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Argumentation is a form of persuasion that emphasizes reasoning giving. It is useful to distinguish between an argument!, a message unit, and argument,, the act of arguing. In addition to identifying a number of fallacies and classifying the means of persuasion into three types (ethos, logos, and pathos), Aristotle endorsed the enthymeme (an abbreviated syllogism) as the primary means of persuasion.

Monological models, such as Toulmin’s, examine arguments as message units. The basic Toulmin model identifies the claim, grounds, and warrant of an argument. The warrant, which is typically unstated, serves as the link between the claim and the grounds. The extended Toulmin model adds the additional elements of qualifier, backing, and rebuttal.

Dialogical models, such as pragma-dialectics, emphasize the interactive nature of arguing. Pragma-dialectics focuses on resolving disagreements within the boundaries of a set of normative guidelines to which arguers must adhere. Strategic maneuvers that violate the guidelines are considered fallacious or unfair. An ideal argument proceeds through four stages, but in practice many actual arguments do not.

Rhetorical approaches emphasize the persuasive aspects of language and the importance of adapting arguments to the listener’s frame of reference. Perelman’s approach is based on trying to gain another person’s adherence by tailoring arguments to that person’s point of view. Fisher’s narrative paradigm emphasizes the importance of stories as arguments that follow a “logic of good reasons.” Stories are judged on the basis of their narrative probability (coherence) and fidelity.


  • 1 According to one poll, 18 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth (a geocentric view), rather than the other way around (the heliocentric view) (Wang & Aamodt, 2008). Copernicus must be spinning in his grave.
  • 2 There is some controversy over how best to conceptualize warrants (see Keith & Beard, 2008;Verheij, 2005). For our purposes, however, it is safe to say that warrants authorize the inferential leap from the claim to the grounds.
  • 3 Fairy tales may teach unintended values as well. For example, beauty is equated with good and ugliness with evil. Females are portrayed as passive and helpless. Stepmothers don’t fare well either.


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