Commentary on Excerpt G
Although Frank does not concede Laura's arguments, neither does he continue to confront them head on. Instead, he shifts to the issue of whether Laura's irritation with him was not in itself a breach of trust. This line of argument proves self-defeating, however. The argument itself wins no support from the group, and when Frank attempts a bit of face-saving by putting his own knotty logic into a more elegant form than Dave had done, he misses Dave's essential point and is given only qualified support for his effort.
It is difficult to imagine what Frank could have said in his own defense at this juncture, given the force of Laura's arguments, Jean and Dave's support of those arguments, Dave's Laingian synopsis, and Frank's own acknowledgments. No doubt he could have called into question all manner of taken for granted premises in the discussion, including assumptions about the meaning of trust, the meaning of meaning, the ethics of discussions about ethics, and so on. But in the context of what had been said, and, more importantly, of the group's ongoing history together, arguments such as these would have placed Frank in an even more untenable position, for they would have required that he undo commitments implicit in his customary habits of speech, presenting to the group a radically altered persona. The possibilities for post-modern casuistic notwithstanding, Frank could not have answered to the objections raised at this point without such culture-making words as meaning, trust, value, friend, friendship being denuded of their community-binding force (White 1984).
This is the point of the title of White's book, When Words Lose Their Meaning. Note that the arguments that present so much difficulty for Frank are not exclusively inductive or deductive; nor can the "fact" and "value" components of their propositional logic be separated out very easily. On questions of justice, argues White (12)
...one reasons not only with "propositions" but with metaphors, analogies, general truths, statements of feeling and attitude, particular definitions of self and audience, certain fidelities or infidelities to tradition or consistency, and the like; and one moves not only by logic but by association and analogy and image, by what seems natural and right.