, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 227–252 | Cite as

The Uses of Argument in Communicative Contexts



This paper challenges the view that arguments are (by definition, as it were) attempts to persuade or convince an audience to accept (or reject) a point of view by presenting reasons for (or against) that point of view. I maintain, first, that an arguer need not intend any effect beyond that of making it manifest to readers or hearers that there is a reason for doing some particular thing (e.g., for believing a certain proposition, or alternatively for rejecting it), and second that when an arguer is in fact trying to induce an effect above and beyond rendering a reason manifest, the effect intended—the use to which his or her argument is put—need not be that hearers “do” what the stated reasons are reasons for “doing.” Where the actual or intended effect of making a reason R for “doing X” manifest is something other than “doing X,” I call it an oblique—as opposed to a direct—effect of making that reason manifest. The core of the paper presents an overview or map of the main categories of effect which arguments can have, and the main sub-types within each category, calling attention to the points at which such effects can be indirect or oblique effects. The purpose of that typology is to make it clear (i) how oblique effects can come about and (ii) how important a role they can play in the conduct of argumentation.


Argumentation Reasons Persuasion Communicative context Making manifest 



I am indebted to Jean Goodwin, to Peter Loptson and to J. A. Blair for comments on earlier versions of this paper, as well as to feedback from two of Argumentation’s anonymous referees. In addition, I should acknowledge the fact that this paper grew out of an idea that was planted in my mind by Goodwin several years ago—the idea that arguments are often used for purposes other than achieving what I have called direct effects. Goodwin herself has presented something very much like that idea in Goodwin (1999).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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