, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 203–228 | Cite as

Computer decision-support systems for public argumentation: assessing deliberative legitimacy

Original Article


Recent proposals for computer-assisted argumentation have drawn on dialectical models of argumentation. When used to assist public policy planning, such systems also raise questions of political legitimacy. Drawing on deliberative democratic theory, we elaborate normative criteria for deliberative legitimacy and illustrate their use for assessing two argumentation systems. Full assessment of such systems requires experiments in which system designers draw on expertise from the social sciences and enter into the policy deliberation itself at the level of participants.


Argumentation Computer-mediated decisions Decision support systems 


  1. Alexy R (1990) A theory of practical discourse. In: Benhabib S, Dallmayr F (eds) The communicative ethics controversy. MIT Press, Cambridge pp 151–190. Translation by D. Frisby of: “Eine theorie des praktischen Diskurses”. In: Oelmuller W (ed) Normenbegrundung-Normendurchsetzung. Schoningh, Paderborn, Germany, 1978 Google Scholar
  2. Alty JL, Coombs MJ (1984) Expert systems: concepts and examples. National Computer Centre Publications, ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  3. Beetham D (1998) Legitimacy. In: Craig E (ed) Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy. Routledge, London. Retrieved 21 July 2004, from < >
  4. Bell C (1978) Studying the locally powerful: personal reflections on a research career. In: Bell C, Encel S (eds) Inside the whale: ten personal accounts of social research. Pergamon Press, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  5. Bench-Capon TJM, Freeman J, Hohmann H, Prakken H (2003) Computational models, argumentation theories and legal practice. In: Reed C, Norman T (eds) Argumentation machines: new frontiers in argument and computation. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 85–120Google Scholar
  6. Benfer RA, Brent EE, Furbee L (1990) Expert systems. Sage, Newbury ParkGoogle Scholar
  7. Bledsoe CH, Robey KM (1986) Arabic literacy and secrecy among the Mende of Sierra Leone. Man 21(2):202–226Google Scholar
  8. Bohman J (1996) Public deliberation: pluralism, complexity and democracy. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Bohman J, Rehg W (eds) (1997) Deliberative democracy: essays on reason and politics. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Buchanan BG, Shortliffe EH (1984) Rule-based expert systems: The MYCIN experiments of the stanford heuristic programming project. Addison-Wesley, ReadingGoogle Scholar
  11. Carbogim DV, Robertson DS, Lee JR (2000) Argument-based applications to knowledge engineering. Knowl Eng Rev 15(2):119–149CrossRefMATHGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen J (1989) Deliberation and democratic legitimacy. In: Hamlin A, Pettit P (eds) The good polity. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 17–34Google Scholar
  13. Collins HM, Evans R (2002) The third wave of science studies: studies of expertise and experience. Soc Stud Sci 32:235–296Google Scholar
  14. Dahl RA (1956) A preface to democratic theory. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  15. Dignum F, Dunin-Kceplicz B, Verbrugge R (2000) Agent theory for team formation by dialogue. In: Castelfranchi C, Lesperance Y (eds) Pre-proceedings of the seventh international workshop on agent theories, architectures, and languages (ATAL-2000), Boston, MA, pp 141–156Google Scholar
  16. Dung PM (1995) On the acceptability of arguments and its fundamental role in nonmonotonic reasoning, logic programming and n-persons games. Artif Intell 77:321–357CrossRefMATHGoogle Scholar
  17. Elster J (1986) The market and the forum. In: Elster J, Aanund A (eds) The foundations of social choice theory. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 103–132Google Scholar
  18. Emery J, Walton R, Coulson A, Glasspool DW, Ziebland S, Fox J (1999) Computer support for recording and interpreting family histories of breast and ovarian cancer in primary care (RAGs): qualitative evaluation with simulated patients. Br Med J 319:32–36Google Scholar
  19. Ess C (1996) The political computer: democracy, CMC, and Habermas. In: Ess C (ed) Philosophical perspectives on computer-mediated communication. SUNY Press, Albany, NY, pp 197–230Google Scholar
  20. Fairhead J, Leach M (1998) Reframing deforestation: global analysis and local realities: studies in West Africa. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Feenberg A (1999) Questioning technology. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Forester J (1999) The deliberative practitioner: encouraging participatory planning processes. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  23. Fox J, Das S (2000) Safe and sound: artificial intelligence in hazardous applications. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  24. Gardenfors PG (1994) The role of expectations in reasoning. In: Masuch M, Polos L (eds) Knowledge representation and reasoning under uncertainty: logic at work. Lecture notes in artificial intelligence 808. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 1–16Google Scholar
  25. Goldman AI (1994) Argumentation and social epistemology. J Philos 91:27–49Google Scholar
  26. Goldman AI (1999) Knowledge in a social world, chap 5. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  27. Gordon TF (1994) The pleadings game: an exercise in computational dialectics. Artif Intell Law 2:239–292MATHGoogle Scholar
  28. Gordon TF (2003) An open, scalable and distributed platform for public discourse. Retrieved 16 July 2004 from < >
  29. Gordon TF, Karacapilidis N (1997) The Zeno argumentation framework. In: Proceedings of the 6th international conference on AI and law. ACM Press, New York, pp 10–18Google Scholar
  30. Gordon TF, Karacapilidis N, Voss H, Zauke A (1997) Computer-mediated cooperative spatial planning. In: Timmermans H (ed) Decision support systems in urban planning. E & FN Spon, London, pp 299–309Google Scholar
  31. Grasso F (2002) Towards a computational rhetoric. Informal Logic 22:195–229Google Scholar
  32. Greenberg HJ (1987) Validation of decision support systems. In: Mitra G (ed) Mathematical models for decision support. NATO ASI Series, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 641–657Google Scholar
  33. Groothuis MM, Svensson JS (2000) Expert system support and juridical quality. In: Breuker J (ed) Proceedings of the 13th international conference on legal knowledge-based systems (JURIX-2000). Enschede, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  34. Habermas J (1984) The theory of communicative action, vol. 1. Reason and the rationalization of society. Heinemann, London, UK, Translation by T. McCarthy of: Theorie des Kommunikativen Handelns, Band I, Handlungsrationalitat und gesellschaftliche Rationalisierung.Suhrkamp, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1981Google Scholar
  35. Habermas J (1990) Moral consciousness and communicative action. MIT Press, Cambridge. Translation by C Lenhardt and SW-Nicholsen of: Moralbewusstsein un kommunikatives Handeln. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1983Google Scholar
  36. Habermas J (1993) Justification and application: remarks on discourse ethics. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Translation by CP Cronin of: Erläuterung zur Diskursethik. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1991Google Scholar
  37. Habermas J (1996) Between facts and norms: contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Translation by W. Rehg of Faktizität und Geltung, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1992Google Scholar
  38. Haklay M (2001) Public environmental information systems: challenges and perspectives. PhD Thesis. Department of Geography, University College, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  39. Hamblin CL (1971) Mathematical models of dialogue. Theoria 37:130–155MATHGoogle Scholar
  40. Hintikka KJJ (1968) Language-games for quantifiers. Americal philosophical quarterly monograph series 2: studies in logical theory. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 46–72Google Scholar
  41. Hitchcock D (1991) Some principles of rational mutual inquiry. In: van Eemeren F et al. (eds) Proceedings of the 2nd international conference on argumentation. SICSAT, Amsterdam, pp 236–243Google Scholar
  42. Hitchcock D (1992) Relevance. Argumentation 6:251–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hitchcock D, McBurney P, Parsons S (2001) A framework for deliberation dialogues. In: Hansen HV, Tindale CW, Blair JA, Johnson RH (eds) Proceedings of the 4th biennial conference of the Ontario society for the study of argumentation (OSSA 2001), Ontario, WindsorGoogle Scholar
  44. Jackson P (1986) Introduction to expert systems. Addison-Wesley, WokinghamGoogle Scholar
  45. Jennings NR, Faratin P, Lomuscio AR, Parsons S, Sierra C, Wooldridge M (2001) Automated negotiation: prospects, methods and challenges. Group Decis Negot 10(2):199–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Johnson R (2000) Manifest rationality: a pragmatic theory of argument. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ, USAGoogle Scholar
  47. Kahneman D, Slovic P, Tversky A (eds) (1982) Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  48. Karacapilidis N, Papadias D, Gordon T, Voss H (1997) Collaborative environmental planning with GeoMed. Eur J Oper Res 102(2):335–346CrossRefMATHGoogle Scholar
  49. Kirwan B, Ainsworth LK (1993) A guide to task analysis. Taylor and Francis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  50. Krause P, Ambler S, Elvang-Gorannson M, Fox J (1995) A logic of argumentation for reasoning under uncertainty. Comput Intell 11(1):113–131Google Scholar
  51. Kriesberg L, Northrup TA, Thorson SJ (eds) (1989) Intractable conflicts and their transformation. Syracuse University Press, SyracuseGoogle Scholar
  52. Kuflik A (1999) Computers in control: rational transfer of authority or irresponsible abdication of autonomy. Ethics Inform Technol 1(3):173–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lind EA, Tyler TR (1988) The social psychology of procedural justice. Plenum, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Lindley DV (1985) Making decisions, 2nd edn. Prentice-Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  55. Mackenzie JD (1979) Question-begging in non-cumulative systems. J Philos Log 8:117–133MATHGoogle Scholar
  56. Märker O, Hagedorn H, Trénel M, Gordon TF (2002) Internet-based citizen participation in the city of Esslingen: relevance – moderation – software. In: Schrenk M (ed) CORP 2000 – who plans Europe’s future? Institute für EDV-gestützte Metbhoden in Architektur und Raumplanung der Technischen Universität Wien, Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  57. Mayo DG, Hollander RD (eds) (1991) Acceptable evidence: science and values in risk management. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  58. McBurney P, Parsons S (2000) Risk Agoras: dialectical argumentation for scientific reasoning. In: Boutilier C, Goldszmidt M (eds) Proceedings of the 16th conference on uncertainty in artificial intelligence (UAI-2000). Morgan Kaufmann, Stanford, CA, USA, pp 371–379Google Scholar
  59. McBurney P, Parsons S (2001a) Intelligent systems to support deliberative democracy in environmental regulation. Inf Commun Technol Law 10(1):33–43Google Scholar
  60. McBurney P, Parsons S (2001b) Representing epistemic uncertainty by means of dialectical argumentation. Ann Math Artif Intell 32 (1–4):125–169CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  61. McBurney P, Parsons S (2002a) Using belief functions to forecast demand for mobile satellite services. In: Srivastava RP, Mock T (eds) Belief functions for business decisions. Physica, New York, pp 281–315Google Scholar
  62. McBurney P, Parsons S (2002b) Games that agents play: a formal framework for dialogues between autonomous agents. J Log Lang Inform 11(3):315–334CrossRefMathSciNetMATHGoogle Scholar
  63. McCarthy T (1999) Legitimacy and diversity: dialectical reflections on analytic distinctions. In: Rosenfeld M, Arato A (eds) Habermas on law and democracy. University of California Press, Berkeley, USA, pp 115–153Google Scholar
  64. McGlade J (1999) Indigenous knowledge and the coastal environment: the SimCoast system. Presentation to ESRC/GEC seminar on environmental knowledge: uncertainty, authority and responsibility, Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK, 22 November 1999Google Scholar
  65. Michelman FI (1988) Law’s republic. Yale Law Rev 97(8):1493–1537Google Scholar
  66. Michelman FI (1989) Conceptions of democracy in American constitutional argument: the case of pornography regulation. Tennessee Law Rev 56:291–319Google Scholar
  67. Moor J (1979) Are there decisions computers should never make? Nat Sys 1:217–229Google Scholar
  68. Morgan MG (1993) Risk analysis and risk management. Sci Am July:32–41MATHGoogle Scholar
  69. NASA (1999) Computer program assumes spacecraft command. Press release, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Pasadena, CA, USA. Available from: Cited 17 May 1999
  70. Nisbett R, Ross L (1980) Human inference: strategies and shortcomings of social judgment. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  71. Parker C (2000) Requirements analysis and evaluation of decision support systems: the question approach. In: Reid J, Lalmas M (eds) Proceedings of the British computer society/institution of electrical engineering workshop on the evaluation of information management systems. Department of Computer Science, Queen Mary College, University of London, London, September 2000Google Scholar
  72. Parsons S, Sierra C, Jennings NR (1998) Agents that reason and negotiate by arguing. J Log Comput 8(3):261–292MATHGoogle Scholar
  73. Pera M (1994) The discourses of science. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  74. Prakken H, Vreeswijk G (2001) Logics for defeasible argumentation. In: Gabbay D (ed) Handbook of philosophical logic, 2nd edn, vol 4. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp 218–319Google Scholar
  75. Rawls J (1996) Political liberalism. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  76. Reed C (1998) Generating arguments in natural language. PhD Thesis, University College, University of LondonGoogle Scholar
  77. Reed C, Norman T (eds) (2003) Argumentation machines: new frontiers in argument and computation. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  78. Rehg W (1997a) Reason and rhetoric in Habermas’s theory of argumentation. In: Jost W, Hyde MJ (eds) Rhetoric and hermeneutics in our time: a reader. Yale University Press, New Haven, pp 358–377Google Scholar
  79. Rehg W (1997b) Legitimacy and deliberation in epistemic conceptions of democracy: between Habermas and Estlund. Mod Schoolman 74:355–374Google Scholar
  80. Rehg W (1999) Intractable conflicts and moral objectivity: a dialogical, problem-based approach. Inquiry 42:229–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Rescher N (1977) Dialectics: a controversy-oriented approach to the theory of knowledge. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  82. Rittel HWJ, Webber MM (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sci 4:155–169Google Scholar
  83. Sandholm TW (1999) Distributed rational decision making. In: Weiss G (ed) Multiagent systems: a modern introduction to distributed artificial intelligence. MIT Press Cambridge, pp 201–258Google Scholar
  84. Schmidt-Belz B, Rinner C, Gordon TF (1998) GeoMed for urban planning—first user experiences. In: Proceedings of the 6th ACM international symposium on advances in geographic information systems. Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  85. Schneider F (undated) Democracy goes on-line: Inernet-based citizen participation in the zoning plan. from < >. Cited 16 July 2004
  86. Schneider CE (1998) The practice of autonomy: patients, doctors and medical decisions. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  87. Schumpeter JA (1976) Capitalism, socialism and democracy. Harper, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  88. Seffers GI (1998) Crisis system for president: DARPA’s project Genoa would speed US decision-making. Defense News 13(13):1Google Scholar
  89. Sierra C, Jennings NR, Noriega P, Parsons S (1998) A framework for argumentation-based negotiation. In: Singh MP, Rao A, Wooldridge MJ (eds) Intelligent agents IV: agent theories, architectures, and languages. Proceedings of the 4th international ATAL workshop, lecture notes in artificial intelligence no. 1365, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 177–192Google Scholar
  90. Stathis K (2000) A game-based architecture for developing interactive components in computational logic. Electron J Funct Log Program 2000(5) Google Scholar
  91. Taylor A (1991) Organizational and social implications. In: Bench-Capon T (ed) Knowledge-based systems and legal applications. Academic, London, pp 309–327Google Scholar
  92. Tindale CW (1999) Acts of arguing. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  93. Tonnelier CAG, Fox J, Judson PN, Krause PJ, Pappas N, Patel M (1997) Representation of chemical structures in knowledge-based systems: the StAR system. J Chem Inf Comput Sci 37:117–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Toulmin SE (1958) The uses of argument. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  95. Tyler TR (1990) Why people obey the law. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  96. Vaughan D (1996) The challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USAGoogle Scholar
  97. Verheij B (1998) ArguMed: a template-based argument mediation system for lawyers. In: Hage JC, Bench-Capon TJM, Koers AW, de Vey Mestdagh CNJ, Grutters CAFM (eds) Proceedings of the 11th conference of legal knowledge-based systems (JURIX-98). Gerard Noodt Instituut, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, pp 113–130Google Scholar
  98. Verheij B (1999) Automated argument assistance for lawyers. In: Proceedings of the 7th international conference on artificial intelligence and law. ACM Press, New York City, pp 43–52Google Scholar
  99. Walton DN (1995) A pragmatic theory of fallacy. University of Alabama Press, TuscaloosaGoogle Scholar
  100. Walton DN (2000) The place of dialogue theory in logic, computer science and communication studies. Synthese 123:327–346CrossRefMATHGoogle Scholar
  101. Walton DN, Krabbe ECW (1995) Commitment in dialogue: basic concepts of interpersonal reasoning. SUNY Series in Logic and Language. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  102. Warnke G (1999) Legitimate differences. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  103. Weber M (1978) Economy and society, 2 vols. Translated by Roth G, Wittich C (eds), University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  104. Webler T, Tuler S, Krueger R (2001) What is a good public particpation process? Five perspectives from the public. Environ Manage 27:435–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Weizenbaum J (1976) Computer power and human reason: from judgment to calculation. Freeman, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  106. Wynne B (1989) Sheepfarming after Chernobyl: a case study in communicating scientific information. Environment 31(2):10–39Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySt. Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUnited Kingdom
  3. 3.Department of Computer and Information ScienceBrooklyn College, City University of New YorkBrooklynUSA

Personalised recommendations