Argument Analysis

Unit #2 Summary

Skill in argument analysis is a crucial prerequisite for both cooperative dialogue and argument evaluation, and in this unit we focused extensively on developing this skill.  In order to spot arguments and identify their structure we will often have to actively interrogate the text by working backwards from the conclusion.  In addition, we have learned two ways of representing arguments schematically: standardization and diagramming.  Argument analysis is complicated because language is complicated, and in this unit we looked at a number of common problems and identified some strategies for dealing with them.  One thing that can make analysis especially difficult is that fact that people often leave important parts out.  In light of this, we have learned how to see behind an author’s words and identify missing or suppressed premises.  Last, we noted that arguments are almost always found within a broader context, and we learned how to distinguish arguments from peripheral material and reports or discussions of other arguments.  We are now ready to turn, in the next unit, to the main event: argument evaluation.

Key Terms:

  • Argument Analysis
  • Standardizing an Argument
  • Diagramming an Argument
  • Simple vs. Complex Args
  • Direct versus Indirect support
  • ‘Because’
  • The Method
  • Surface-Level Analysis
  • Argumentative Gaps
  • Deep Analysis
  • Rule of Interpretation
  • Rule for Missing Premises
  • Peripheral Material
  • Qualification
  • Reply to an Argument
  • Report of an Argument
  • Conjoined Premises
  • Independent Premises
  • Independent Premises Rule

Further Reading

For a solid alternative approach to argument diagramming see Trudy Govier’s A Practial Study of Argument.  For a broader look at the history of argument diagramming and its place in critical thinking pedagogy see “Using Argument Mapping to Improve Critical Thinking Skills” by Tim van Gelder in the Palgrave Handbook of Critical Thinking in Higher Education (2015).



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Arguments in Context by Thaddeus Robinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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