Argumentation Theory


I have written many articles and a couple of books in Argumentation Theory, until recently, my primary area of research. Many of my publications, including all conference proceedings and many journal articles can be found by clicking the Argumentation Theory Readings link. A thorough introduction to Argumentation Theory will be found in the selection, History of a New Field, which is also the first chapter of my book, Coalescent Argumentation. It is also in the Readings section.

General Introduction

In its broadest terms, contemporary Argumentation Theory [AT] aims to examine the logical, syntactic, and intensional structure of interactive argument as it occurs in a daily, natural context. Put another way, AT examines argument as a social process that contains a multitude of aspects some of which are linear and logical, some of which are not. Goals include instilling ways of discussing carefully and precisely, as well as understanding the processes involved in more robust personal argument.

My own philosophical work has always centred on questions about the nature and structure of argumentation. I believe that this basic and very common form of human communication covers a broad range of interactions ranging from polite and constructive discussions to miserable quarrels. When I write I mean to include a great deal of this broad range within my area of interest.

In the past while there has been a tremendous interest and growth in the area that has come to be known as Argumentation Theory. The modern roots were sown by Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, Toulmin and Naess about 40 years ago. But only since the seventies has this multi-disciplinary area come into its own. Scholars from Communication Theory, Discourse Analysis, Philosophy, Law, Psychology and other disciplines have come together in conferences and journals to try and understand and improve everyday argumentation.

My own work is fairly radical insofar as I believe that emotional, intuitive (kisceral,) and physical (visceral) arguments ought be considered legitimate and studied just as much as logical arguments. In my work I argue for this position, and claim that its adoption opens avenues that permit an emphasis on agreement as opposed to disagreement. I call this approach Coalescent Argumentation, and believe that its adoption tends to decrease conflict and increase constructive communication.

This is way too heavy- - I want to go home!


What's Available Here

To better understand my position you can examine numerous abstracts, several papers published in journals, all of my conference paapers. and read a talk on coalescent argumentation I presented in the Netherlands.

In addition, you can examine the Foreword, Table of Contents, and first two chapters of
How To Win An Argument, now re-published in a 3rd edition. or do the same for Coalescent Argumentation. For the latter you will find the detailed table of contents, foreword and bibliography. It's worth noting that the first chapter of Coalescent Argumentation is designed to serve as an upper level introduction to the field.


Teaching Material

I have been teaching Argumentation Theory at the undergraduate and graduate level for some time. Courses include a basic Introduction to Argumentation Theory. I have placed the reading list of previous years for that course here. The intro course is a third year course, and is a pre-requisite for all fourth year seminars. These have included in-depth examination of the work of C.A. Willard, the theory of Pragma-Dialectics, argumentation and feminism, and the role of goals in argumentation.


ARGTHRY Listserv

Run from York University, the listserv ARGTHRY is intended to provide a forum for announcements, queries, and discussion within the academic discipline of Argumentation Theory. The instructions for subscribing are on the Argthry page.