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For the Sake of Argument

Practical Reasoning, Character, and the Ethics of Belief

What role does reason play in our lives? What role should it play? And are claims to rationality liberating or oppressive? For the Sake of Argument addresses questions such as these to consider the relationship between thought and character. Eugene Garver brings Aristotle’s Rhetoric to bear on practical reasoning to show how the value of such thinking emerges when members of communities deliberate together, persuade each other, and are persuaded by each other. That is to say, when they argue.

Garver roots deliberation and persuasion in political friendship instead of a neutral, impersonal framework of justice. Through incisive readings of examples in modern legal and political history, from Brown v. Board of Education to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he demonstrates how acts of deliberation and persuasion foster friendship among individuals, leading to common action amid diversity. In an Aristotelian sense, there is a place for pathos and ethos in rational thought. Passion and character have as pivotal a role in practical reasoning as logic and language.


"Speaking of justice, I have not, within the allotted space, been able to render it to this excellent book. Garver’s arguments are intricate, sensitive, and frequently witty. His case is well made."

Mark Kingwell | Ethics

"A mature, ambitious and at times even passionate Aristotelian meditation on topics ranging from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the problem of pluralism and incommensurable goods. Students of Aristotle’s Rhet. will learn from it ways in which Aristotelian theories can address modern problems, and modern theorists will learn from it a new and plausible alternative to sterile models of instrumental practical reason."

Thornton C. Lockwood, Jr. | Polis

"People acquainted with Garver’s previous books . . . will find in this one the same scholarly carefulness, depth of historical understanding, and philosophical acumen, in both the ethical and meta-ethical domain. Readers not acquainted with his previous work will find this book an enticing and original introduction to rhetoric, ethics, and argumentation."

Maurice A. Finocchiaro | Argumentation

Table of Contents

Introduction: Rhetoric and Practical Reason
1. Truth in Politics: Ethical Argument, Ethical Knowledge, and Ethical Truth
2. Confronting the Sophist
3. Brown v. Board of Education as a Paradigm of Practical Reason
4. The Ethical Criticism of Reasoning
5. Rhetorical Argument and Ethical Authority
6. The Will To Be Believed
7. Taking Reasoning Seriously: Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Practical Reason in the Interpretation of the Constitution
8. Rhetoric and the Unity of Practical Reason

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