, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 365–397 | Cite as

Reflective Argumentation: A Cognitive Function of Arguing

  • Michael H. G. Hoffmann


Why do we formulate arguments? Usually, things such as persuading opponents, finding consensus, and justifying knowledge are listed as functions of arguments. But arguments can also be used to stimulate reflection on one’s own reasoning. Since this cognitive function of arguments should be important to improve the quality of people’s arguments and reasoning, for learning processes, for coping with “wicked problems,” and for the resolution of conflicts, it deserves to be studied in its own right. This contribution develops first steps towards a theory of reflective argumentation. It provides a definition of reflective argumentation, justifies its importance, delineates it from other cognitive functions of argumentation in a new classification of argument functions, and it discusses how reflection on one’s own reasoning can be stimulated by arguments.


Argument functions Argument schemes Argument templates Cognition Computer-supported argument visualization Controversy Education Learning Reflection Semiotics Wicked problems 



This research has been supported by a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education (Grant P116S100006). I am thankful for important feedback that David Hitchcock, Bryan Norton, Justin Biddle, J. Britt Holbrook, and two anonymous reviewers provided to earlier versions of this paper.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public PolicyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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