, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 397-423

Argument Structure and Disciplinary Perspective

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Abstract

Many in the informal logic tradition distinguish convergent from linked argument structure. The pragma-dialectical tradition distinguishes multiple from co-ordinatively compound argumentation. Although these two distinctions may appear to coincide, constituting only a terminological difference, we argue that they are distinct, indeed expressing different disciplinary perspectives on argumentation. From a logical point of view, where the primary evaluative issue concerns sufficient strength of support, the unit of analysis is the individual argument, the particular premises put forward to support a given conclusion. Structure is internal to this unit. From a dialectical point of view, where the focus concerns how well a critical discussion comes to a reasoned conclusion of some disputed question, the argumentation need not constitute a single unit of argument. The unit of dialectical analysis will be the entire argumentation made up of these several arguments. The multiple/co-ordinatively compound distinction is dialectical, while the linked/convergent distinction is logical. Keeping these two pairs of distinctions separate allows us to see certain attempts to characterize convergent versus linked arguments as rather characterizing multiple versus co-ordinatively compound arguments, in particular attempts of Thomas, Nolt, and Yanal, and to resolve straightforwardly conflicts, tensions, or anomalies in their accounts. Walton's preferred Suspension/Insufficient Proof test to identify linked argument structure correctly identifies co-ordinatively compound structure. His objection to using the concept of relevance to explicate the distinction between linked and convergent structure within co-ordinatively compound argumentation can be met through explicating relevance in terms of inference licenses. His counterexample to the Suspension/No Support test for identifying linked structure which this approach supports can itself be straightforwardly dealt with when the test is explicated through inference licenses.