Between Logic and Rhetoric
Canavan, Thomas, F.
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In The Uses of Argument (1958), Stephen E. Toulmin produced a model, analogous to procedures in jurisprudence, for the layout of arguments. He was seeking to provide a method of accommodating arguments in a wide range of situations, which he believed could not be encompassed by formal deductive logic. This study, Between Logic and Rhetoric: Toulmin's Theory of Argumentation, claims that, in spite of the initial hostile reaction from logicians, the model gained acceptance, especially in North America, as a valuable contribution to informal logic and argumentation theory. The study claims, further, that the Toulmin model remains centrally important to that discipline, not just as an historical landmark, but as a useful template for the construction, analysis and evaluation of arguments concerning matters of fact in areas such as ethics, aesthetics, communication studies, cognitive science and artificial intelligence, as well as those leading to decisions in matters of policy. The study proceeds by showing the rationale for Toulmin's rejection of the then current hegemony of formal deductive logic and providing a justification for the six-element argument structure he introduces. It responds to the criticisms of those who rejected it, and identifies the aspects which commended the model to those who adopted it. The origins of the Toulmin model are related to the tradition of rhetoric extending from Aristotle, and Toulmin's debts to his predecessors and contemporaries are acknowledged. In response to Toulmin's suggestion that the layout of argument in The Uses of Argument (1958) might be capable of further development, the study examines some possible modifications which could render the model more efficacious without doing violence to the original inspiration. In addition, it deals with the suggestion that the Toulmin model is limited to matters of fact, by illustrating its use in decision-making, and it shows that the system can accommodate a wide range of argument modes, e.g. dialectical or persuasive. The study maintains that the versatility of the Toulmin model is related to the fact that the organisation of the six elements of a fully-fledged argument represent an organic development and reflect the natural progress of human verbal interaction in the justification of a claim, or, subsequently, from adequate and relevant support to a conclusion with the appropriate modal qualification. Finally, since democratic societies depend on genuine debate on contingent affairs, or 'things which may be otherwise' (Aristotle), which are not amenable to demonstration by formal proofs, the Toulmin model of argumentation is particularly suited for democratic education in communicative action.
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