Periodic Table of Arguments

The building blocks of persuasive discourse

Beta 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 Beta Quadrant of the table hosts all so-called ‘first-order subject arguments’. The conclusion and premise of such arguments have a different subject (a and b) and the same predicate (X), giving them the form:

a is X, because b is X

An example is Cycling on the grass is prohibited, because walking on the grass is prohibited, which can be normalized as Cycling on the grass (a) is prohibited (X), because walking on the grass (b) is prohibited (X).

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 value with another statement of value.

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 2, first-order subject arguments have the predicate X as the fulcrum and the relation between the subjects a and b as the lever of the argument.

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Figure 2. Conceptual representation of a first-order subject argument

In the case of the above example, the lever is the relation between cycling on the grass and walking on the grass. Since the former is taken to be analogous to the latter, this argument can be called an argument from analogy.

Other examples of arguments within this quadrant are:

Schermafdruk 2018-03-19 21.02.02the argument from similarity, which combines a statement of fact (F) with another statement of fact (F)

Schermafdruk 2018-03-19 21.01.30the argument from equality, which combines a statement of policy (P) with a statement of fact (F)

 

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the argument from comparison, which combines a statement of policy (P) with another statement of policy (P)