Advertisement

On Defining ‘Argument’

  • Jeffrey Goodman
Article

Abstract

There is no concept more central to logic and critical thinking than the concept of an argument. I here address the definition of ‘argument’ in the logical sense of the term and defend the claim that many current proposals, once they are interpreted in a way that makes them sufficiently precise, are extensionally inadequate. Definitions found in some contemporary, prominent critical thinking textbooks will serve as a springboard. I claim that each may be interpreted in an absolutist way (i.e., as providing a definition of ‘argument’ simpliciter) or a relativistic way (as providing a definition of ‘argument-for-S’, where S is some agent or group of agents), yet all turn out to be objectionable no matter which route is taken. I finish with a proposal on which the definition of ‘argument’ is an absolutist one, yet one that avoids the problems discussed for the earlier proposals.

Keywords

Arguments Defining ‘argument’ Inferential support Illative relation 

References

  1. Barth, Else, and Erik Krabbe. 1982. From axiom to dialogue: A philosophical study of logics and argumentation. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bergmann, Merrie, James Moor, and Jack Nelson. 1998. The logic book. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  3. Blair, J.Anthony. 2004. Argument and it’s uses. Informal Logic 24(2): 137–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowles, George, and Thomas Gilbert. 1993. The probabilistic import of illatives. Argumentation 7(3): 247–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Browne, Neil, and Stuart Keeley. 2007. Asking the right questions: A guide to critical thinking, 8th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  6. Copi, Irving. 1986. Introduction to logic, 7th ed. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  7. Damer, Edward. 2009. Attacking faulty reasoning: A practical guide to fallacy-free arguments, 6th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  8. Goddu, G.C. 1999. Reasonable doubt: A note on ‘neutral’ illatives and arguments. Argumentation 13(3): 243–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goddu, G.C. 2011a. Is ‘argument’ subject to the product/process ambiguity? Informal Logic 31(2): 75–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Goddu, G.G. 2011b. Commentary on ‘arguments as abstract objects’ by Paul Simard-Smith and Andrei Moldovan. In Proceedings of the 9th OSSA Conference: Argumentation: Cognition & Community, University of Windsor.Google Scholar
  11. Hale, Bob. 1987. Abstract objects. New York: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  12. Hamblin, Charles. 1970. Fallacies. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  13. Hitchcock, David. 2007. Informal logic and the concept of argument. In Philosophy of logic, ed. Dale Jaquette, 101–129. Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hughes, William, and Jonathan Lavery. 2008. Critical thinking: An introduction to the basic skills, 5th ed. Peterborough: Broadview.Google Scholar
  15. Johnson, Ralph. 2000. Manifest rationality: A pragmatic theory of argument. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  16. Kalish, Donald, and Richard Montague. 1964. Logic—Techniques of formal reasoning. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc.Google Scholar
  17. Munson, Ronald, David Conway, and Andrew Black. 2004. The elements of reasoning, 4th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  18. Pinto, Robert. 2001. Argument, inference, and dialectic. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Simard-Smith, Paul and Moldovan, Andrei. 2011. Arguments as abstract objects. In Proceedings of the 9th OSSA Conference: Argumentation: Cognition & Community, University of Windsor.Google Scholar
  20. Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, and Robert Fogelin. 2010. Understanding arguments: An introduction to informal logic, 8th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  21. Skyrms, Brian. 2000. Choice and chance. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  22. Tindale, Christopher. 2002. A Concept divided: Ralph Johnson’s definition of argument. Argumentation 16(3): 299–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Vaughn, Lewis. 2010. The power of critical thinking: Effective reasoning about ordinary and extraordinary claims, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  24. van Eemeren, Frans, and Rob Grootendorst. 1984. Speech acts in argumentative discussions. Dordrecht: Foris.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Walton, Douglas. 1990. What is reasoning? What is an argument? Journal of Philosophy 87(8): 399–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Zarefsky, David. 1980. Product, process, or point of view. In Proceedings of the Summer Conference on Argumentation, ed. Jack Rhodes, and Sara Newell. SCA: Annandale, VA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.James Madison UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

Personalised recommendations