 

 

 

a. The emotive significance can be established by restating, in neutral terms, what each person said. Next, the two statements can be compared.

 

 

 

b. Consider the following case:

 

 

 

 

John: The little tyke swung the bat heartily at the vicious dog.

 

 

 

 

Mary: The little monster hit that poor puppy on the head.

 

 

 

c. Since the fact at issue is "Did the child hit the dog?," Johnís attitude would be classed as positive and Maryís would be negative toward the fact at issue (not their attitude toward the dog).

 

 

3. Determine the agreement or disagreement in belief: Compare what each person said with the fact-at-issue (stated as a question) in order to determine whether the parties agree or disagree in belief.

 

 

 

a. If there is no explicit evidence that the parties disagree over the facts, then one should not assume there is a disagreement.

 

 

 

b. For example, as an answer to the question, "Did the child hit the dog?," there is no evidence from these above statements John and Mary disagree.

 

 

4. Determine the agreement or disagreement in attitude: Compare the emotive significance of the disputants in order to establish any disagreement in attitude.

 

 

5. Attempt to resolve the dispute in accordance with the kind of dispute it is.

 

 

 

a. If there is a disagreement in belief, then use the methods of finding the facts in a mutually agreeable manner: authority, science, or observation.

 

 

 

b. If there is a disagreement in attitude, then the methods of rhetoric and persuasion might be helpful. This variety of disagreement is the most difficult to resolve.

 

 

 

c. If there is a disagreement in both attitude and belief, then resolve the disagreement in belief first.

 

 

 

 

(1) Finding the facts might help shape a change in attitude, since one or both of the parties might have been basing the attitude on what they believed.

 

 

 

 

(2) If the discovery of the facts do not bring the parties to agreement in attitude, then various methods of rhetoric and persuasion can be tried.

III. Analysis of "The Distance to the Sun" examples. These examples exhibit the four possible kinds of agreement and disagreement in belief and attitude.

 

 

Belief
(in a state of affairs)

Attitude
(toward that state of affairs)

How the Dispute Might Be Resolved

Situation 1
(Smith)

Disagree (90 mm vs. 60 mm)

Agree ("incredibly" and "extremely")

Find the facts: use a reference book, an authority, or do an experiment to determine the fact at issue.

Situation 2
(Jones)

Agree 
(93 mm)

Disagree ("not so far" and "very far")

Use rhetoric and persuasion, comparative arguments, relative terms.

Situation 3
(Baker)

Agree 
(90 mm)

Agree 
("very far")

No resolution necessary.

Situation 4
(Cade)

Disagree (60 mm vs. 90 mm)

Disagree ("very close" vs. very far")

(1) Find the facts.
(2) Methods of rhetoric and persuasion.


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