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University of Windsor

No argument here: centre's founding a logical next step

The University of Windsor's international impact on the study of informal logic has been demonstrated many times, president Ross Paul said Wednesday, at a reception to celebrate the founding of the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric.~

"It is an absolutely fascinating subject at the heart of what universities do," Dr. Paul said. "Anything that improves communication and clear thinking is only to be applauded."

The centre's co-directors, philosophy professors emeriti J. Anthony Blair and Ralph H. Johnson, founded the journal Informal Logic and helped to launch academic study in the field, now a standard part of philosophy curricula in universities around the world. They have two primary goals for the centre, Dr. Johnson said.

"We hope it will bring about integrated research possibilities that might not have emerged without its intervention," he said. "And it is very important that it will bring along the next generation of scholars."

The centre will bring together researchers in a variety of related fields, including:
  • rhetoricians from English,
  • advertising experts from communications or marketing,
  • political scientists studying partisan appeals,
  • psychologists interested in human behaviour, and
  • computer scientists designing artificial intelligence.
"There's a wonderful energy that emerges when people come together to share their ideas," Johnson said.

Blair said some of the centre's activities will have direct influence on the everyday lives of Canadians. It directs the Network for the Study of Reasoning, with some 35 members from across the country.

"The network's funding is contingent on it turning theoretical interests into practical applications," he said. "It happens that some of us are oriented in that direction."

He cited a study into the arguments used by political leaders during the 2005 federal election. The study, led by UWindsor philosophy professor Hans Hansen, measures how often press reports featured arguments, what types are argument are employed, and how effective they are.

"We want to show that what we do is practical," Blair said. "For instance, you need to reason and argue well if you're going to function effectively in any institution."

Philosophy professors Hans Hansen, J. Anthony Blair, Christopher Tindale, and Ralph Johnson with a member of the next generation of scholars, Alice Hansen, at the reception Wednesday celebrating the founding of the Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric.