A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The Pragma-Dialectical by Frans H. van Eemeren, Rob Grootendorst

By Frans H. van Eemeren, Rob Grootendorst

Specialists in argumentation concept current a view of argumentation as a way of resolving ameliorations of opinion through trying out the acceptability of the disputed positions. Their version of a "critical discussion" serves as a theoretical instrument for studying, comparing and generating argumentative discourse. This significant contribution to the research of argumentation can be of specific worth to execs and graduate scholars in speech communique, casual common sense, rhetoric, serious pondering, linguistics, and philosophy.

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These proposals should take account of the institutional objectives that a specific argumentative practice is supposed to serve. In any case, when developing methods or proposals for achieving practical improvements, optimal use will have to be made of the insights in the production, analysis, and evaluation of argumentative discourse that have been acquired in research carried out in the philosophical, theoretical, analytical, and empirical estates. These insights must be carefully translated into recommendations that satisfy the divergent criteria that apply to argumentative discourse in the various fields of application.

Do the argument schemes and argumentation structures distinguished in the pragma-dialectical argumentation theory indeed play some kind of steering role in everyday argumentative practice? And are there indications that ordinary arguers, when interpreting one another’s argumentation, are indeed carrying out transformations that are in some way similar to those used by the dialecticians? These kinds of questions are tackled by empirical researchers concerned with producing descriptions of argumentative discourse concentrated on the process of convincing.

All kinds of experiments have been carried out to find out more about this. Because for persuasionoriented rhetoricians the result of the argumentative process counts above all, they tend to be more interested in the “material” factors affecting the result than in the psychological processes in which these factors operate. Persuasion is, in principle, connected with immediate reactions: The audience carries out a certain verbal or non-verbal act, or decides not to carry it out. This may explain why many of the 26 Van Eemeren, Grootendorst, and Meuffels (1989) report on a series of experimental tests concerning the recognition of argumentation in which these two “operationalizations” play a role.

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