Notes taken from ‘Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation’, by Frans van Eemeren et al.
1, Resolving a Difference of Opinion
Resolved: As soon as one of the two parties revise their original position. True resolution is reached only if both parties come to hold the same proposition on the grounds of rational argumentation.
Settling a Difference of Opinion: Different from resolving. Difference of opinion is simply set aside.
2, a Model of Critical Discussion
Argumentative Discussion: Deals with a difference of opinion in a rational way. Used to try to determine to what extent a given standpoint is defensible.
Informative Discussion: Serves primarily to convey information. Different in purpose from an argumentative discussion.
Critical Discussion: An ideal argumentative discussion aimed at resolving a difference of opinion. Takes place between a party who defends a certain (positive or negative) standpoint, the protagonist, and a party who challenges this standpoint, the antagonist. Proceeds through four stages, which are distinguished analytically in the following model:
i, Confrontation Stage: Parties establish that they have a difference of opinion.
ii, Opening Stage: Parties decide to try to resolve the difference of opinion. They also agree on the rules for the discussion and the starting points.
iii, Argumentation Stage: The protagonist defends his or her standpoint against the sometimes persistent criticism of the antagonist by putting forward arguments to counter the antagonist’s objections or to remove the antagonist’s doubts.
iv, Concluding Stage: The parties assess the extent to which the difference of opinion has been resolved and in whose favour.
Antagonist: Becomes the protagonist of a standpoint when countering the standpoint of the protagonist with an opposing standpoint.
3, The Ideal Model and Argumentative Practice
Of course an ideal model does not describe reality. And yet, real-life argumentative discussions do sometimes approach the model. Most argumentative discussions depart considerably from the model. The parties often do not go through all four of the discussion stages or not in the same order.
4, Argumentation in an Implicit Critical Discussion
Discursive Text: The sum total of all argumentation brought forward to defend a standpoint.
Implicit Discussion: One in which only one of the parties participate. Even if the other party does not explicitly participate, its point of view is still taken into account. This may, for instance, become apparent when the protagonist explicitly refers to the potential objections of a real or imagined antagonist.
Notes and Examples
Resolved Difference of Opinion: Either both parties adopt the same standpoint (positive or negative) or else both parties begin to question the standpoint.
Settling in an uncivilised manner: By intimidating or forcing the other party into submission.
Settling in a civilised manner: To lay the matter before a third party who serves as judge and decides who is right, or deciding the winner by drawing lots, or putting the matter to a vote letting the majority decide.
Protagonist: During the discussion, try to convince antagonists of the acceptability of their standpoints.
Antagonist: During the discussion, raise doubts or objections.
Confrontation Stage: In a non-mixed difference of opinion, this simply means that one party’s standpoint is not immediately accepted by the other party, but is met with doubt or criticism. In a mixed difference of opinion, the other party advances the opposite standpoint.
Opening Stage: Parties assign the roles of protagonist and antagonist (in a mixed difference, there are two protagonists and two antagonists). Discussion rules and other starting points are often taken for granted and do not require explicit mention. It is precisely the lack of “proper procedure” in a discussion – the lack of explicit rules – that causes many discussions to run into difficulty.
Concluding Stage: Often explicit. If the protagonist withdraws the standpoint, the difference of opinion is resolved in favour of the antagonist; if the antagonist abandons his or her doubts, it is resolved in favour of the protagonist.
Implicit Discussion: “There’s no other country in the world where women are as well integrated in the army as in Norway – and don’t go bringing up the case of Israel, because in Israel women don’t fight in the front lines. Have you ever seen women soldiers in one of those intifadah photos?”
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