Notes taken from ‘Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation’, by Frans van Eemeren et al.
1, Identifying the Standpoint
Purpose of Argumentation: To defend a standpoint. If the standpoint is a positive (or negative) one, defending it consists of justifying (or refuting respectively) the proposition to which the standpoint refers.
Identifying the Argumentation: Identifying the standpoint is usually the first step. Once the standpoint has been determined, it is easier to figure out which utterances form the argumentation for this standpoint.
2, Indicators of Argumentation
Explicit Announcement: Sometimes speakers announce that the utterances that they are about to produce have an argumentative function (“My arguments for this are…”). Such explicit announcement, however, are the exception rather than the rule.
Indicators of Argumentation: Good examples of these are “therefore”, “thus”, “so”, “consequently”, “of course”, “because”, “since”, “given that”. As a rule, these also serve as indicators of standpoints. Other words and expressions are less obvious indicators of argumentation: “on one hand… on the other hand”, “this is evidence of…”, “on the grounds of”, “firstly… secondly”, “because of”, “ought to”, “should”, “all in all”, “in short”.
Retrogressive Presentation: The standpoint precedes the argumentation. Such indicators include “because” and “since”.
Progressive Presentation: The standpoint being defended follows the argumentation. Such indicators include “thus”, “for that reason”, and “therefore”.
3, Clues in the Context
Implicit Standpoints and Argumentation: In practice, there is no indicator of argumentation and it is sometimes not immediately obvious whether the presentation is progressive or retrogressive. If the utterance were spoken, the speaker’s intonation might provide a clue. Otherwise, the context may help clarify the function of the utterance.
Well-defined Context: May consist of utterances following or preceding the utterance whose function is unclear, or a reference to the difference of opinion that needs resolving or of the standpoint to which the argumentation is related.
4, Additional Means of Identifying Argumentation
The specific situation in which something is said and the cultural context in which it happens sometimes clarify a lot. Also, when interpreting argumentation, both general and specific background information can be important. Sometimes this interpretation requires knowledge of a specific field.
5, Explanation, Elaboration, and Clarification
Interpreting Argumentative Discourse: One should start from exactly what the speaker or writer has said. Only when problems arise in the interpretation should other clues be considered. We must always guard against letting our own opinions influence our interpretation.
“Because”: Often gives causes rather than reasons. Instead of being arguments, such utterances serve to explain, elaborate, or clarify. Importantly, whatever is being explained, elaborated, or clarified is something that is already accepted. When in doubt, it is advisable to be cautious and to treat the explanation as an argument.
6, a Maximally Argumentative Interpretation
Maximally Argumentative Interpretation: To view borderline cases as argumentation. Any utterance that, for instance, might also be just a remark or an explanation is interpreted as argumentation.
Notes and Examples
Justifying: “It’s true that TV makes life more fun, because since we’ve had television, we don’t play card games any more.”
Refuting: “It’s NOT true that TV makes life more fun, because since we’ve had television, we don’t play card games any more.”
Identifying the Standpoint: One needs to watch out for indicators of standpoints such as “In my opinion…” and “I think that…” and for other expressions that suggest a standpoint such as “I conclude by saying that…” and “I hope I have shown that…”
Retrogressive Presentation: “Children must learn not to instantly satisfy every urge they feel because otherwise they would sit in front of the TV eating chips all day long”.
Progressive Presentation: “Children who watch television as much as they want to don’t get their homework. Therefore, parents should limit their children’s access to television".
Implicit Standpoints and Argumentation: “Carla doesn’t ever want to see Bob again. She won’t call him.” Retrogressive presentation: “Carla doesn’t ever want to see Bob again, because she won’t call him.” Progressive presentation: “Carla doesn’t ever want to see Bob again, so she won’t call him.”
“Because” as a Cause rather than a Reason: “The pudding didn’t stiffen because I didn’t put enough gelatine in it”.
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