Skip to main content

Arguments from authority and expert opinion in computational argumentation systems

An Erratum to this article was published on 06 September 2016

This article has been updated


In this paper we show that an essential aspect of solving the problem of uncritical acceptance of expert opinions that is at the root of the ad verecundiam fallacy is the need to disentangle argument from expert opinion from another kind of appeal to authority. Formal and computational argumentation systems enable us to analyze the fault in which an error has occurred by virtue of a failure to meet one or more of the requirements of the argumentation scheme from argument from expert opinion. We present a method for enhancing this capability by showing how arguments from expert opinion are related to, but different from, arguments from deontic authority.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Change history

  • 06 September 2016

    An erratum to this article has been published.


  1. 1.

    These and other distinctions are listed e.g. in Goodwin (1998, p. 278).

  2. 2.

    For the conditional version of the scheme see Walton (2014b).

  3. 3.

    See also the Carneades blog ( for a brief description of the new features.

  4. 4.

    In the field of legal theory, administrative or formal authority based on a support of an institution is distinguished from deontic authority according to which certain behavior is defined as obligatory or permitted and this qualification is binding on the addressee of the argument (Araszkiewicz and Koszowy 2016, pp. 16–17).


  1. Araszkiewicz M, Koszowy M (2016) Deontic authority in legal argumentation: a case study. In: Mohammed D, Lewiński M (eds) Argumentation and reasoned action: proceedings of the 1st European conference on argumentation, Lisbon 2015, vol 1. College Publications, London, pp 1–19

  2. Atkinson K, Bench-Capon T, McBurney P (2006) Computational representation of practical argument. Synthese 152:191–240. doi:10.1007/s11229-005-3488-2

    MathSciNet  Article  MATH  Google Scholar 

  3. Bjerring JC, Hansen JU, Pedersen NJLL (2014) On the rationality of pluralistic ignorance. Synthese 191(11):2445–2470

    MathSciNet  Article  MATH  Google Scholar 

  4. Bocheński JM (1974) An analysis of authority. In: Adelman FJ (ed) Authority. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, pp 58–65

    Google Scholar 

  5. Budzynska K (2013) Circularity in ethotic structures. Synthese 190(15):3185–3207. doi:10.1007/s11229-012-0135-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Budzynska K, Reed C (2011) Whence inference? University of Dundee Technical Report

  7. Caplan PJ (1984) You’re smarter than they make you feel: how the experts intimidate us and what we can do about it. Free Press, Glencoe

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cooke E (2006) Peirce’s pragmatic theory of inquiry: Fallibilism and indeterminacy. Continuum, London

    Google Scholar 

  9. De George RT (1985) The nature and limits of authority. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence

    Google Scholar 

  10. Freedman DH (2010) Wrong: why experts keep failing us—and how to know when not to trust them. Little Brown and Company, New York

    Google Scholar 

  11. Goodwin J (1998) Forms of authority and the real ad verecundiam. Argumentation 12:267–280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gordon TF (2010) The Carneades argumentation support system. In: Reed C, Tindale CW (eds) Dialectics, dialogue and argumentation. College Publications, London, pp 145–156

    Google Scholar 

  13. Gordon TF, Walton D (2009) Proof Burdens and Standards. In: Rahwan I, Simari G (eds) Argumentation and artificial intelligence. Springer, Berlin, pp 239–260

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  14. Gordon TF, Prakken H, Walton D (2007) The Carneades model of argument and burden of proof. Artif Intell 171(10–15):875–896

    MathSciNet  Article  MATH  Google Scholar 

  15. Heritage J, Raymond G (2005) The terms of agreement: indexing epistemic authority and subordination in talk-ininteraction. Soc Psychol Q 68:15–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Janier M, Lawrence J, Reed C (2014) OVA + : an argument analysis interface. In: Parsons S, Oren N, Reed C, Cerutti F (eds) Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Computational Models of Argument (COMMA 2014). IOS Press, Pitlochry, pp 463–464

  17. Keren A (2014) Trust and belief: a preemptive reasons account. Synthese 191(12):2593–2615

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Macagno F (2015) A means-end classification of argumentation schemes. In: van Eemeren FH, Garssen B (eds) Reflections on theoretical issues in argumentation theory. Springer, Berlin, pp 183–201

    Google Scholar 

  19. Milgram S (1974) Obedience to authority. Harper & Row, New York

    Google Scholar 

  20. O’Shea K, Bandar Z, Crockett K (2008) A novel approach for constructing conversational agents using sentence similarity measures. In: World Congress on Engineering, International Conference on Data Mining and Knowledge Engineering, London, pp 321–326

  21. O’Shea K, Bandar Z, Crockett K (2009) A semantic- based conversational agent framework. In: The 4th International Conference for Internet Technology and Secured Transactions (ICITST-2009), Technical Co-Sponsored by IEEE UK/RI Communications Chapter, London, pp 92–99

  22. Pollock JL (1995) Cognitive carpentry. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  23. Popper K (1972) Objective knowledge: an evolutionary approach. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  24. Prakken H (2011) An overview of formal models of argumentation and their application in philosophy. Stud Logic 4(1):65–86

    Google Scholar 

  25. Raz J (1979) The authority of law. Clarendon Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  26. Searle JR (2005) What is an institution? J Inst Econ 1:1–22

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Stevanovic M, Peräkylä A (2012) Deontic authority in interaction: the right to announce, propose, and decide. Res Lang Soc Interact 45(3):297–321

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Van Eemeren FH (2010) Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse. Benjamins, Amsterdam

    Book  Google Scholar 

  29. Van Eemeren FH, Grootendorst R (2004) A systematic theory of argumentation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  30. Veerbek B (2007) The authority of norms. Am Philos Q 44:245–258

    Google Scholar 

  31. Wagemans J (2011) On the assessment of argumentation from expert opinion. Argumentation 25:329–339

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Waller BN (1988) Critical thinking: consider the verdict. Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall

    Google Scholar 

  33. Walton D (1997) Appeal to expert opinion. Penn State Press, University Park

    Google Scholar 

  34. Walton D (2014a) Burden of proof, presumption and argumentation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Book  Google Scholar 

  35. Walton D (2014b) On a razor’s edge: evaluating arguments from expert opinion. Argum Comput 5(2–3):139–159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Walton D (2016) Argument evaluation and evidence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Book  Google Scholar 

  37. Walton D, Koszowy M (2015) Two kinds of arguments from authority in the ad verecundiam fallacy. In: Garssen BJ, Godden D, Mitchell G, Snoeck Henkemans AF (eds) Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp 1483–1492

  38. Walton D, Reed C, Macagno F (2008) Argumentation schemes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Book  MATH  Google Scholar 

  39. Weber M (1958) The three types of legitimate rule. In: Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions (trans: Gerth H), vol 4, no. 1. pp 1–11

  40. Wilson P (1983) Secondhand knowledge: an inquiry into cognitive authority. Greenwood Press, Westport

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Douglas Walton.

Additional information

An erratum to this article is available at

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Walton, D., Koszowy, M. Arguments from authority and expert opinion in computational argumentation systems. AI & Soc 32, 483–496 (2017).

Download citation


  • Deontic authority
  • Fallacious argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundiam)
  • Argument from expert opinion
  • Defeasible argumentation