Toulmin Model - Robert H. Gass
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The Toulmin Model
A tool for diagramming “informal” arguments
Stephen Toulmin • The X’s and O’s of an argument – Stephen Toulmin, originally a British logician, was frustrated with the inability of formal logic to explain everyday arguments. – He developed his own model of practical reasoning.
the three basic elements: • Claim (assertion or proposition) • Grounds (proof, grounds, support) • Warrant (inferential leap or unexpressed premise)
Claims • A claim is the point an arguer is trying to make. The claim is the conclusion, proposition, or assertion an arguer wants another to accept. • The claim answers the question, "So what is your point?” – example: “Rosario is an American citizen, because she was born in the United States.” – example: “Barack Obama doesn’t wear a flag pin on his lapel, so he must not be patriotic.”
more about claims... • There are four basic types of claims: • fact: claims which focus on empirically verifiable phenomena • judgment/value: claims involving opinions, attitudes, and subjective evaluations of things • policy: claims advocating courses of action that should be undertaken • definition/classification: indicates what criteria are being used to to define a term or what category something falls into
four types of claims • Fact: “Texas executes more inmates per year than any other state.” • Value or judgment:“Capital punishment is discriminatory.”
• Policy: “Capital punishment should be abolished.” • Definition/Classification: “Capital punishment violates the 8th amendment’s prohibition against ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment.”
Grounds (proof or data) • Grounds refers to the proof or evidence an arguer offers. • Grounds can consist of statistics, quotations, reports, findings, physical evidence, or various forms of reasoning – example: “I’m a vegetarian. One reason is that I feel sorry for the animals. Another reason is for my own health.” – example: “I made the dinner, so you can do the dishes.
more about grounds... • Grounds are the support the arguer offers on behalf of his/her claim. The grounds answer questions such as: – – – – –
"What is your proof?“ "How do you know?“ "Why?” example: “It looks like rain. The barometer is falling.” example: "The other Ritz Carlton hotels I've stayed at had great pools, so I'll bet this one has a great pool too."
still more about grounds... • grounds can be based on: – evidence: facts, statistics, reports, or physical proof – source credibility: authorities, experts, celebrity endorsers, a close friend, or someone's say-so – analysis and reasoning: reasons may be offered as proof – premises already held by the listener
clue words for identifying grounds • The grounds for an argument often follow words such as “because,” “since,” “given that…” – example: “Airports should x-ray all luggage because a bomb could be placed in a checked bag.” – example: “I expect to do well on the test, since I studied all night for it.”
multi-grounded arguments • A single claim may be supported by multiple grounds
Sonia: “My last dinner date was a disaster. The guy was wearing camouflage pants, talked about his old girlfriend the whole time, ate food off my plate without asking, and both of his credit cards were declined.” Gigi: “No way!” Sonia: “Guess who paid? Not Mr. Overdrawn.” Gigi: “You should try an online dating service. You’ll have a bigger selection of guys to meet, you can screen out losers without having to meet them face to face, and it’s a lot safer.”
Warrants • The warrant is the inferential leap that connects the claim with the grounds. • The warrant is typically implicit (unstated) and requires the listener to recognize the connection between the claim and grounds • The implicit nature of warrants means the “meaning” of an argument is as much a part of the receiver as it is a part of the message.
the warrant connects the claim and grounds • Analogy of a stone arch. – The interlocking stones work together to support the arch. – The warrant is analogous to the
– The claim and grounds are analogous to the voussoirs that form the curved portions of the arch.
more about warrants... • The warrant performs a "linking" function by establishing a mental connection between the grounds and the claim – example: “Muffin is running a temperature. I’ll bet she has an infection.” (warrant: sign reasoning; a fever is a reliable sign of an infection) – example: "That dog is probably friendly. It is a Golden Retriever.” (warrant: generalization; most or all Golden Retrievers are friendly)
making the right inferential leap • “There are newspapers piled up in the Boswell’s driveway driveway, so… – A. They probably have flu and are too ill to venture outside. – B. They are probably victims of foul play – C. They are illiterate – D. Their dog, that usually fetches the paper, died. – D. They are out of town for a few days
still more about warrants... • warrants can be based on: – authority: credible or admired sources – reasoning: analogy, sign, cause-effect, generalization – social norms: rude and polite behavior
– ethical principles: moral guidelines – value premises: values shared by, or presumed to be shared by, the receiver(s) – folk wisdom, proverbs: look before you leap, a stitch in time saves nine. – pathos: emotional or motivational appeals note: these categories aren't mutually exclusive, there is considerable overlap among the three
multi-warranted arguments • Some arguments are “multi-warranted,” e.g., based on more than one inferential leap – Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes
the first triad sample argument 1
The Angels are likely to win the ballgame today
They are playing at home
Warrant (unstated) generalization: The home team enjoys an advantage in baseball
the first triad sample argument 2
It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards
“Slumdog Millionaire” is a wonderful movie.
Warrant (unstated) sign reasoning: a movie’s greatness can be measured in the number of Oscar nominations it receives
the first triad sample argument 3
Biff was probably in a fight Claim
He has a black eye
Warrant (unstated) sign reasoning: A black eye is a reliable indicator that a person has been in a fight
the first triad sample argument 4
She was the CEO of a major company, eBay.
Meg Whitman would make a great governor
Warrant (unstated) analogy: skills and practices that are effective in the private sector are also effective in the public sector.
the first triad sample argument 5 If you surf at Huntington Beach right after it rains you risk getting a bacterial infection
Runoff from the rain washes bacteria into the ocean
Warrant (unstated) cause-effect reasoning: bacteria in the water causes surfers to get ill.
Limitations regarding the Toulmin model • The Toulmin model offers a somewhat static view of an argument • Focuses on the argument maker, not the target or respondent • Real-life arguments aren’t always neat or clear • The Toulmin model is an analytical tool – Useful for dissecting arguments before or after they’ve been made – Not as useful, practical in the “heat” of an argument • Since warrants are unstated, different listeners may perceive them differently
Name that triad • Lyle comes from a large family, so he is probably a Catholic or a Mormon. • Dolphins give live birth, so they must be mammals. • Banning same sex marriages makes no sense. Being gay is simply a part of natural variation. If we don’t ban left-handers from marrying, or people with curly hair, why ban gays from marrying? • If you are going to the beach you’d better where sunblock or you’ll get skin cancer.