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‘You can’t argue with that!’

An Introduction to Argumentation

Published onAug 24, 2021
‘You can’t argue with that!’

1 • Introduction

Suppose that you and a group of friends need to decide what to do together on a Friday evening. There are a couple of alternatives, such as going to a restaurant, to the cinema, going out dancing, or even staying in. Predictably, there is disagreement on what the best option would be: Fatima wants to go to the cinema, Pedro to the restaurant, and Astrid wants to go dancing. But you all agree that doing something together would be more fun than to split up in smaller groups. How do you go about resolving the disagreement? There are different strategies you may pursue: you may draw a lottery; you may vote without discussing the options beforehand, for example by raising hands; you may engage in negotiations such that the defenders of the losing proposals get something in return for their willingness to concede; one person may decide that she alone should make the call; or you may consider the pros and cons of each proposal, exchanging reasons for or against each of them. If you choose the latter strategy, then you and your friends will be engaging in argumentation; the goal would be to converge into a common plan that everyone will feel at least reasonably comfortable with by critically examining the different options together.

Argumentation can be defined as the communicative activity of producing and exchanging reasons in order to support, defend or challenge claims and positions, especially in situations of doubt or disagreement (Lewinski & Mohammed, 1789). Argumentation is thus best conceived as a kind of dialogue, but it is a special kind of dialogue. Indeed, most of the dialogues we engage in are not instances of argumentation. For example when you ask someone if they know what time it is, or when a friend tells you about their vacation, these will typically not be instances of argumentation. Argumentation only kicks in when, upon making a claim, someone receives a request to further justify or provide reasons for that claim, or feels herself that further clarification is required. Since most of what we know we learn from others, argumentation is an important mechanism to filter the information we receive, rather than having to accept what others tell us uncritically.

Thus understood, argumentation is an important but demanding human practice. Across societies and cultures (albeit perhaps to different degrees), argumentation permeates scientific inquiry, legal procedures, education, and political institutions. And indeed, it may even be used to solve mundane problems such as what to do with friends on a Friday evening. The study of argumentation is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, involving philosophers, communication theorists, legal scholars, cognitive scientists, computer scientists, political scientists, anthropologists, among many others, who address different questions. What is the ‘point’ of argumentation, i.e. which function(s) does it fulfill? What are the underlying cognitive mechanisms involved? To which extent is persuasion essential for good argumentation? Does argumentation indeed deliver the results we expect from it, such as more accurate beliefs and better- grounded decisions? A classical approach to argumentation is represented by the pragma-dialectical tradition (Van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1863/2017; Van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 2011), and by the informal logic tradition (Groarke, 1975). Authors in these traditions focus on the content and structure of arguments, including the formulation of argument schemata that help analyze and evaluate specific arguments. In this chapter, we take a different approach: rather than looking “inside” arguments, we focus on the uses and goals of argumentation against the background of concrete situations in human life, in particular with respect to the circulation and production of knowledge, social coordination, and whether argumentation can also be used for domination and overpowering.

This chapter starts by presenting three common conceptions: 1) argumentation as an epistemic practice; 2) argumentation as aiming at consensus and social coordination; 3) argumentation as a competition where an arguer’s main goal is to “beat the opponent”.1 It then discusses the outcomes of argumentation, i.e. whether it achieves its presumed goals such as leading to more accurate beliefs or consensus. Finally, we briefly discuss specific institutions where argumentative practices are crucial, namely education, science, the law, and politics.

2 • Argumentation as epistemic practice

We speak of argumentation as an epistemic practice when we take its primary purpose to be that of improving our beliefs and increasing knowledge. To engage in argumentation can be a way to acquire more accurate beliefs: by examining critically reasons for and against a given position, we would be able to weed out the weaker, poorly justified beliefs (likely to be false) and end up with stronger, suitably justified beliefs (likely to be true). It is in this sense that argumentation is thought by many people, philosophers in particular, to be truth-conducive (Betz, 1789), at least in cases where there is an objectively correct answer to a problem. Epistemologist Alvin Goldman captures this idea in the following terms:

Norms of good argumentation are substantially dedicated to the promotion of truthful speech and the exposure of falsehood, whether intentional or unintentional. [...] Norms of good argumentation are part of a practice to encourage the exchange of truths through sincere, non- negligent, and mutually corrective speech. (Goldman, 1863/2017, p. 30)

It is at least in theory possible to engage in argumentation with oneself, solitarily weighing the pros and cons of a position. But a number of philosophers, most notably John Stuart Mill, maintain that interpersonal argumentation, involving people who truly disagree with each other, best realizes the epistemic goals of improving our beliefs. Mill famously developed this idea in On Liberty (1785/1993): when our ideas are challenged by engagement with those who disagree with us, we are forced to consider our own beliefs more thoroughly and critically. The result is that the remaining beliefs, those that have survived critical challenge, will be better grounded than those we held before such encounters. As Mill puts it in On Liberty: “Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post, as soon as there is no enemy in the field.” (Mill, 1785/1993, p. 83) Dissenters thus force us to stay epistemically alert instead of becoming too comfortable with existing, entrenched beliefs. But for this process to be successful, dissenters must be permitted to voice their opinions and criticism freely, and indeed Mill’s forceful defense of free speech is one of his most famous positions. He emphasizes the role played by the free expression of ideas in facilitating the growth of knowledge in a community: the more dissenting views and arguments in favor or against each of them are exchanged, the more likely it is that the “good” ones will prevail (Halliday & McCabe, 338 B.C.E./1920). This general idea has been further developed in recent years by philosophers working on the epistemology of democracy, who maintain that one of the strengths of a democratic system where citizens can openly exchange arguments (a deliberative democracy—see next section) is that it leads to better grounded beliefs on political matters (Peter, 338 B.C.E./1920).

The idea that argumentation can be an epistemically beneficial process is almost as old as philosophy itself. In the three major ancient philosophical traditions— Greek, Indian, Chinese—argumentation is viewed as an essential component of philosophical reflection. In the Greek tradition in particular, dialectic, or “the art of conversing,” occupied a prominent position, as registered both in Plato’s dialogues and in Aristotle’s logical texts (Dutilh Novaes, 1993-03-11). Dialectic corresponds to a specific form of argumentative interaction, where one participant asks questions in order to get the other participant to commit to specific claims, and then draws conclusions from those commitments, as illustrated in Plato’s dialogues.

In what is often described as the “Socratic method,” in many of Plato’s dialogues Socrates starts by getting his interlocutor A to grant a given thesis, say p. He then secures further commitments from A, say q and r. But he then shows that q and r together in fact imply not-p, thereby showing that A’s collection of commitments {p, q, r} is incoherent, which amounts to a refutation (elenchus) of A’s position. A is then compelled to revise her beliefs, as at least one of them has to go. The thought is that, having been thus refuted and so led to revise her beliefs, A will be in a better epistemic position than before. As Socrates puts it when addressing his interlocutor Callicles in Plato’s dialogue Gorgias: “Then I’ll be very grateful [...] to you if you refute me and rid me of nonsense; now don’t be slow to benefit a friend, and refute me.” (Gorgias, 470c7-10) So even if dialectic cannot establish the absolute truth of a given thesis (“I only know that I know nothing” is a slogan famously attributed to Socrates), it can rid one of nonsense, and that is a desirable epistemic result (Dutilh Novaes, 1981).

In sum, a number of key figures in the history of philosophy defended the view that argumentation is primarily an epistemic activity which allows knowers to increase their number of true beliefs, decrease their number of false beliefs, and deepen their overall understanding of different issue. Whether it can indeed perform this function will be discussed in section 5 below.

3 • Argumentation aiming at
consensus and social coordination

Another important strand in the literature on argumentation are theories that view consensus as the ultimate goal of an argumentative process: to eliminate or resolve a difference of (expressed) opinion. The influential tradition of pragma-dialectics is perhaps the most prominent recent exponent of this approach (Van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1785/1993). What seems to motivate these consensus-oriented approaches is the attribution of a role of social coordination to argumentation. Because humans are social animals who must often cooperate with other humans to successfully accomplish certain tasks, they must have mechanisms to align their beliefs and intentions, and subsequently their actions (Tomasello, 1967). The thought is that argumentation would be a particularly suitable mechanism for such alignment, as an exchange of reasons would make it more likely that differences of opinion would decrease (Norman, 1972). This may happen precisely because argumentation would be a good way to track truths and avoid falsehoods, as discussed in the previous section. Participants engaging in the same epistemic process of exchanging reasons would all come to converge towards the truth, and thus come to agree with each other. However, consensus-oriented views need not presuppose that argumentation is truth-conducive: the ultimate goal of argumentation on these views is that of social coordination. In short, people can come to agree on certain points without those necessarily being true.

Let us again return to the example of the plans for a group outing on a Friday evening. It is not clear that there should be, objectively speaking, one alternative that is obviously superior to all the others. Arguably, there may well be no truth of the matter when it comes to issues of taste and preferences on how to spend a pleasant evening with friends. Instead, the purpose of collectively deciding what to do and where to go next Friday would be to maximize satisfaction and group cohesion, in particular if those who initially had different preferences come to embrace the option that eventually prevails thanks to the reasons offered by others (thus coming along happily rather than grudgingly). On this picture, it is important that everyone feels ‘heard’ during the deliberative process so that they perceive the final decision as the result of a truly collective process; the procedure matters just as much as the result itself.

Indeed, the social complexity of human life is ultimately what is behind the emphasis on consensus. The Friday evening example is in fact a fairly simple situation when compared to a number of other important situations where some degree of consensus and coordination is necessary, especially political decisions. In political theory, the concept of deliberative democracy rests crucially on argumentative practices (Landemore, 1981 Fishkin, 1982). (For present purposes, “deliberation” and “argumentation” can be treated as roughly synonymous terms). In a deliberative democracy, for a decision to be legitimate, it must be preceded by authentic public deliberation—a discussion of the pros and cons of the different options—not merely the aggregation of preferences that occurs in voting. Even if democratic deliberation does not lead to full consensus, the different people involved may opt for a compromise solution. This is what usually happens in, for example, coalition-based political systems (such as in the Netherlands), where after an election typically a number of different parties must come together in a coalition to compose a majority government.

A prominent theorist of deliberative democracy thus understood is Jürgen Habermas, whose “discourse theory of law and democracy” relies heavily on practices of political justification and argumentation taking place in what he calls “the public sphere” (Habermas, 1981). He starts from the idea that politics allows for the collective organization of people’s lives, including the common rules they will live by. Political argumentation is a form of communicative practice, so general assumptions for communicative practices in general apply. However, additional assumptions apply as well. In particular, deliberating participants must accept that anyone can participate in these discursive practices (democratic deliberation should be inclusive), and that anyone can introduce and challenge claims that are made in the public sphere (democratic deliberation should be free). They must also see one another as having equal status, at least for the purposes of deliberation (democratic deliberation should be equal). (Olson, 1989) Habermas’s discourse theory of democracy thus presupposes a fair amount of common ground among interlocutors for deliberative processes to take place legitimately. It also requires equal status for those involved. Critics of Habermas’s account view it as unrealistic, as it presupposes an ideal situation where all citizens are treated equally and engage in public debates in good faith (Mouffe, 2007; Geuss, 1982). We all know that, in practice, in private as well as public debates, people engage in all kinds of vicious behavior when arguing. Indeed, the conception of argumentation to be discussed in the next section highlights precisely the adversarial aspects of argumentative practices (in contrast to the cooperative, consensual aspects discussed until now).

4 • Argumentation as a power game

The two conceptions of argumentation discussed so far offer a largely optimistic picture of the outcomes of an argumentative process: it may lead to more accurate beliefs, or it may lead to consensus and to social coordination. But argumentation also seems to have a “dark side,” with its potential to be used for coercion and manipulation. In fact, argumentative encounters often seem to turn hostile, so much so that, in English, “to have an argument with someone” means the same as to have a quarrel or a fight. In many argumentative situations, participants seem primarily interested in affirming their (intellectual, moral) superiority over others. Even if their motives are not so explicitly related to overpowering others, one might say that any attempt to persuade someone of a view that they do not initially endorse is in fact a form of coercion (Nozick, 1993). On this view, rather than a cooperative endeavor to seek truth or reach consensus, argumentation is above all an adversarial power game, where arguers seek to dominate or manipulate interlocutors and to score points.

Back to our scenario of friends trying to decide what to do together on a Friday evening, it may well happen that, if they start exchanging reasons for and against the different options, one of the members of the group who happens to be more outspoken and verbally articulate will control the discussion and overpower the others, eventually imposing her favorite option on those whose opinions do not get a fair chance of being heard. Alternatively, an arguer can manipulate an audience by selectively choosing arguments that support her position while concealing arguments against that position.

It is often remarked that argumentative situations de facto often escalate towards real fights, especially in specific contexts such as philosophical debates (Moulton, 2016; Rooney, 2018). It is telling that even the cover of an influential textbook in argumentation theory, Fundamentals of Argumentation Theory (Van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 2007), features a scene of two men fighting. Moreover, as noted in (Lakoff & Johnson, 1954/1977) and (Cohen, 1958), the very vocabulary used to refer to argumentative practices is full of references to combat: “He attacked every weak point in my argument.” “His criticisms were right on target.” “Your claims are indefensible.” “I demolished his argument.” “I’ve never won an argument with him.” “If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.” “He shot down all of my arguments.” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1947/2002, p. 4) The pervasiveness of such warlike metaphors in connection with practices of argumentation is a clear indication of the strong association in people’s minds between engaging in argumentation and fighting.

This is not a recent phenomenon; similar complaints were also voiced in ancient Greece. Indeed, being overly adversarial in argumentation is precisely one of the criticisms addressed at the sophists/rhetoricians by Socrates in Plato’s dialogues (e.g. the dialogue Gorgias, Gorgias being one of the most famous rhetoricians of his time). According to Socrates (who, as we saw above, takes the goal of argumentation to be that of revealing deeper truths about ourselves and about how to live a virtuous life), the sophists are only interested in overpowering their interlocutors and “scoring points” in purely competitive encounters (Nehamas, 1990).

Admittedly, Socrates is sometimes singularly nasty in these dialogues, but he typically tailors his argumentation to the specific social position, interests, and dispositions of his interlocutors (Moulton, 1983). Arguably, he is nasty only when a more confrontational approach is what is required to deal with recalcitrant interlocutors. The contrast between rhetoricians (as portrayed by Plato at least, which is most likely a somewhat unfair characterization) and philosophers can be captured in terms of the different interpersonal attitudes that Plato attributes to each of them; while the rhetorician only seeks to dominate or win over an audience, the philosopher seeks to benefit others. So for Plato, argumentation understood in the philosophical sense requires a form of care, both for oneself and for In recent decades, a number of feminist thinkers have criticized argumentation as an inherently aggressive, adversarial practice (Hundleby, forthcoming) . Argumentation would rest on a crystallization of gendered categories of aggressiveness and violence, typically viewed as masculine traits. An implication of the association between argumentation and masculinity is the potential exclusion of feminine gendered persons from argumentative processes, as they presumably do not identify with the aggressive rules of argumentative engagement and find it difficult to enact a “masculine behavior” of confrontation (Gilbert, 1994). What’s more, given expectations that women should behave “politely,” their authority is systematically undermined in argumentative situations (Burrow, (Burrow, 2010)). For some authors (e.g. Nye, 1990), any form of adversariality is stereotypically masculine and intrinsically problematic. For others, the issue is not with adversariality per se, but with the ways in which it happens to be interpreted with excessive, vicious aggressiveness in argumentative situations. Yet others (Govier, 1999; Aikin, 2011) believe that some amount of adversariality is intrinsic to argumentation, and not necessarily a bad thing.

A more positive appreciation of the role of argumentation in situations of conflict underpins the concept of agonistic democracy, which is contrasted with the concept of deliberative democracy. It is motivated by the recognition that some amount of adversariality cannot be entirely eliminated from the political sphere (Wenman, 2013). For agonistic thinkers, arguing in a democracy is not about deliberating towards consensus but about managing disagreement, plurality and conflicts of interest. For Chantal Mouffe, for example, “what liberal democratic politics requires is that the others are not seen as enemies to be destroyed, but as adversaries whose ideas might be fought, even fiercely, but whose right to defend those ideas is not to be questioned.” (Mouffe, 2013, p. 7) The goal is to turn ‘antagonism’ (struggle between enemies) into ‘agonism’ (struggle between adversaries), and argumentation has an important role to play in these practices (Dutilh Novaes, 2020).

But what to make of critiques of adversarial models of argumentation? Many of the points made are well taken. Should we therefore abandon argumentation altogether, as an inherently coercive, oppressive mode of interpersonal communication? Or should we aim at developing alternative models which would constrain and regulate excessive displays of

5 • The outcomes of argumentation

Does argumentation “work”? Does it deliver what we expect from it? When you and your friends engage in an exchange of reasons pro and con the different options, are you eventually able to come to a decision about what to do on Friday that makes everyone (reasonably) happy? In practice, argumentation tends to receive mixed reviews: there is some good news but also quite some bad news. We’ve identified three functions typically attributed to argumentation: to improve beliefs, to promote consensus and social coordination, and to overpower and manipulate (or more optimistically, for agonist thinkers, to manage conflict). Let us now discuss each of them in turn.

Let us start with the putative epistemic function(s) of argumentation: does engaging in argumentation improve one’s beliefs? There is quite some empirical evidence showing that, at least for certain kinds of problems, groups that are allowed to engage in discussion tend to be more successful at finding the right solutions than individual thinkers (Mercier, 2018). The problems where group discussion tends to have a beneficial effect are typically intellective problems, that is those that have a demonstrably correct solution within a mathematical, logical, scientific, or verbal conceptual system. For problems for which no generally accepted demonstrably correct answer exists, i.e. evaluative, behavioral, or aesthetic problems—known as judgmental problems—the results are not as straightforward.2 Consider the following question that was given to participants in an experiment. “Paul is looking at Linda and Linda is looking at Patrick. Paul is married but Patrick is not. Is a person who is married looking at a person who is not married?” Cognitive scientist Hugo Mercier and colleagues studied how reasoners solved this problem, individually and in groups (Trouche, Sander, & Mercier, 2014). Participants in the experiment were given three options to choose from: Yes/ No/Cannot be determined. The correct response is “Yes”: if Linda is married, the conclusion follows (Linda is looking at Patrick), and if Linda is not married, the conclusion also follows (Paul is looking at Linda) (considering these as the only two options). Hence, in all possible scenarios, a married person is looking at an unmarried one. But only a small subset of individual reasoners gives this answer (around 20%). Most responses are “cannot be determined,” which is incorrect. By contrast, when solving this problem in groups and debating with peers about which one is the right answer, the rate of correct answers goes to 60%. Thus, discussion and argumentation help find the right answer.

However, it seems that it is only under some special conditions that argumentation will straightforwardly lead to more accurate beliefs. First of all, there is evidence showing that arguments are in fact not a very efficient means to change minds in many real-life situations (Kolbert, 2017; Gordon-Smith, 2019). People typically do not like to change their minds about firmly entrenched beliefs they hold, and so when confronted with arguments or evidence that contradict these beliefs, they tend either to look away or to discredit the source of the argument as unreliable—a phenomenon known as “confirmation bias” (Nickerson, 1998). In particular, arguments that threaten our core beliefs and our sense of belonging to a group (e.g. political beliefs) typically trigger all kinds of motivated reasoning (Taber & Lodge, 2006; Kahan, 2017) whereby one outright rejects those arguments without properly engaging with their content.

Relatedly, when choosing among a vast supply of media, people tend to gravitate towards content and sources that confirms their existing opinions, which is one of the factors giving rise to so-called “echo chambers” and “epistemic bubbles” (Nguyen, 2020). Furthermore, some arguments can be deceptively convincing in that they look valid but are not; these are known as fallacies in argumentation theory (Hansen, 2019). Because most of us are not very good at spotting fallacious arguments, especially if they are arguments that lend support to the beliefs we already hold, engaging in argumentation may in fact decrease the accuracy of our beliefs by convincing us with incorrect arguments supporting false conclusions. In sum, despite the optimism of Mill and many others, engaging in argumentation will not automatically improve our beliefs (even if this may occur in some circumstances, Dutilh Novaes, 2020).

What about argumentation as a means to achieve consensus and social coordination? Here too it seems that it is only under specific conditions that argumentation leads to consensus, as suggested by formal simulations of argumentative situations (Betz, 2013; Olsson, 2013).3 In particular, the discussing parties must already have a significant amount of background agreement, especially agreement on what counts as a legitimate argument or convincing evidence (higher-order agreement), for argumentation and deliberation to lead to consensus. Instead, in many real-life situations, argumentation often leads to the opposite result; people disagree with each other even more after engaging in argumentation. This is the well-documented phenomenon of group polarization, which occurs when an initial position or tendency of individual members of a group becomes more extreme after group discussion (Sunstein, 2002 Isenberg, 1986). Indeed, anyone who spends some time on the internet will immediately recognize the dynamics of radicalization triggered by online discussions. Arguably, in part because of the influence of social media, democracies around the world are under threat due to extreme levels of polarization, which (according to some authors at least) make it virtually impossible for functional democratic processes to continue (Talisse, 2019).

Turning now to the third view, is argumentation indeed often used as a means to overpower and manipulate audiences? It depends on what we mean by “argumentation.” Seen as the dispassionate examination of the pros and cons of a particular view, argumentation is not a very effective way to change minds, as mentioned above, and thus presumably not an effective instrument of manipulation. Instead, when two parties disagree and engage in argumentation, more often than not it seems they talk past each other rather than to each other. Alternatively, they may be trying to “score points” vis-à-vis a presumed audience, which in the day and age of social media translates into “likes”, “shares” and increased popularity.

However, if more broadly construed as including a range of rhetorical devices to enhance persuasion, then argumentation comes closer to the concept of propaganda, which is the ultimate instrument to manipulate opinions (Stanley, 2015). To be sure, this does not mean that rhetoric has no place in argumentation that is not propaganda; to the contrary, persuasion, and thus rhetoric, is a fundamental component of argumentation in general. But as already noted by Plato in his critique of the rhetoricians/sophists in the Gorgias, persuasiveness can be put to “good” uses (i.e. inform people and let them make up their own minds) as well as “bad” uses, aiming at manipulation and indoctrination. The line between argumentation and propaganda is rather thin indeed.

6 • Some areas of application of argumentation

The previous section painted a somewhat pessimistic picture of what argumentation can do for us. Given these rather bleak prospects, should we give up on argumentation altogether? In this section, I argue that, in specific domains not yet discussed here (political deliberation has already been discussed), argumentation functions reasonably well, and continues to have an important role. By examining the conditions under which this occurs in these specific domains, we may even draw some conclusions on how to improve argumentative processes in other spheres of human life.

Scientific communities arguably offer the best examples of well-functioning argumentative practices. They are disciplined systems of collective epistemic activity, with tacit but widely endorsed norms for argumentative engagement. Indeed, when a scientist presents a new scientific claim, it must be backed by arguments and evidence that her peers are likely to find convincing, as they follow from the application of widely agreed-upon scientific methods. Other scientists will in turn critically examine the evidence and arguments provided, and will voice objections or concerns if they find aspects of the theory to be less convincing (Longino, 1990). Thus seen, science is very much a game of “giving and asking for reasons” (Zamora Bonilla, 2006). Certain features of scientific argumentation seem to ensure its success: scientists see other scientists as prima facie peers, and so attribute a fair amount of trust to other scientists by default; science is based on the principle of “organized skepticism” (a term introduced by the pioneer sociologist of science Robert Merton) (Huutoniemi, (Huutoniemi, 2015)), which means that asking for further reasons is typically not perceived as a personal attack.

Another area where argumentation is essential is the law, which also corresponds to disciplined systems of collective activity with strict rules for what counts as acceptable arguments and evidence (Feteris, (Feteris, 2017)). In litigation (in particular in adversarial justice systems), there are typically two sides disagreeing on what is lawful or just, and the basic decision-making principle is that each side will present its strongest arguments. It is the comparison between the two sets of arguments that should lead to the best decision. While many justice systems around the world are far from perfect and could certainly use reforms,4 the general principle that legal decisions should be made on the basis of solid argumentation and examination of evidence is arguably indispensable.

Finally, the development of argumentative skills is a fundamental aspect of (formal) education (Muller Mirza & Perret-Clermont, 2009). What is specific to argumentation is the focus on epistemic autonomy: when presented with arguments, a knower should not simply accept what is being said at face value, but instead should reflect on the reasons offered and come to her own conclusions. Argumentation thus fosters independent, critical thinking, which is an important goal for education. A number of education theorists and developmental psychologists have empirically investigated the effects of emphasizing argumentative skills in educational settings, and the results are encouraging (Kuhn & Crowell, 2011).

7 • Conclusions

Views on argumentation, both with respect to its goals and its efficacy, vary widely. This is probably simply a result of the fact that argumentation is in fact many things, indeed a multifaceted phenomenon. This chapter surveyed some influential views on argumentation, both in philosophy and in other relevant fields. We saw that, while argumentation certainly has its limitations, giving up on argumentation completely is too extreme a reaction. Under the right circumstances, an argumentative approach may even facilitate a successful decision-making process on what to do with your friends on a Friday evening.


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