Rationale and Initiatives
“Argumentation” is the study of how conclusions can be reached through the use of logical reasoning, including claims supported by valid warrants and robust evidence. Argumentation, debate, and advocacy are vital to a thriving democratic public sphere in which intellectual ideas are tested, refined, held accountable, and ultimately strengthened. In academic, business, public, and professional settings, the ethical use of logic and reasoning are fundamental to our ability to collectively solve our most significant problems and challenges through effective communication. Given the stakes of our present public and professional challenges, it is important that those interested in the possibilities of argumentation find new and innovative ways to encourage more effective and ethical public deliberation and civil debate.
CEPA is an institution that provides support and encouragement for student, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of Butler who foster initiatives that promote the ethical use of arguments, such as:
- Awards for Public Argument: Honoring the premier examples of effective and ethical oral, written, and mediated communication on issues of significant public interest each year, selected by a panel of distinguished critics, jurists, scholars, and faculty affiliated with the conference. Announcements include biographical information and reasons for selection by the awardees. CEPA awards are announced and presented annually in the spring meeting;
- Speakers Series: Hosting on campus talks by academic or professional speakers whose work best exemplifies a commitment to ethical argumentation in their field;
- Forum of Special Topics: Panelists invited from Butler and/or the community to discuss a contemporary issue in ethics and public discourse (particularly in the fields discussed in the mission statement);
- Host Public Debates: Invite experts, faculty, student organizations, and/or politicians to debate different positions on a topical, timely, and relevant public issue;
- Initiate Wider Distribution of the Conference’s Materials: Provide follow-up distribution of print and online reports describing and analyzing CEPA-sponsored lectures, debates, and panel discussions addressing matters of public interest;
- Archives: Create a physical and/or electronic archive of contemporary and historical exemplars in public reasoning and ethical argumentation;
- Curricular support: Provide grants and other support to integrate argumentation, ethics, and reasoning into the university curriculum. This type of support could also be used for Butler’ speech and debate teams, undergraduate student projects, and research such as honors theses; and
- Graduate Student Support: As the College of Communication launches its master’s program, graduate students will be eligible to apply for competitive assistantships or fellowships to work at CEPA. This area of support will also be used to attract and recruit top-tier students interested in argumentation and communication as well as fund their participation in academic conferences such as the Biennial Summer NCA (National Communication Association)/AFA (American Forensic Association) Alta Argumentation Conference in Utah. Experience working at the conference will help prepare graduate students to reach their professional and academic goals.
The Conference on Ethics and Public Argumentation, housed in the Butler University College of Communication, serves as CCOM’s academic hub for promoting the ethical use of reasoning and rationality in public deliberation.