Dima Mohammed, 30 May 2017, 10h

May 30, 2017

ArgLab Research Colloquium

Av. de Berna 26, I&D Building, First floor, room 1.05


The multiple issues in a public political argument: challenges and possible solutions

Dima Mohammed, ArgLab - IFILNOVA, Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Argumentative practices in the public political sphere are intriguingly complex. Public political arguments (i) lack time limits, (ii) lack a clear terminus, (iii) feature a heterogeneous audience, (iv) are characterised by open access and (v) are driven by an urgent need to act (Zarefsky, 2008). The complexity of the practice is not just a challenge for arguers, who have no option but to manoeuvre strategically as they argue. It is also a challenge for argumentation scholars who strive to develop the theoretical tools that can provide meaningful examination of political argumentation. Important advances in the examination of political argumentation have been realised by means of integrating rhetorical insights (e.g. van Eemeren & Houtlosseer, 1999; Tindale, 2004), as well as institutional considerations (e.g. Goodnight, 2010; van Eemeren 2010) and political considerations (Fairclough & Fairclough, 2012). Yet, crucial aspects of the complexity remain challenging. Tindale (2015) focuses on the role that the audience plays in the construction of the rhetorical argument. Lewinski and Aakhus (2013) put their effort in addressing the complexities that arise from the multiple parties typically involved in public argumentation. Mohammed (2016) investigates ways for accounting for the multiple goals pursued in a public political argument. Each of the above addresses in its own way the complexities that result from the almost limitless character of a public political argument.

In this talk, I focus on a particular aspect of the open-ended character of public political arguments. At any point in time in the public sphere, there are countless controversies roaming and issues being addressed. A vigilant political actor crafts her arguments carefully trying to keep under control the contributions these arguments make to the different issues present. I examine the challenges facing an adequate analysis and evaluation of such attempts.



Eemeren, F.H. van. (2010). Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse, Extending the Pragma-Dialectical theory of argumentation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Eemeren, F. H. van, & Houtlosser, P. (1999). Strategic manoeuvring in argumentative discourse. Discourse Studies, 1(4), 479–497.

Fairclough, I., & Fairclough, N. (2012). Political discourse analysis: A method for advanced students. London: Routledge.

Goodnight, G. T. (2010). The metapolitics of the 2002 Iraq debate: Public policy and the network imaginary. Rhetoric and Public Affairs 13, 65-94.

Lewinski, M., & Aakhus, M. (2013). Argumentative polylogues in a dialectical framework: A methodological inquiry. Argumentation, 28 (2), 161–185. doi:10.1007/s10503-013-9307-x

Mohammed, D. (2016a). Goals in argumentation: A proposal for the analysis and evaluation of public political arguments. Argumentation, 30:221–245. doi: 10.1007/s10503-015-9370-6

Mohammed, D. (2016b). Not just rational, but also reasonable: Critical testing in the service of external purposes of public political arguments. In D. Mohammed & M. Lewiński (eds.) (2016). Argumentation and Reasoned Action: Proceedings of the 1st European Conference on Argumentation, Lisbon, 2015. Vol. I, 499-514. London: College Publications.

Tindale, C. W., (2004). Rhetorical argumentation: Principles of theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Tindale, C. W., (2015). The philosophy of argument and audience reception. Cambrodge University Press.

Zarefsky, D. (2008). Strategic maneuvering in political argumentation. Argumentation, 22, 317-330.

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Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa