How Argumentation Has Changed

I touched on this subject a bit in my previous post, but the way that public arguments operate has largely changed in the public sphere. I think that Thomas Goodnight has an excellent explanation of how arguments have changed. He argues that there are three spheres of argumentation– the public sphere, the private sphere, and the technical sphere. The public sphere is the place where argumentation happens in public and people can discuss issues that effect everyone. The private sphere is where people can have deliberation among themselves and people they’re comfortable with, without reasons why their claims are true (for example, when your grandmother says that Obama is the devil, that is acceptable as an argument in the private sphere). The technical sphere is the sphere in which experts talk to other experts about what they are experts on– for example, when a lawyer talks to another lawyer about law, s/he is taking part in the technical sphere.


The problem with the way that arguments are developing is that the private and the technical sphere are both encroaching on the public sphere. I don’t think that the technical sphere’s encroachment is necessarily bad, because it results in individuals acquiring more knowledge about a range of fields, but the private sphere’s encroachment means that arguments can be defended by simply saying “well that’s just my opinion”. It has become more accepted, for example, for someone who opposes abortion to simply say “it’s just my opinion that it’s wrong” or “I was raised to believe that abortion should be illegal”. This results in partisanship and largely prevents compromise on issues, because people refuse to back down from their opinions or give warranted explanations to defend their position. For the better of society, we need to take back the public sphere and stop the private sphere from encroaching upon public deliberation.

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