PERIODIC TABLE OF ARGUMENTS

THE ATOMIC BUILDING BLOCKS OF PERSUASIVE DISCOURSE

Argument substance

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 value of the second parameter, the ‘argument substance’, depends on the content of the conclusion and the premise and is expressed in terms of a widely used typology of statements developed in American debate theory – see, for example, Freeley & Steinberg (2014). Within this theory, a distinction is made between three types of statements: statements of fact (F), statements of value (V), and statements of policy (P).

Three types of statements

Statements of fact (F)

A statement of fact is a description of a state of affairs that can be empirically observed or imagined. In the color scheme of the Periodic Table of Arguments (PTA), statements of fact are indicated in blue. Some examples are:

The tires left a trail of rubber on the road.

The Dutch economy will grow.

This unicorn has three wings.

Statements of value (V)

A statement of value is an evaluative judgment about something based on a definition or evaluation criteria. In the color scheme of the PTA, statements of fact are indicated in yellow. Some examples are:

The Corrections is a great book.

Circumcision is reprehensible.

Downloading something without permission is not theft.

Excluding someone from Twitter violates the right to freedom of speech.

Our plan to reduce CO2 emissions is feasible.

This statement is true.

Statements of policy (P)

A statement of policy advocates performing an action. In the color scheme of the PTA, statements of fact are indicated in red. Some examples are:

Children are better off not sleeping with artificial light.

Give me your phone.

Let’s bring classical rhetoric back into the curriculum.

Argument substance

The argument substance is now defined as the specific combination of the types of statements that make up that argumentation. Conventionally, we first list the statement type of the conclusion (F, V, or P) and then the statement type of the argument (F, V, or P). Thus, the example ‘This book is great because it was written by Javier Marías’ has argument substance VF, because it combines a statement of value (V) in the conclusion with a statement of fact (F) in the premise.

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