PERIODIC TABLE OF ARGUMENTS

THE ATOMIC BUILDING BLOCKS OF PERSUASIVE DISCOURSE

Argument form

Within the theoretical framework of the Periodic Table of Arguments (PTA), an argument type is conceived as a particular combination of the values of three parameters: form, substance, and lever. Various heuristics are available to determine these values – for a more elaborate description, please see How to identify an argument type? On the hermeneutics of persuasive discourse (Wagemans, 2023).

The first parameter, the argument form, refers to the specific interplay of the subjects and predicates contained in the conclusion and the premise of the argument. The PTA distinguishes four basic argument forms, which we denote by the first four letters of the Greek alphabet.

Alpha

In argumentation with the form a is X because a is Y, conclusion and premise have the same subject and a different predicate. Such argumentation is based on a connection between the predicates: the fact that something (a) has a certain property (Y) somehow implies that this same something (a) also has another property (X). An example is ‘This book is great because it was written by Javier Marías’. In this case, the property of being written by Javier Marías (Y) points at the property of being great (X). The annotated version of this argument is This book (a) is great (X) because it (a) was written by Javier Marías (Y). More examples can be found at the page dedicated to the Alpha Quadrant.

Beta

In argumentation with the form a is X because b is X, it is exactly the other way around: the conclusion and the premise have the same predicate but a different subject. Such argumentation is based on similarities between the two subjects: something (a) has a certain property (X) because something else similar to it (b) also has that property (X). An example is ‘Mars is inhabited because Earth is also inhabited’. In this case, Mars (a) is attributed the property of being inhabited (X) based on its similarity to Earth (b), which has the same property. The annotated version of this argument is Mars (a) is inhabited (X) because Earth (b) is also inhabited (Y). More examples can be found at the page dedicated to the Beta Quadrant.

Gamma

The subjects and predicates of the conclusion and the premise can also be completely different. In this case, the argument takes the form a is X, because b is Y. Such argumentation is based on a similarity in the relationship of the subjects and predicates to each other: something (a) relates to something else (b) just as a property of that something (X) relates to a property of the other something (Y). An example is ‘Self-control is good because hot temper is bad’, where the subjects self-control and hot temper (a and b) and the predicates good and bad (X and Y) are each other’s opposites. The annotated version of this argument is Self-control (a) is good (X) because hot temper (b) is bad (Y). More examples can be found at the page dedicated to the Gamma Quadrant.

Delta

The last form distinguished in the PTA is somewhat more complicated. In this case, to establish or increase the acceptability of the conclusion, the arguer assigns a property to the conclusion in its entirety. If we indicate that property by ‘Z’, the conclusion by ‘q’, and the acceptability of the conclusion by ‘A’, we can reconstruct the argument form as q [is A], because q is Z. Note that the acceptability of the conclusion, which usually remains unexpressed, has been added between squared brackets. Argumentation of the delta form is based on the relationship between the predicates, in this case A and Z. An example is ‘The economy has grown, because that was said by the Prime Minister’, which is based on the relationship between ‘being acceptable’ and ‘being said by the Prime Minister’. The annotated version of the argument is The economy has grown (q) [is acceptable (A)], because that (q) was said by the Prime Minister (Z). More examples can be found at the page dedicated to the Delta Quadrant.

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