ARGUMENTATION (Latin, argumentatio—a mental and verbal activity the function of which is to elicit certain convictions, evaluations, or decisions by the use of arguments.
The term “argument” (Latin argumentum) has the following meanings. (1) In a colloquial sense, an argument is an assertion (or fact) used to support or refute someone’s position, a justification, a motivation, a “means of pressure”, a “means of fighting”. (2) In logic, an argument is: (a) a proposition that serves as a premise (or foundation) in argumentation; (b) a type of reasoning or an eristic procedure (we may also distinguish another logical understanding of argument, e.g., an argument is an expression which together with a functor to complete it produces a more complex expression), and the understanding of argument in mathematics (it is the value of an independent variable in a function, that is, of a reversibly univocal expression). (3) In law, arguments are certain types of reasoning. The best known are called: “e contrario” when from the fact that a law attaches legal consequences only to clearly mentioned facts, we infer that these consequences should not be attached to other facts (e.g., if the law imposes an obligation to provide support only upon direct blood relatives, an uncle does not have this obligation to his niece); “a simili” (the so-called analogia legis) when we recognize legal consequences for facts similar to those whose legal consequences are explicitly mentioned in a law (e.g., if adoption results in the same relation as that which occurs between parents and their child, there is an obligation of support); “a fortiori, when we show that the position we are defending is more worthy of assertion than another position already explicitly accepted; and the last argument may take the form of “a maiori ad minus” (if a law permits one to do what is greater, all the more it permits one to do what is less), or “a minori ad maius” (since the law forbids doing what is lesser, all the more it forbids doing what is greater).
With respect to how they operate, arguments and argumentation may be divided into rational (but this is not restricted to the employment of the laws of formal logic) which influence man by reason, and non-rational, those which act through emotion, etc..
Errors of argumentation may concern: (1) forms of reasoning (e.g., “non sequitur”); (2) verbal formulation (e.g., equivocation, vagueness, the emotional coloring of informative language); (3) the truth of premises or the possibility of recognizing them as true (the falsity of premises or irrational assertions). Errors of argumentation also include procedures that falsely appear to be indirect justifications: persuasion intended to lead directly to the assertion of a position (e.g., the firm or suggestive repetition of a position), an appeal to emotions and to the personal traits of the listener, supporting the assertion of a position by ridiculing and reviling the opposing proposition and the persons associated with it, and disorienting the listener by concealing or changing the thesis.
Some such argumentations (eristic tricks) that are invalid from the point of view of logical have acquired special names. The best known are as follows. An argument “ad auditorem” is an appeal to the attitudes of the listener or drawing upon his good disposition. An argument “ad baculum” compels the assertion of a position by an appeal to force. An argument “ad crumenam” presents a thesis as convenient and useful. An “ad hominem” argument (also called ex concesso) mentions as reasons judgments that merely seem to be recognized but are not true or generally recognized, but the person addressed accepts them (an argument ad hominem may also be understood in another way, as a demonstration that from the premises accepted by the person being addressed we may correctly infer a position that he does not wish to recognize). An argument “ad ignorantiam” takes advantage of the ignorance of the listener to persuade him to recognize a position. An argument “ad misericordiam” persuades the listener to accept a thesis with an appeal to the emotions. An argument “ad personam” uses the personal traits of the person stating or rejecting the position as a means of justifying or refuting the thesis (as opposed to an argument “ad rem”). An argument “ad populum” is the use of demagoguery to obtain the acceptance of a position, i.e., the use of attractive but false premises, empty phrases, and flattery. An argument “ad verecundiam” persuades someone to accept a position based on its association with some great person, old customs, respected institutions, and authorities in general. An argument “per eloquentiam” is the statement of a position using charming words.
Besides arguments, non-linguistic means are used in argumentation, e.g., audiovisual props, specially chosen times and places, etc.,
Argumentation differs from demonstration or proof chiefly because it includes a pragmatic aspect and is not exclusively based on formal deduction. It is sometimes said that argumentation does not deserve to be called a form of proof, but it is something greater than persuasion. Because argumentation is addressed to a certain type of listener, besides a knowledge of logic, it employs a knowledge of psychology (what motives guide people when they recognize propositions, evaluations, or make decisions), of sociology (how widely recognized is a certain view in society, who represents the view), and related sciences. The practical art of argumentation was, on the one hand, developed in eristics, which was studied in ancient times along with rhetoric. In eristics a verbal dispute is treated as a kind of battle. On the other hand, argumentation is studied in the theory of argumentation which is regarded as the methodology of rational persuasion by means of verbal statements, and this is studied within logic. The present development of logical pragmatics and non-classical systems of logic has contributed to the rise of various theories of argumentation.
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