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Toulmin’s Model of Argumentation

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Handbook of Argumentation Theory


In this chapter, Toulmin’s contribution to argumentation theory is discussed. Toulmin presents in his model of argumentation a novel approach to analyzing the way in which claims can be justified in response to challenges. The model replaces the old concepts of “premise” and “conclusion” with the new concepts of “claim,” “data,” “warrant,” “modal qualifier,” “rebuttal,” and “backing.” Because of the impact Toulmin’s ideas about logic and everyday reasoning have had, he can be regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern argumentation theory.

In Sect. 4.2, the study The Uses of Argument, in which Toulmin expounded his views and explained his model, is introduced. Sect. 4.3 concentrates on the geometrical model of validity that is, according to Toulmin, at the heart of the misunderstandings about formal logic he wants to terminate. The distinction he makes in this endeavor between analytic and substantial arguments is treated in Sect. 4.4. In Sect. 4.5, the difference between field-invariant and field-dependent aspects of argumentative discourse is explained, which is vital to the alternative to the formal approach to analytic arguments offered by Toulmin. In Sect. 4.6 the forms arguments take and their validity are discussed, which leads to the presentation of Toulmin’s new model of argumentation in Sect. 4.7. Sect. 4.8 focuses on appropriations of the Toulmin model by argumentation theorists from different backgrounds. Sect. 4.9 discusses various applications of the model. In Sect. 4.10, the chapter is concluded with a critical appreciation of Toulmin’s contribution to argumentation theory.

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  1. 1.

    Although the model does not appear in Toulmin’s later philosophical works, it can also be found in An Introduction to Reasoning, a practical textbook Toulmin published together with Richard Rieke and Allan Janik (1979). For the convenience of the reader, we shall refer in this chapter to the “updated edition” of The Uses of Argument published in 2003, which is readily accessible. The text of the book is unaltered since 1958, apart from the inclusion of a third (one-page) preface and a new (improved) index in the 2003 edition. It is important to notice that the 2003 edition has a new pagination.

  2. 2.

    In discussing Toulmin’s ideas we shall, like Toulmin, use the term argument, except when he speaks of the (central) use of argument to support a claim, as happens in the model, and then we use, in line with what we explained in Sect. 1.1, the term argumentation.

  3. 3.

    In describing Toulmin’s model we use his terminology. In the textbook he coauthored with Rieke and Janik, Toulmin later replaced the term data with the term ground (Toulmin et al. 1979).

  4. 4.

    Peter Alexander, a colleague at Leeds, called it “Toulmin’s anti-logic book.” Much later, Toulmin’s Doktorvater at Cambridge, Richard Braithwaite, proved to be “deeply pained to see one of his own students attacking his commitment to Inductive Logic” (Toulmin 2003, p. viii).

  5. 5.

    According to the preface to the 1964 paperback edition of The Uses of Argument, Toulmin’s target is “mathematical logic and much of twentieth-century epistemology” (p. viii).

  6. 6.

    In discussing the evaluation of arguments, Toulmin (2003) makes use of the words “soundness,” “validity,” “cogency,” and “strength,” without explaining the precise difference between them. This gives the impression that he uses them interchangeably.

  7. 7.

    In Human Understanding, Toulmin (1972) refers to what he considers to be the main issues discussed in The Uses of Argument.

  8. 8.

    Wherever Toulmin refers to formal validity, he also uses this phrase. When he uses the word “valid” without this qualifier “formally,” he usually seems to be using it in the imprecise way it is ordinarily used in everyday language. Under the influence of ordinary language philosophy, he probably does so deliberately.

  9. 9.

    Toulmin allows for the view that formal criteria apply to mathematical arguments (2003, p. 118).

  10. 10.

    Such a radical reorientation would for Toulmin amount to going back to the Aristotelian roots of logic. He refers several times to the first sentence of the Prior analytics, where Aristotle expresses the double aim of logic: logic is concerned with apodeixis (i.e., with the way in which conclusions are to be established), and it is also the formal, deductive, and preferably axiomatic science (episteme) of their establishment (Toulmin 2003, pp. 2, 163, 173). However, according to David Hitchcock (personal communication), Toulmin misinterprets the first sentence of Aristotle’s Prior analytics. In the first place, the sentence introduces the Analytics as a whole, not just the Prior analytics, and the explanation of what apodeixis and epistêmê apodeiktikê are does in fact not come until the Posterior analytics. The Analytics as a whole is not a treatise about logic but about deductive science. The logic of the Prior analytics is the underpinning for the scientific proofs (demonstrations) discussed in the Posterior analytics. The opening sentence therefore does not describe the subject matter of logic but the subject matter of the philosophy of the deductive sciences. In the second place, epistêmê apodeiktikê is not the science of proof (demonstration), but the understanding (knowledge, scientific knowledge) that consists in the ability to prove (demonstrate) something.

  11. 11.

    In elaborating on this concept in Knowing and Acting, Toulmin (1976) compares the “geometrical” view (or model) of rationality with the “anthropological” and the “critical” view of rationality (or reasonableness) (see Sect. 1.2 of this volume for these three conceptions). Toulmin traces the high status of the geometrical model back to Plato, who took, according to him, axiomatized geometry, with theorems deduced formally from supposedly self-evident and unchallengeable axioms, as a model of knowledge (Toulmin 1976, pp. 70–71).

  12. 12.

    To keep it simple, we use commonly accepted premises which are supposed to be self-evident (which they are not really). A fully correct example is the following argument from number theory: x + 0 = x; x + sy = s(x + y); hence s0 + s0. Here “s” abbreviates “the successor of” and “x” and “y” are variables. The conclusion states that 1 + 1 = 2.

  13. 13.

    In The Uses of Argument, Toulmin refers to the logic of the syllogism when discussing the formal approach, but in his Preface to the updated edition of 2003, he adds that his criticisms were also directed at “a rigidly demonstrative deduction of the kind to be found in Euclidean geometry” (p. vii).

  14. 14.

    In his exposé Toulmin took the validity of the argument form in the example, the Barbara syllogism, to be self-evident. See Sect. 2.6 of this volume.

  15. 15.

    In fact, the diagram contains more information than the premises, since it exhibits the claim that A is a proper subset of B and B is a proper subset of C. We know that this is true in certain cases, but not in others.

  16. 16.

    To be more precise, the premises state that the set represented by the A circle is a subset of the set represented by the B circle and that the set represented by the B circle is a subset of the set represented by the C circle.

  17. 17.

    Because of the possibility of overlapping, you need in fact four different Euler diagrams to accommodate the four different possibilities, and in one of the four diagrams of the premises, the circle for the minor term is coextensive with the circle for the major term.

  18. 18.

    As Hamby (2012) makes clear, it is very difficult to make sense of the various ways in which Toulmin characterizes the distinction between analytic and substantial arguments.

  19. 19.

    Toulmin does not use the term contained; he speaks (in a similar vein) of an analytic argument “if and only if the backing for the warrant authorising it includes, explicitly or implicitly, the information conveyed in the conclusion itself” (2003, p. 116). Unlike we do here, Toulmin does not use the term premise, but speaks of data, warrant, and backing. We shall introduce and explain these terms in Sect. 4.6 when preparing the introduction of the Toulmin model.

  20. 20.

    David Hitchcock (personal communication) notices an inconsistency in this exposé. If substantial arguments often involve type-jumps, then some substantial arguments do not involve type-jumps. According to Hitchcock, a type-jump from the premises to the conclusion cannot be the reason why the premises do not entail the conclusion. An argument is substantial when there is a type-jump, but it can also be substantial when there is no type-jump.

  21. 21.

    To be more precise, according to Toulmin, the conclusions of some substantial arguments are necessitated by the data, but not in the sense of being logically necessitated (2003, pp. 18–20).

  22. 22.

    This does not mean that Toulmin thinks that analytic arguments are always formally valid and substantial arguments always formally invalid: “An argument in an[y] field whatever may be expressed in a formally valid manner, provided that the warrant is formulated explicitly as a warrant and authorises precisely the sort of inference in question […]. On the other hand, an argument may be analytic, and yet not be expressed in a formally valid way: this is the case, for instance, when an analytic argument is written out with the backing of the warrant cited in place of the warrant itself” (2003, p. 125).

  23. 23.

    Argumentation that is conducted in accordance with a proper procedure and agrees with the pertinent soundness conditions can be viewed as “formally” valid in a procedural sense. See Sect. 6.1 of this volume for “formal” in the procedural (regulative) sense (formal 3 ).

  24. 24.

    Toulmin extends his field-dependence thesis beyond the field of science to fields like morals and aesthetics.

  25. 25.

    Notice that Toulmin thinks that even in mathematics standards have evolved (Toulmin 2006).

  26. 26.

    In a similar way as we discussed when defining argumentation in Sect. 1.1 of this volume, Toulmin seems to construe the arguments he is interested in as (dialectical) verbal products resulting from a (dialectical) process of argumentative discourse.

  27. 27.

    Ausín (2006) argues that in this respect Toulmin’s approach resembles that of Leibniz, who also turned to jurisprudence as a model for reasoning. Also in other respects Toulmin’s conception of rationality is not as irreconcilable with that of Leibniz as Toulmin himself suggests. Leibniz distinguishes between contingent and necessary truths. Because the logical calculus does not apply to the first, the weighing argumentative method should be used instead. When trying to rationally justify contingent statements, Toulmin and Leibniz both share the view that rationality must be open to differences, pluralism, and controversy.

  28. 28.

    It is probable that Toulmin used the concept of “logical type” as it was in introduced by Ryle in 1949: “The logical type or category to which a concept belongs is the set of ways in which it is logically legitimate to operate with it” (Ryle 1976, p. 10). The book in which Ryle used this concept had been highly influential, so Toulmin may have regarded the concept as so familiar that he did not think it necessary to give a definition.

  29. 29.

    Toulmin also speaks of the “moral” of a modal term, as in “the moral of a fable.”

  30. 30.

    Some of the implications Toulmin attaches to this observation relate to semantic and philosophical questions that are not directly relevant here. They pertain to the development of an adequate semantic theory for modal words and to the vigorous philosophical controversy about probability in the 1960s. In that controversy, Toulmin opposed the views on probability put forward by Carnap (1950) and Kneale (1949).

  31. 31.

    For the influence of the legal philosopher H. L. A. Hart on Toulmin’s views of defeasibility and the need for rebuttals, see Sect. 11.3 of this volume.

  32. 32.

    A qualifier need not always weaken the claim. As Toulmin says “Some warrants authorise us to accept a claim unequivocally, given the appropriate data – these warrants entitle us in suitable cases to qualify our conclusion with the adverb ‘necessarily’” (2003, p. 93).

  33. 33.

    In Goodnight (1993) it is argued that the situation can be even more complex, because it may happen that the selection of backing to the warrant itself stands in need of justification. His legitimation inferences however do not justify the step from the backing to the warrant, but the selection of backing for the warrant (see Goodnight 2006).

  34. 34.

    It is the “D, W/B, so C” pattern that Toulmin contrasts with the analysis in Aristotelian categorical syllogistic of arguments as fitting a “Minor premise; major premise; so conclusion” pattern. See Sect. 2.6 of this volume.

  35. 35.

    According to Trent (1968), Toulmin does not claim completeness for his model, only adequacy for the purposes of the discussion.

  36. 36.

    With regard to the use of modal terms in qualifiers, Ennis (2006) presents and defends a delimited version in terms of speech acts of Toulmin’s contextual definition of the qualifier “probably.” With Toulmin, Ennis maintains “When I say ‘S is probably P’, I commit myself guardedly, tentatively or with reservations to the view that S is P, and (likewise guardedly) lend my authority to that view” (p. 163). In Ennis’s view the qualifier “probably” allows one to guardedly commit to a statement. Any attempt to reduce this qualifier to a numeric value (i.e., formalization) will not do justice to actual use, for it will never grasp the true implications of a tentative commitment. Ennis stresses the need to focus on real arguments, not artificial ones.

  37. 37.

    For the purpose of illustration, it is assumed (falsely) that the two conditions mentioned in the Harry example constitute a complete list.

  38. 38.

    Schellens (1979) observes that, in this case, R no longer functions as a condition of rebuttal. Instead, there are three data: “Harry was born in Bermuda,” “Neither of his parents were aliens,” and “He has not become a naturalized American” and a complex warrant “A man born in Bermuda will generally be a British subject unless his parents are aliens or he has become a naturalized American.” If the counter-rebuttals are to be treated as data, then the warrant would be “Given that a person was born in Bermuda, has at least one parent that was not an alien, and has not become a naturalized American, then you may take it that the person must be a British subject.”

  39. 39.

    It should be noted that Toulmin realizes that the validity of the “Data; warrant; so conclusion” argument is a consequence of the applicability and adequacy of the warrant rather than its formal properties (2003, p. 111).

  40. 40.

    Toulmin’s view that validity is ultimately field-dependent implies that in principle every argument field may claim rationality for the arguments being used in that field. The only condition Toulmin requires is that in the field concerned the warrant must be accepted as authoritative.

  41. 41.

    See Sect. 2.6 of this volume for a discussion of Aristotle’s syllogistic.

  42. 42.

    In personal communication Hitchcock emphasized that this is an incorrect and inadequate account of formal validity as contemporary logicians conceive of it. First, not all arguments whose conclusions can be obtained by shuffling the parts of their premises are formally valid: “No horses are humans; all humans are animals; therefore, no horses are animals.” Second, not all formally valid arguments have conclusions that can be obtained by shuffling the parts of their premises: “You have credit for three one-semester courses in philosophy; therefore, you have met the prerequisite for this course of either being registered in a program in philosophy or having credit for at least two one-semester courses in philosophy.” On page 113 Toulmin (2003) expresses a much better conception of formal validity: “to state all the data and backing and yet to deny the conclusion would land one in a positive inconsistency or contradiction.”

  43. 43.

    Toulmin is probably not using the word “tautology” here in the logician’s sense, derived from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, of a statement that is true regardless of how the world is, but in the older sense, common in literary criticism, of a discourse in which a point is repeated.

  44. 44.

    According to Hitchcock (personal communication), this claim is false. It is sometimes not at all obvious that information contained in the premises of a formally valid argument includes the information in the conclusion. For example, it took Bertrand Russell’s letter to Gottlob Frege in 1902 to show that the Basic Law V in his Grundgesetze (published in 1893) contained a contradiction. In fact, according to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem (whose proof was published in 1931), any consistent axiomatization of arithmetic has information in the axioms that cannot be gotten out of them by the rules of inference in the underlying logic. In Hitchcock’s view, Toulmin’s skepticism regarding the power of formally valid reasoning is certainly not justified. Mathematical proofs sometimes have surprising conclusions, yet are analytic in any defensible sense of that concept.

  45. 45.

    In personal communication Hitchcock explained that Toulmin’s skepticism about analytic arguments is not justified. Mathematical proofs sometimes have surprising conclusions, yet are analytic in any defensible sense of that concept. Examples are the proofs that the diagonal of a square is incommensurable with its side, that the square root of 2 is irrational, that no consistent axiomatization of arithmetic is complete, that there is no mechanical decision procedure for the logic of the quantifiers “all” and “some,” that there are only five regular solids (Toulmin 1976, p. 67; cf. Aberdein 2006, pp. 332–334), and so on. Given Toulmin’s first degree in mathematics and physics, Hitchcock finds his blindness to the power of formally valid reasoning hard to understand.

  46. 46.

    Loui (2006), who emphasized the influence that Toulmin’s ideas have had, reports that The Uses of Argument is Toulmin’s most cited work and that citations in the leading journals in the social sciences, humanities, and science and technology put Toulmin among philosophers of science and philosophical logicians in the top 10 of the twentieth century.

  47. 47.

    In citing the influences that have led to the rise of informal logic, Johnson and Blair (1980) explicitly mention the Toulmin model.

  48. 48.

    As is explained in Sect. 7.2 of this volume, Toulmin’s radical critique, and the new perspective on argumentation he provided, has been an inspiration to explore this territory with other models and instruments than those supplied by formal logic.

  49. 49.

    A recent interest in the Toulmin model was instigated by David Hitchcock, who dedicated an OSSA Conference he organized at McMaster University in May 2005 partly to the Toulmin model. Rather than concentrating on a critical evaluation of the Toulmin model, the papers focused on providing interpretations of elements of the model that are not sufficiently clear, revaluing elements that deserve more attention, and proposing necessary additions (see Hitchcock and Verheij 2006).

  50. 50.

    According to Hitchcock (2003), “Toulmin equivocates on whether a warrant is a statement or a rule, often within the space of two pages” (p. 70). Hitchcock believes this equivocation to be harmless since a warrant-statement is the verbal expression of a warrant-rule.

  51. 51.

    In making this comparison it should be noted that if the warrant is viewed as a bridging premise (different from Hitchcock’s interpretation), it is only a part of the argument scheme. This does not mean, of course, that warrants cannot be used to categorize argument schemes. As far as Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s notion of argument scheme is concerned, it should be noted that this notion is rather loose. Some of the associative argumentative schemes they distinguish do not seem to represent a general rule. See Sect. 1.3 of this volume for the notion of argument schemes.

  52. 52.

    This is, by the way, certainly not the position advocates of identifying implicit premises, such as the pragma-dialecticians, generally take. See, for instance, Sect. 10.5 of this volume.

  53. 53.

    For Pinto’s contribution to argumentation theory, see also Sect. 7.6 of this volume.

  54. 54.

    According to Pinto, an argument (or inference) is valid only if it is entitlement-preserving.

  55. 55.

    By elaborating a suitable concept of reliability, Pinto tries to capture what gives warrants their normative force.

  56. 56.

    For Bermejo-Luque’s contribution to argumentation theory, see also Sect. 12.13 of this volume.

  57. 57.

    The term pragmatic force used by Bermejo-Luque corresponds, roughly, with the degree of strength of the illocutionary point as defined by Searle. Inference claims are assertives, but they may have different degrees and types of strength.

  58. 58.

    In Bermejo-Luque’s view, bridging the gap between reason and conclusion by justifying the inference by means of a warrant, as Hitchcock and Pinto envisage, leads to an infinite regress. She attempts to avoid the regress by pointing out that backings justify inferences.

  59. 59.

    Contrary to the argumentation scholars from the American communication community who build on Toulmin’s ideas concerning field-dependency, several philosophers from the informal logic community firmly reject them (e.g., Freeman, Hitchcock, Johnson, and Pinto).

  60. 60.

    Their contributions to argumentation theory are further discussed in Sect. 8.6 of this volume.

  61. 61.

    Hastings’s classification, however, is used as a point of departure by other scholars, such as Kienpointner (see Sect. 12.7 of this volume) and Schellens (see Sect. 12.8 of this volume), in their theorizing.

  62. 62.

    Ehninger and Brockriede (1963) use the terms evidence and reservation instead of the terms data and condition of exception or rebuttal.

  63. 63.

    Kock (2006) argues that the typology of warrants concerning practical claims that stems from Brockriede and Ehninger is insufficient for pedagogical applications. In his essay “Multiple warrants in practical reasoning,” he maintains that the singleton set of the “motivational” warrant should be extended and refined. The resources for the extension and refinement, he holds, can be found in the ancient rhetorical handbook Rhetorica ad Alexandrum . On the basis of this handbook, Kock arrives at a taxonomy of warrants “invoked in arguing about actions” (p. 254). When it comes to actions in general, the warrants can be based on the following categories: (1) just (dikaia), (2) lawful (nomina), (3) expedient (sympheronta), (4) honorable (kala), (5) pleasant (hēdea), and (6) easy of accomplishment (rhaidia). For more difficult actions the warrants may be based on the following two categories: (1) practicable (dynata), and (2) necessary (anankaia) (p. 255).

  64. 64.

    Brockriede and Ehninger’s definition of substantive, motivational, and authoritative argumentation is slightly different from the classical tripartition into logos, pathos, and ethos discussed in Chap. 2, “Classical Backgrounds” of this volume. This is particularly true of authoritative argumentation, classical rhetoric being exclusively concerned with the speaker’s reliability and good character. It might be useful to add that in his Rhetoric Aristotle considers only logos as a means of persuasion by argument, while pathos and ethos are non-argumentative means (see Sect. 12.8 of this volume).

  65. 65.

    A rhetorical epicheireme resembles Brockriede and Ehninger’s authoritative argumentation, which is a rhetorical means of persuasion based on ethos.

  66. 66.

    In this way Toulmin counters the skepticism in British analytic philosophy of the 1960s about general claims, psychological claims, and moral claims. This part of the Toulmin case stands even if one rejects the claim that warrants can neatly be assigned to fields that can be identified with academic disciplines.

  67. 67.

    Also outside the United States the model is used in several textbooks, for example, in Schellens and Verhoeven (1988) (see Sect. 12.8).

  68. 68.

    In their textbook, Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik (1979) use the term grounds instead of data, clarify the concept of a warrant, and include five chapters on argument in specific fields (law, science, the arts, management, ethics) in which they exemplify Toulmin’s (1992) point that it is not just the warrants and backings that vary from field to field.

  69. 69.

    It is noteworthy that, unlike other authors before them, Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik (1979) do not present a general taxonomy of warrants or argument schemes.

  70. 70.

    In various reviews of The Uses of Argument, it is rightly assumed that Toulmin regards his model as generally applicable. Cowan, for one, writes: “This pattern has, according to Toulmin, the necessary scope to encompass all arguments” (1964, p. 29).

  71. 71.

    This part of Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik (1979) underlies Toulmin’s remark quoted in Sect. 4.7 from his keynote speech at the 1990 ISSA conference about how he would expand his description of the field-dependence of argumentation if he were to write The Uses of Argument again.

  72. 72.

    Like Ehninger and Brockriede (1963), Crable (1976) uses the terms evidence and reservation to refer to the data and the rebuttal.

  73. 73.

    This may be no surprise, since Crable (1976) refers to Toulmin as his “most profound influence” and “a source of challenge and insight” (p. vi).

  74. 74.

    Prakken (2006) argues that, in its frequent use of an argument scheme approach, the field of artificial intelligence and law (AI & Law) has taken to heart some of the lessons of The Uses of Argument. It is also recognized that premises can play different roles (analogous to those of Toulmin’s data and counter-rebuttal) and that arguments are defeasible. The field-related treatment of argument schemes confirms Toulmin’s idea that the criteria for evaluating arguments differ from field to field. Prakken maintains that AI & Law has developed an account of the validity of reasoning that applies to every argument and is nevertheless formal and computational.

  75. 75.

    According to Tans (2006), a warrant should be understood as an abstraction from the data, which gets refined dynamically by discursive testing of its authority. Tans supports his view by using examples from legal practice – i.e., within the context of the Supreme Court in the United States – and captures an alternative diagram of the Toulmin model in his exposé.

  76. 76.

    See Abelson (1960–1961), Bird (1959), Castaneda (1960), Collins (1959), Cooley (1959), Cowan (1964), Hardin (1959), King-Farlow (1973), Körner (1959), Mason (1961), O’Connor (1959), Sikora (1959), and Will (1960). Less hostile but sometimes also critical were the reactions when the German translation of The Uses of Argument was published in 1975: Huth (1975), Schwitalla (1976), Metzing (1976), Schmidt (1977), Göttert (1978), Berk (1979), Öhlschläger (1979), and Kopperschmidt (1980).

  77. 77.

    More recent and generally more positive reviews of the Toulmin model are Hample (1977b), Burleson (1979), Reinard (1984), and Healy (1987).

  78. 78.

    See Sect. 12.7 for a short overview of Kienpointner’s views.

  79. 79.

    Hitchcock notes (personal communication) that Toulmin (2006) later mistakenly claimed that Bird described The Uses of Argument in his review as “a rediscovery of Aristotle’s Topics” (p. 26).

  80. 80.

    According to Hitchcock (personal communication), Bird’s analysis is suspect, since the topical difference of medieval logic does not provide justification of the topical maxim (which is a rule of inference, rather like Toulmin’s warrant) but rather a specification of it.

  81. 81.

    Cf. for other criticisms of Toulmin’s treatment of fields of argument Habermas (1981), who opted as a consequence for a different approach.

  82. 82.

    In The Uses of Argument, Toulmin assumes that the main function of an argument is to justify a conclusion. According to Cowan (1964, pp. 32, 43), its function is to supply a lucid organization of the material. Only in analytic arguments this objective is realized to the maximum. Cowan thinks that Toulmin’s substantial arguments can easily be made analytic by making one or more unexpressed premises explicit. The kind of “reconstructive deductivism” promoted by Cowan is criticized by informal logicians. For a discussion of these criticisms and a defense of deductivism, see Groarke (1992).

  83. 83.

    In spite of the fact that Toulmin is discussing the possibility of explaining validity in terms of formal properties in a geometrical sense, it might be the case however that, here too, he uses the term valid(ity) in its ordinary common speech meaning of being good, comparable to its use in phrases like “valid passport” and “valid point.”

  84. 84.

    By the way, unlike what Toulmin suggests, argument 1-2a-3 is in this form not formally valid in, say, standard syllogistic logic, propositional logic, or predicate logic. The same is true for the argument (1) “Petersen is a Swede” (2a) “A Swede is almost certainly not a Roman Catholic” so (3) “Petersen is almost certainly not a Roman Catholic.” This argument does in fact not even become formally valid if the warrant (2a) is interpreted as a major premise: (2) “Almost no Swedes are Roman Catholics.”

  85. 85.

    If an argument is to be formally valid, this can only be the case if and only if its conclusion can be obtained by the premises by a mere shuffling of terms, as Toulmin thinks formal validity to be defined. A condition for formal validity on the warrant would then be that it includes any term in the conclusion that is not in the data; it need not, and generally does not, include any term in the conclusion that is not in the data. According to Hitchcock (personal communication), the warrant is a license to infer from the sort of things said in the data about whatever is common to data and conclusion that which is said in the conclusion.

  86. 86.

    It is not exactly Toulmin’s position that only experts in a particular field are competent evaluators, but it may be true that in problematic cases the experts in a field are indeed the ultimate authority on what warrants are acceptable in that field. Going by Toulmin (2006), he seems to recognize this.

  87. 87.

    In response to the claim that, in practice, it is often difficult to establish which statements are the data and which statement is the warrant, Hitchcock (2003) reports having analyzed 50 samples he extracted randomly. For 49 arguments, he had no difficulty in singling out an applicable “inference-licensing covering generalization.”

  88. 88.

    For similar and other objections to the distinction between data and warrants, see Schellens (1979), Johnson (1980), and Freeman (1991, pp. 49–90).

  89. 89.

    In spite of the fact that – according to Hitchcock – van Eemeren and Grootendorst’s example is unrealistic, it still poses a problem for the Toulmin model. Hitchcock thinks that this problem can be solved by pointing to the fact that “a first-order particular statement is logically equivalent to a second-order universal generalization, and thus can function as a general rule of inference” (personal communication).

  90. 90.

    Another option than issuing this singular statement would be, for instance, to point out that Harry was not born in Bermuda but enjoys for some other reason the same status.

  91. 91.

    Toulmin states that warrants are general, rule-like statements (p. 91), which is a problem here. He does not explicitly require the specific information provided in data to be confined to particular statements. Both Toulmin (2003) and Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik (1979) focus on examples in which the data (or grounds) are singular statements about a particular individual. The textbook even says explicitly that the demand for grounds is a demand for specific features of a specific situation rather than for general considerations (Toulmin et al. 1979, p. 33). Nevertheless Toulmin allows for a universal statement like “All club-footed men have difficulty in walking” to be construed as a factual report of our observations that can function as a datum (Toulmin 2003, p. 106).

  92. 92.

    According to Hitchcock (personal communication), the warrant is “If a man born in Bermuda is a British subject, then Harry is a British subject” or “Given that a man born in Bermuda is a British subject, we may take it that Harry is a British subject.” In statement form the rule of inference involved would go as follows: “Harry has whatever status belongs to a man born in Bermuda.” Hitchcock notes that this statement follows logically from the statement that Harry was born in Bermuda. It need not be logically equivalent to it.

  93. 93.

    Initially the model was not so much used for the purpose of evaluation, Hastings (1962) being an early exception. Later others joined in. See Sect. 4.8.

  94. 94.

    For a survey of practical problems confronted in applying the Toulmin model to the analysis of argumentative texts, see Schellens (1979), who also offers some solutions.

  95. 95.

    For “complex” argumentation as distinguished from “single” argumentation, see Sect. 1.3 of this volume.

  96. 96.

    If a “micro-argument” is indeed equivalent with “single” argumentation, which is probably not what Toulmin had in mind, he claims that his way of laying out micro-arguments makes apparent the sources of their validity, i.e., the extent to which the arguments justify their conclusions, which may involve more than single argumentation.

  97. 97.

    For the notion of “subordinatively compound” argumentation, see Sect. 1.3 of this volume.

  98. 98.

    For further discussion of Freeman’s contribution to argumentation theory, see Sect. 7.7 of this volume.


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van Eemeren, F.H., Garssen, B., Krabbe, E.C.W., Snoeck Henkemans, A.F., Verheij, B., Wagemans, J.H.M. (2014). Toulmin’s Model of Argumentation. In: Handbook of Argumentation Theory. Springer, Dordrecht.

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