Argumentation is the resolving of a difference of opinion between parties, according to a particular structured method. The method of argumentation takes place verbally, either by oral or written means. The former occurs within the context of a meeting or conversation and the latter per a letter, essay or other written format.

Differences of opinion happen at all times, across the private and public sectors. These differences may be determined as trivial or important, but they require resolution in order to progress forward.

Referred to as advancing argumentation, the process unfolds in order for the primary party to put forward his or her opinion on a specific subject. Given that the receiver of the information does not hold the speaker's or writer's standpoint to be valid, the argument is addressed so that the difference of opinion may come to an end.

The protagonist delivers his or her standpoint in a rational critical way, via a means of discussion, and this is challenged by the antagonist who has not agreed with this view. In an ideal sense, the aim is to resolve the conflict. Rationality is intended as the framework within which the argument is presented, with the protagonist presenting a case defending why the facts are correct. The purpose is for the antagonist to be convinced and for any doubts to be eradicated. This might take the form of counterarguments being presented, in which case there is an interchange of roles occurring. When only one protagonist advances argumentation, this is an example of nonmixed argumentation. When the antagonist becomes a protagonist as well, setting up the discussion as two protagonists and two antagonists, this is referred to as mixed argumentation.

Argumentation theorists, such as Frans H. van Eemeren, Rob Grootendorst and A. Francisca Snoeck Henkemans from the University of Amsterdam, have created a definition for argumentation. Although they indicate that no universal theory of argumentation exists, the definition provides a conceptual base for understanding the intent. "Argumentation is a verbal and social activity of reason aimed at increasing (or decreasing) the acceptability of a controversial standpoint for the listener or reader," they suggest. This is performed "by putting forward a constellation of propositions intended to justify (or refute) the standpoint before a rational judge."

The notion of acceptability informs the process of argumentation, in that central to the proposition is something which is acceptable to one and not to the other, with the advancing argumentation attempting to affect acceptability. The method of appealing by means of a type of reasoning may comprise explicit or implicit ways of doing so. Argumentation may be normative or descriptive in its methodology.

Essential components of the process of argumentation involve a number of steps. Initially, there is a type of disagreement that inspires an argumentative discussion. Based on an ideally rational strategic argumentative structure, these differences of opinion are presented in ways that may be explicit or implicit. Details defending the viewpoint are revealed by the speaker or writer. Where both sides are given, this incorporates both positive and negative perspectives.

Argumentation and discussion transpire with the aim of resolving the difference of opinion, according to a model type of critical discussion. The ideal model of argumentative practice is concerned with a rational mode of argumentation. The purpose is to provide information by indicating the key defense elements in order to ascertain the feasibility and acceptability of the view offered.

Crucial to the argumentation strategy is the way of identifying the standpoint. This involves an explanation of the case, elaborating on facts to strengthen the validity and clarifying essential factors where necessary. An understanding of communication theory is a helpful tool in determining aspects of implicit and indirect components of the argumentative practice. This assists the process of bringing to the foreground that which needs to be made explicit to enhance the argument.

Argumentation may consist of a single argument; it may also comprise multiple, coordinative and subordinative argumentation. This will determine the nature of the argumentation structure and the concomitant complexity.

The process of argumentation consists broadly of four stages. Van Eemeren, Grootendorst and Henkemans outline these stages as the confrontation stage, opening stage, argumentation stage and concluding stage. Differences of opinion occur in the confrontation phase, and the case presented according to roles determined and rules of argumentation established, in the opening stage. Arguing and counterarguing happens in the argumentation stage. Finally, the concluding moments establish the validity and acceptability of the standpoint, with an assessment of the case allowing for a resolution.

Argumentation: Selected full-text books and articles

Question-Reply Argumentation By Douglas N. Walton Greenwood Press, 1989
Appeal to Expert Opinion: Arguments from Authority By Douglas Walton Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997
Arguments from Ignorance By Douglas Walton Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996
Philosophy, Rhetoric and Argumentation By Maurice Natanson; Henry W. Johnstone Jr Pennsylvania State University Press, 1965
Knowledge in a Social World By Alvin I. Goldman Clarendon Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. Five "Argumentation"
Appeal to Popular Opinion By Douglas Walton Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. Four "Presumption, Common Starting Points, and Public Judgment"
The Uses of Argument By Stephen Edelston Toulmin Cambridge University Press, 1969
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Aspect and Predication: The Semantics of Argument Structure By Gillian Catriona Ramchand Oxford University, 1997
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