ArgLab is a research unit within the larger research-oriented Institute for the Philosophy of Language (IFL) at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas) of the New University of Lisbon (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Portugal. In the research unit, international doctoral and postdoctoral researchers are led by senior researchers from the Institute for the Philosophy of Language.

In our research, we systematically analyse and evaluate various forms of public argument aiming at supporting a decision (no matter how complex this decision might be), in order to shed light on the rational and strategic aspects of public argumentative practices and their products. In our analysis and evaluation, we examine public argumentative practices from the perspective of their internal and conversational structure, namely their linguistic, logical, dialogical and rhetorical dimensions. Furthermore, we employ a contextualised perspective to the study of argumentation, in which argumentation is viewed as a communicative activity that always takes place in a certain more or less clearly delineated context – be it a small talk over coffee, an online discussion, a parliamentary debate or a legal trial. Consequently, alongside studying arguments as constellations of premises supporting a conclusion, we methodically examine the conditions and procedures under which real-life argumentation is characteristically performed.

We pursue three basic goals. First, we aim at acquiring better empirical insight into the shape and quality of arguments in different spheres and fields of life where decision are called for, while paying special attention to the public and legal sphere in which a great many fundamental societal and political decisions are made. Second, by undertaking contextual analyses we provide continuous feedback to the Theory of Argumentation. Ordinary contextual complications of public argumentation, such as the phenomenon of many-to-many deliberation, of pursuing many (often conflicting) goals by arguers, are still not properly theorised. To increase the empirical adequacy and applicability of Argumentation Theory we thus attempt to give such phenomena a consistent theoretical shape. Finally, and most crucially, all of our tasks converge on the goal of improving public debate, in Portugal and elsewhere. With a strong theoretical background, well-developed empirical tools and a clearly defined object of study, we aim to narrow the gap between ideal models and actual practices of argumentation.

Focusing on Practical Reasoning and practical Argumentation (in their various forms and contexts), three issues in Argumentation Theory are central to our own studies: interpretation of argumentative discourse, evaluation of reasons offered in justification of positions, and the analysis of the strategic part of argumentation. Interpretation, crucial for all studies of language, is even more important for argumentation, as it guides not only our proper understanding of arguments, but also paves the way for their precise evaluation. In our work, we therefore pay particular attention to the processes of utterance-interpretation, e.g., as methodically described in pragmatics, philosophy of language, and legal hermeneutics. In regards to argument evaluation, conditions of correctness for argumentative processes are usually approached through several distinct tools: formal rules of logical validity, informal rules of argument schemes, pragmatic rules of speech act performance, or norms of discourse ethics. But, our working hypothesis is that something else is still needed: preferences, values and choices, and the correspondent conceptual tolls they give rise, should also be included, if we want to produce a more complete account of correct argumentative processes of the practical sort. To contribute to the elaboration of a conceptual framework where each of these tools has its well-defined role, is an important aim of ours. Finally, by looking closely into various argumentative strategies we intend to enrich our analysis of argumentation with rhetorical insights.

Our research is governed by some basic theoretical commitments. We view argumentation as a communicative process in which various positions are discussed in interactive exchanges of arguments and objections. Therefore, while internal reasoning and monological chains of inferences are a necessary element of argumentation studies, they are not all that is relevant to appraising argumentation. Approached from the perspective of the pragmatics of ordinary language, argumentation arises only in the situation of (possible) disagreement and thus can be defined as a communicative act. Moreover, such acts are characteristically strategic in that they are aimed at convincing others that the position advocated by the speaker is better justified than other contradictory or competing positions. On such a view, argumentation is part of a complex fabric of communication where multiple, intricately related goals that speakers pursue are all achieved by means of arguing, that is, presenting reasons that are meant to support their position and objecting to reasons presented by others. This strategic process of arguing and counter-arguing takes place in various contexts of daily life – from largely informal (a family discussion regarding where to have dinner tonight) to highly formalised (a decision of the Supreme Court to abandon a given law as unconstitutional). We find such pragmatic and strategic concerns not only relevant, but necessary in a practically meaningful and theoretically comprehensive approach to argumentation. Such theoretical commitments first emerged in the long tradition of argumentation studies delineated by the logical, dialectical and rhetorical investigations. Today, they are broadly shared in the major contributions to argumentation theory.

One of our crucial theoretical, indeed meta-theoretical, goals is to creatively combine insights from well-articulated theories of argumentation such as the Pragma-Dialectical Theory (of Van Eemeren and others) and the Dialectical Logical Theory (of Walton and others) in search for what may be seen as the common agenda underlying much of the theorising within argumentation studies. We do so by critically investigating both theories with a view to exposing their productive commonalities rather than intractable differences. Moreover, rather than simply comparing the two in abstractum we put their theoretical and methodological apparatus to work in the analysis and evaluation of concrete instances of practical argumentation. Such work is conducive to articulating the common core of the two theories and thus, in a broader sense, to bridging the tradition of the European pragma-dialectical approach and the North-American informal logic approach. The other of our crucial theoretical, indeed philosophical, goals is to progressively combine whatever are the results of the first goal with (some specific) philosophical approaches to values, preferences and choices. Thus we assume that interpreting the layout of practical argumentation processes and assessing their correctness, as aimed by any theory of practical argumentation, can only be done when properly supplemented by an account of the roles played by the values, preferences and choices of the intervening arguers



All Events

Manuel Garcia Carpintero's talk - 14 December, 2PM

Singular Reference in Fictional Discourse?

December 14, 2018

Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas, 12 Dec, 15:30 to 16:30

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar | "Regulation, selection and…

December 12, 2018

Chrysi Rapanta, 4 Dec 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Bewilderment as a predictor of different…

December 04, 2018

The Mechanistic Approach in Biology and Cognition (Inter-University workshop), 9h-19h, 20th Nov

An Inter-University Workshop held on the 20th of November organised…

November 20, 2018

Marcin Lewiński. 6 Nov 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Speech act pluralism in polylogues"

November 06, 2018

Felipe Oliveira, 26 October 2018, 11h, Room I&D 006

Reason-giving as an expressive speech act

October 26, 2018

Value Seminar Talk by Rosalice Pinto, 16:00, Sala B1 1.15

Talk by Rosalice Pinto (CEDIS) at 16 o'clock, Sala B1…

October 26, 2018

Erich Rast, 28 September 2018, 11h, Sala 0.06ID

Value Seminar Talk by Erich Rast (IFILNOVA): Reasons for the…

September 28, 2018

Book Launch: Schizophrenia and Common Sense: explaining the relation between madness and social values with Thomas Fuchs

Schizophrenia and Common Sense: explaining the relation between madness and…

June 25, 2018

Workshop: Misunderstanding, disagreement, manipulation

The idea of the workshop is to explore the blurred…

June 22, 2018

Katharina Stevens, 18 June 2018, 14h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Argument-Design through Role-Taking"

June 18, 2018

Workshop: Communication and metaphors for health. An educational challenge

The workshop discusses the importance of communication and metaphors in…

June 01, 2018

Inês Hipólito, 30th May 11:00 - 12:00

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Perception as Cognition: Beyond…

May 30, 2018

Dima Mohammed, 28 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Proposals for the examination of networked…

May 28, 2018

Jakob Krebs, 16 May, 15h to 16h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"Pictorial Models, Imagination, and…

May 16, 2018

Mehmet Ali Üzelgün, 14 May 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Level, focus, and force of argumentative…

May 14, 2018

Virtualism and the Mind: Rethinking Presence, Representation and the Self

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning Workshop "Virtualism and the Mind"

April 23, 2018

João Leite, 16 April 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "An Online Social Debating System"

April 16, 2018

Klaus Gärtner, 20 Mar, 2018, 14.30h to 15.30h

Lisbon Mind & Reasoning RIP Seminar |"4E Cognition: Radical or…

March 20, 2018

Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas, 19 March 2018, 16h

ArgLab Research Colloquium | "Reasoning as a self-doubter"

March 19, 2018

Erich Rast, 16.3., Sala 1.05 ID, 16h

Value Seminar Session with Erich Rast, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 16, 2018

Value Seminar Marcin Lewiński, Sala 105 ID 16h

Value Seminar with Marcin Lewiński, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 09, 2018

Value Seminar Dima Mohammed, Sala 105 ID 16h

Value Seminar with Dima Mohammed, Sala 1.05 ID 16h

March 02, 2018

The 1st European Conference on Argumentation

International Conference | Argumentation and Reasoned Action

June 09, 2015


Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa