Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 179–189 | Cite as

The Virtuous Troll: Argumentative Virtues in the Age of (Technologically Enhanced) Argumentative Pluralism

  • Daniel H. Cohen
Research Article


Technology has made argumentation rampant. We can argue whenever we want. With social media venues for every interest, we can also argue about whatever we want. To some extent, we can select our opponents and audiences to argue with whomever we want. And we can argue however we want, whether in carefully reasoned, article-length expositions, real-time exchanges, or 140-character polemics. The concepts of arguing, arguing well, and even being an arguer have evolved with this new multiplicity and diversity; theory needs to catch up to the new reality. Successful strategies for traditional contexts may be counterproductive in new ones; classical argumentative virtues may be liabilities in new situations. There are new complications to the theorist’s standard questions—What is an argument? and Who is an arguer?—while new ones move into the spotlight—Should we argue at all? and If so, why? Agent-based virtue argumentation theory provides a unifying framework for this radical plurality by coordinated redefinitions of the concepts of good arguers and good arguments. It remains true that good arguers contribute to good arguments, and good arguments satisfy good arguers, but the new diversity strains the old unity. Ironically, a unifying factor is provided by examining those paragons of bad arguers, argument trolls whose contributions to arguments are not very good, not really contributions, and, ultimately, not genuine argumentation.


Argumentation Good argument Virtue Virtuous arguer Trolls 



I would like to thank Fabio Paglieri for his encouragement, Andrew Aberdein for his exceptional philosophical acumen and scholarship, and anonymous referees for their extraordinarily helpful input, as well as Alex Sarappo and Hiya Islam, occasional trolls, without whom this paper would not have been possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyColby CollegeWatervilleUSA

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