, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 519–547 | Cite as

Practical Reasoning Arguments: A Modular Approach

  • Fabrizio Macagno
  • Douglas Walton


This paper compares current ways of modeling the inferential structure of practical (goal-based) reasoning arguments, and proposes a new approach in which it is regarded in a modular way. Practical reasoning is not simply seen as reasoning from a goal and a means to an action using the basic argumentation scheme. Instead, it is conceived as a complex structure of classificatory, evaluative, and practical inferences, which is formalized as a cluster of three types of distinct and interlocked argumentation schemes. Using two real examples, we show how applying the three types of schemes to a cluster of practical argumentation allows an argument analyst to reconstruct the tacit premises presupposed and evaluate the argumentative reasoning steps involved. This approach will be shown to overcome the limitations of the existing models of practical reasoning arguments within the BDI and commitment theoretical frameworks, providing a useful tool for discourse analysis and other disciplines. In particular, applying this method brings to light the crucial role of classification in practical argumentation, showing how the ordering of values and preferences is only one of the possible areas of deep disagreement.


Practical reasoning Discourse analysis Values Classification Argumentation schemes Decision-making Deliberative argumentation 



The authors would like to thank Albert Jaeger for the problems he raised concerning the application of the schemes, which led to this paper. Fabrizio Macagno would like to thank the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia for the research grants no. IF/00945/2013, PTDC/IVC-HFC/1817/2014, and PTDC/MHC-FIL/0521/2014 Douglas Walton would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for Insight Grant 435-2012-0104.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ArgLab, IFILNOVAUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation, and Rhetoric (CRRAR)University of WindsorWindsorCanada

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