Periodic Table of Arguments

The building blocks of persuasive discourse

Argument from criterion (Cr)

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The author of the above reply states that Unauthorized downloading is not theft and supports this claim with the remarks that Theft deprives the original owner of the use of an object and that This is not the case in unauthorized downloading. To identify the type of argument, we follow the instructions in the Argument Type Identification Procedure (ATIP).

The procedure starts with an analysis of the statements functioning as the conclusion and the premise, followed by a number of transformations of the original text so as to represent the argument in the standard order [conclusion, because premise]. This yields the following result:

Unauthorized downloading is not theft, because unauthorized downloading does not deprive the original owner of the use of an object.

The next step of the procedure is to determine the ‘argument form’, which is defined as the specific configuration of the subjects and predicates. The present example fits the form “a is X, because a is Y“, which means it should be labelled as a first-order predicate argument (abbreviated as ‘1 pre’).

Unauthorized downloading (a) is not theft (X), because unauthorized downloading (a) does not deprive the original owner of the use of an object (Y).

The analyst subsequently determines the ‘argument substance’, which is defined as the specific combination of the types of statements. In this case, the conclusion is a legal qualification, which counts as a statement of value (V), and the premise is a statement of fact (F). The argument thus combines a statement of value with a statement of fact (abbreviated as ‘VF’).

Now that the analyst has determined the basic characteristics of the argument, they can be summarized by providing its systematic name, which combines the relevant labels for the argument form and the argument substance. In this case, we are dealing with a first-order predicate argument that combines a statement of value with a statement of fact. Its systematic name, in abbreviated form, is thus ‘1 pre VF’. In the visualization of the Periodic Table of Arguments, such arguments are situated in the VF column of the Alpha Quadrant.

The systematic name provides the analyst with information about the so-called ‘lever’ of the argument, which is a formulation of its underlying mechanism (see Wagemans 2019). In this case, the systematic name tells us that the argument is based on the relationship between the predicates X and Y. Since a fitting keyword for describing this relationship is ‘criterion’, the lever can be formulated as:

does not deprive the original owner of the use of an object (Y) IS A CRITERION FOR not being theft (X)

The keyword connects the systematic framework of the Periodic Table of Arguments to the names of argument types as they can be found in the traditional dialectical and rhetorical categorizations of arguments. To reflect this tradition, every systematic argument type that is distinguished in the table hosts an arbitrary number of so-called ‘isotopes’, which are named after the keyword that describes the underlying mechanism of the argument. In this case, the isotope name is ‘argument from criterion’ (represented in the table by the symbol ‘Cr’).

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SOURCE

The example is taken from a comment on an article published on techdirt.com on 05.04.2010.