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Readings on Argumentation

Angela J. Aguayo
Eastern Illinois University

Timothy R. Steffensmeier
Kansas State University



As teachers and students of argumentation, we wanted a book that would present the scholarship of the study in a framework that would help our own students understand the central issues, concerns, and current directions. We wanted the book to reflect the diversity of scholarship, the interdisciplinary expansion of argumentation studies over the last several decades, and the increasing attention to the intersection of argumentation and democracy. Through conversations with many other people in our field, we discovered that they, too, wanted such a book for their own courses.

This book is intended for use in courses that explore the conceptual and theoretical dimensions of argumentation. Courses that focus on public deliberation, public sphere theory, and deliberative democracy may also find this book pertinent. The essays included in the book reflect and exemplify significant theoretical work by scholars of rhetoric, speech communication, informal logic, and philosophy. These essays explore argument in various contexts and spheres, with a particular focus on argumentation as a fruitful means for people to negotiate differences. Our aim, in selecting and organizing these works, was to represent significant trends in argumentation studies, illuminating both the traditions and current directions of this increasingly diverse study.

Our goal in this book is to draw attention to major themes and questions in the scholarship on argumentation, to show traditional approaches and recent developments, and to provide a foundation that would guide future study. The essays in this book reflect the rhetorical, dialectical, and informal logical perspectives that have permeated the published research in recent decades, as well as the groundbreaking perspectives from Chaïm Perelman, Stephen Toulmin, and Jürgen Habermas. As our world becomes more integrated with new media, as the speed of information exchange increases and as visual arguments becomes more saturated in public culture, the essays in this book show how our theoretical understanding of argumentation should and will be challenged.

We faced the usual challenges of editing an anthology. A selection of thirty essays cannot encompass every significant thread, every noteworthy scholar of argumentation studies. To address the sheer volume of material, which appears in numerous books, multiple journals, and detailed conference proceedings, we began by constructing an intellectual map of argumentation studies that shaped our selection criteria. We chose, for a variety of reasons, to focus on scholarly essays published in peer-reviewed journals. We selected some essays because they introduced key ideas and scholars to the study, others because they show the evolution of a dynamic body of scholarship and highlight the increasingly diverse realm, definitions, and uses of argumentation. Some innovative works also address new forms and places for the study of argument. In some cases, our particular choices reflected our sense of what would be accessible to students. We also tried to select essays that, collectively, would provide instructors and students with the flexibility to explore the interdisciplinary scholarship in ways that meet their own needs and goals.

Many excellent essays that, for various reasons, we did not reproduce in full are listed in the selected bibliography at the end of the book. This list, organized topically, is intended to provide additional resources and guidance for students and instructors who wish to investigate specific aspects and topics in more depth.


We have organized the book around three overarching themes. Part I addresses the primary question: what is the realm of argumentation? The essays in this section deal with the diverse frameworks and rich historical lineage of argumentation studies. They also establish definitions and schemes for arguments. Part II addresses the question: how do we judge and evaluate arguments? It explores theoretical models that guide conceptions of judgment, including validity, normativity, fallacies, and difference. The essays here connect prevailing uses of judgment in argument evaluation and construction with critiques of those practices. Part III explores the question: where are the spheres and uses of argument? This section addresses the connections among public spheres, democracy, and contemporary argumentation in practice. It also reflects emerging scholarship on visual argument. This three-part organization is intended to provide students and instructors with a broad view of argumentation studies. By addressing these three central questions, we also hoped to provide a heuristic for students' own future scholarship.

The chapters within these three major sections address specific themes and issues. Each chapter follows a progression of ideas and intellectual exchange among authors, in order to help students identify core concepts, theoretical tensions, and conceptual concerns.

Part I: The Realm of Argumentation provides a framework for the study of argumentation. Chapter 1, "Perspectives," includes key essays that represent three divergent approaches to argumentation: rhetorical, dialectical, and informal logical perspectives. It also introduces important thinkers and approaches to argumentation studies. Chapter 2, "Definitions," outlines the robust debate among scholars regarding definitional boundaries of argumentation studies. The scholarly exchange involves what is at stake with particular conceptions of argument and highlights various conceptual concerns. Chapter 3, "Structures and Schemes," introduces students to the building blocks of argument, how they are structured, and on what grounds.

Part II: Judging and Evaluating Arguments explores the evolving conversation about judgment as a significant dimension of understanding arguments. Chapter 4, "Validity," discusses the manner in which the soundness of an argument is characterized and assessed. Many of the articles respond to formal logicians' traditional conceptualizions of validity. Chapter 5, "Normativity," is concerned with standards for assessing argument quality: how theorists and critics analyze arguments and on what grounds. This chapter also reflects on intercultural and feminist critiques of argument normativity and the degree to which culturally specific and socially constructed arguments are bound by context.

Part III: Spheres and Uses of Argument explores the implied connection between argumentation and essential practices of democracy that is at the core of argumentation study. In addition, it addresses how argumentation is employed in particular social contexts. Chapter 6, "Public Sphere and Democracy," focuses on the democratic potential of argument in public deliberation. Influenced by Jürgen Habermas's work, these articles discuss public argument, the problem of difference in the public sphere, and contingent conditions of democratic deliberation. Chapter 7, "Places and Uses," investigates the practice of argument in various contexts and forms. Many of the essays in Part III expand traditional conceptual boundaries by addressing how various places and spaces enable, challenge, and maintain the process of argument.

The Selected Bibliography provides a list of additional works to guide students in their further reading. We organized this list around broad themes and lines of inquiry that we thought would be of interest to students of argumentation. Because of the dynamic nature of journal articles, however, it is impossible to exhaust an essay's contribution under one theme or subject heading. The organization of the book is intended to reflect the diverse approaches to argumentation studies as well as the common questions that drive the breadth and depth of the scholarship. The range of articles reflects the history, theoretical assumptions, perspectives, and critical approaches that continue to shape the broader study. Our framework also emphasizes the rhetorical approach to the study. There are many ways to organize such a complicated and dynamic body of work, however, and teachers may choose to organize the readings differently, according to the goals of their own courses.

As editors, we worked diligently to replicate the original publication of each essay accurately. We corrected a few minor typographical errors. We inserted "[sic]" in a few places where the original phrasing was unconventional, to indicate the accuracy of the transcription. (Unitalicized appearances of "[sic]" are in the original publication.) Footnotes were converted to endnotes for consistency throughout the text.


This book would not be possible without the insightful words, innovative ideas, and hearty exchange among argumentation scholars during the last forty years. Their research and passion for the study and practice of argumentation motivated this project and paved a sturdy road for the interdisciplinary and international study of argumentation.

This book began with a simple curiosity that grew into a thirst to know more about where argumentation studies have been and where they are going. We quickly learned that beyond the need to map the trajectory of argument studies, there was a sincere need to compile the key lines of inquiry in order to pass this scholarly legacy on to future students of argumentation. In the early stages of this project, Richard Cherwitz at the University of Texas was incredibly supportive and a valuable advisor to the ambitious task before us. Benefiting from his guidance and decades of teaching argumentation, we were able to develop a concept for this reader that could function as a pedagogical and scholarly contribution. We also thank Charles E. Morris III at Boston College for helping us navigate the process of publishing this project. Chuck is a generous and brilliant scholar who is kind enough to provide us with some very helpful advice and introduced us to a wonderful publisher.

The diligent attention to details required to complete a reader like this would not be possible without the hard work of some very extraordinary editorial assistants. Dana Wyant at Eastern Illinois University and Joshua Hersch at Kansas State University provided important support with scanning and editing the selected articles. We thank our home institutions, Eastern Illinois University and Kansas State University for providing the space and resources to make completing this project possible.

Throughout the development of this book many reviewers provided important and valuable feedback on the selected readings and structure of the book. We thank those who provided insightful advice and encouragement with this project: Robert Asen, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Don R. Brownlee, California State University, Northridge; Beth Brunk-Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso; Locke Carter, Texas Tech University; William Keith, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Peter Marston, California State University, Northridge; Kelly M. McDonald, Arizona State University; Brian R. McGee, College of Charleston; Jerry Miller, Ohio University; Matthew J. Sobnosky, Hofstra University; Robert Trapp, Willamette University; Danielle Wiese, Grand Valley State University; and Kelly M. Young, Wayne State University.

We also thank those journal editors, publishers, and association directors who assisted us in gaining permission to reprint the essays in this book. These people include: Frans van Eemeren, Argumentation; Ralph Johnson, Informal Logic; Katie Novak, Philosophy and Rhetoric; Randall Lake, Argumentation and Advocacy; J. Emmett Winn, Southern States Communication Association; and Roger Smitter, National Communication Association.

Working with Strata Publishing, Inc., has been an incredibly valuable experience for us, as scholars and people. Our publisher, Kathleen Domenig, has been an invaluable resource in every phase of producing this book. Her focused energy, patience, and attention guided this project from start to finish. We feel quite lucky that our paths crossed with an extremely thoughtful and professional publisher. We also thank Brian Henry for his assistance with the many particulars that go into producing a book.

We also give thanks to our friends and family who provided the necessary emotional and sometimes editorial support for this project. Certainly, this book would not be possible without the love and support of our partners, Daniel Elgin and Tina Steffensmeier. We also thank our colleagues at the University of Texas, who contributed to a community of excellence that cultivated this book idea. There were also countless others who made this work possible with their encouragement, insights and kind words: among them, Barry Brummett, University of Texas; Dana Cloud, University of Texas; Rosa Eberly, Pennsylvania State University; and Ronald Greene, University of Minnesota.

Early in our education, several gifted teachers imparted upon us the potential and necessity for argumentation to mediate a complicated world. Their passion and dedication for public speech and argument cultivated our fondness for the practice and study of this work. We dedicate this book to Matthew Taylor at Fullerton College, Liana B. Koeppel at Cypress College, and Patricia Koch-Johns at Lincoln High School.



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