Dima Mohammed, 30 April 2013, 16:00

April 30, 2013

ArgLab Research Colloquium

Av. de Berna 26, Edifício ID, sala 1.06


Towards an account of goals in public political arguments

Dima Mohammed, IFL, Universidade Nova de Lisboa



The study of goals in argumentative discourse was informed by the research investigating the interplay between participants’ goals and the discourse choice they make (e.g. Tracy & Coupland, 1990). Besides, argumentation scholars have been concerned with the nature and status of these goals. Different approaches to argumentation have formulated different accounts. For example, within the pragma-dialectical approach, only rational persuasion is considered the intrinsic goal of argumentation; all other goals are considered extrinsic (van Eemeren, 2010). Alternatively, Walton and Krabbe (1995) distinguish between different types of (argumentative) dialogues, each of which is defined on the basis of its goal. Another account is provided by Gilbert (1996, 2007) who emphasises that argumentation is usually aimed at several face and task goals, with no fixed hierarchy.

In this paper, I critically examine the main accounts of goals in argumentative discourse, aiming to formulate an account that is suitable for the examination of public political arguments, where typically multiple legitimate goals are pursued simultaneously. Such arguments are viewed as contributions to what can be dialectically reconstructed as multiple simultaneous discussions. They are analysed as strategic manoeuvres that can under certain conditions be reasonable but may as well, if such conditions are violated, become fallacious (van Eemeren & Houtlosser, 2002).



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. (2002). Strategic maneuvering in argumentative discourse: A delicate balance. In F. H. van Eemeren & P. Houtlosser (Eds.), Dialectic and Rhetoric: The Warp and Woof of Argumentation Analysis (pp. 131–159). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Gilbert, M. A. (1996). Goals in argumentation. In D. M. Gabbay & H. J. Ohlbach (Eds.) Practical Reasoning: International Conference on Formal and Applied Practical Reasoning (pp. 223-230). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Gilbert, M. A. (2007). Natural normativity: Argumentation theory as an engaged discipline. Informal Logic, 27(2), pp. 149-161.

Tracy, K. & Coupland, N. (1990). Multiple goals in discourse: An overview of issues. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 9(1), pp. 1-13.

Walton, D. and E. C. W Krabbe. (1995). Commitment in Dialogue: Basic Concepts of Interpersonal Reasoning. New York: State University of New York Press.

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