Reconstructing Argumentative Discourse



 Reconstructing Argumentative Discourse analyzes argumentation in ordinary disputes. The analysis begins with an ideal model: a theoretical structure of discourse that might be used to resolve a dispute about the merits of two opposing cases. The ideal model does not describe actual argumentative practice. Argumentative discourse does not always seek genuine resolution and, when it does, the...

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 Reconstructing Argumentative Discourse analyzes argumentation in ordinary disputes. The analysis begins with an ideal model: a theoretical structure of discourse that might be used to resolve a dispute about the merits of two opposing cases. The ideal model does not describe actual argumentative practice. Argumentative discourse does not always seek genuine resolution and, when it does, the participants may not perform as ideal arguers.

A central challenge for argumentation theory is to give an account of argumentation occurring under less-than-ideal conditions and conducted by less-than-ideal participants. The authors offer detailed analysis of argument in such contexts as ordinary conversation, third party dispute mediation, and religious confrontation. An adequate analytic approach to such forms of discourse, the authors argue, must offer critical insight into actual practice; must begin with a defensible normative standard against which practice can be compared; and must also offer an applicable analytic machinery for making the comparison, so its methods can be tailored to empirical circumstances.
The authors position their study of argumentation within a general “normative pragmatics” characterized by a dual commitment to usefulness and adequacy in description. A distinctive set of practical applications and a distinctive view of practicality follow from this approach, characterized not by the search for generalizable means-end relationships but by the development and testing of plans for making real argumentation look as much as possible like ideal argumentation.
This book integrates for the first time the normative interest of dialectical theories of argumentation with the descriptive interests of the empirical study of everyday language use. This ambitious project is achieved by adopting a distinctively social and pragmatic view of argumentation—by seeing argumentation as a language activity structured for the function of resolving disagreements. The authors examine argumentation in a wide variety of contexts—including everyday conversation, campus evangelism, political speeches, newspaper letters to the editor, and the formal mediation of disputes. In doing so, they illustrate how to analyze the details of actual argumentation and tackle a variety of theoretical and methodological puzzles encountered in the effort to apply normative models to real life argumentation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The book, … a fruitful collaboration between leading scholars in the field, advances a comprehensive and timely program for sutdies of argumentation …. By reason of its scope and the power of its own argumentation, Reconstructiong Argumentatvie Discourse ought to be recognized as occupying a commanding position among studies of argumentation."


“A pioneering work.... The authors show that there is much to be gained from reconciling descriptive and normative approaches to the study of argumentation.” –Joseph W. Wenzel, University of Illinois-Urbana

Communications scholars from the University of Amsterdam and of Arizona analyze argumentation in ordinary disputes. They present an ideal model, and show how it works in an ideal situation, such as a dispute about the merits of two opposing cases. Then they start looking at the real world: ordinary conversation, third- party mediation, religious confrontations, cases in which at least one of the participants is not looking for resolution, and so on. Accessible to nonspecialists. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817312299
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 6/12/2002
  • Series: Studies in Rhetoric and Communication Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Frans H. van Eemeren is Professor of Discourse and Argumentation Studies and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Amsterdam. Rob Grootendorst is Associate Professor of Discourse and Argumentation Studies and Chair of the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Amsterdam. Sally Jackson and Scott Jacobs are Associate Professors of Communication at the University of Arizona.

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Table of Contents

1 Reconciling Descriptive and Normative Insights 1
Speech Act Rules
Interactional Principles of Cooperation and Alignment
Four Core Commitments in the Study of Argumentation
Speech Acts and the Four Core Commitments
2 A Starting Point for Normative Description 20
Five Components of the Study of Argumentation
An Ideal Model of Argumentative Discourse
Higher-Order Conditions
Ideal Model and Actual Practice
3 Principles and Procedures for Normative Reconstruction 37
Normative Reconstruction
Interpretive Problems in Reconstruction
Approaches to Analysis and Reconstruction
4 Dialectical Reconstruction 60
Reconstruction Transformations
An Extended Example
The Analytic Overview
5 The Pragmatic Organization of Conversational Argument 91
Normative and Naive Reconstruction
Virtual Standpoints and Disagreement Space
Hierarchical Organization of Standpoints
Felicity Conditions and "Issue Structure" in Argumentation
Case Study: Responses to an Editorial Opinion
6 Mediation as Critical Discussion 117
Third Party Dispute Mediation
Engineering Solutions in Discourse
7 Failures in Higher Order Conditions in the Organization of Witnessing and Heckling Episodes 142
Fields of Argumentation
Witnessing and Heckling
Standpoints and Perspectives
Reflexive Structuring of Confrontation
8 Directions for Elaboration of the Model 170
Implications for Philosophical Concepts of Reasonableness
Implications for Normative Models
Implications for Analytic Methods
Implications for Empirical Description
Implications for Practical Research
References 185
Index 193
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