Periodic Table of Arguments

The building blocks of persuasive discourse

Alpha Quadrant

The theoretical framework of the Periodic Table of Arguments takes an argument to consist of two statements, a premise and a conclusion, both of which contain a subject and a predicate. The Alpha Quadrant of the table hosts all so-called ‘first-order predicate arguments’. The conclusion and premise of such arguments have the same subject (a) and different predicates (X and Y), giving them the form:

a is X, because a is Y

An example is The suspect was driving fast, because he left a long trace of rubber on the road, which can be normalized as The suspect (a) was driving fast (X), because [the suspect] (a) left a long trace of rubber on the road (Y).

Within each quadrant, arguments are further differentiated on the basis of an identification of the statements involved. By labeling the conclusion and the premise as a statement of fact (F), value (V), or policy (P), every argument can be characterized as a specific combination of statements. The example just mentioned combines a statement of fact with another statement of fact.

The working of arguments is based on the presence of a common term – the ‘fulcrum’ of the argument – and the existence of a relation between the non-common terms – the ‘lever’ of the argument (see Wagemans, 2019). As pictured in Figure 1, first-order predicate arguments have the subject a as the fulcrum and the relation between the predicates Y and X as the lever of the argument.

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Figure 1. Conceptual representation of a first-order predicate argument

In the case of the above example, the lever is the relation between left a long trace of rubber on the road and was driving fast. Since the former is taken to be an effect of the latter, this argument can be called an argument from effect.

Other examples of arguments within this quadrant are:

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the argument from sign, which combines a statement of fact (F) with another statement of fact (F)

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the argument from criterion, which combines a statement value (V) with a statement of fact (F)

 

Schermafdruk 2018-03-19 21.02.53the pragmatic argument, which combines a statement of policy (P) with a statement of fact (F)

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the argument from evaluation, which combines a statement of policy (P) with a statement of value (V)