Periodic Table of Arguments

The building blocks of persuasive discourse

Argument from analogy (An)

The following fragment from The law of treaties (Kolb, 2016, p. 152) contains an example of arguing by analogy:

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The author states that Cycling on the grass is prohibited and supports this claim by saying that the text Walking on the grass is prohibited is also applicable to somebody cycling on the grass. 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:

Cycling on the grass is prohibited, because walking on the grass is prohibited

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 b is X“, which means it should be labelled as a first-order subject argument (abbreviated as ‘1 sub’).

Cycling on the grass (a) is prohibited (X), because walking on the grass (b) is prohibited (X)

The analyst subsequently determines the ‘argument substance’, which is defined as the specific combination of the types of statements. In this case, both the conclusion and the premise are legal qualifications, which count as statements of value (V). The argument thus combines a statement of value with a statement of value (abbreviated as ‘VV’).

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 subject argument that combines a statement of value with another statement of value. Its systematic name, in abbreviated form, is thus ‘1 sub VV’. In the visualization of the Periodic Table of Arguments, such arguments are situated in the VV column of the Beta 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 subjects a and b. Since a fitting keyword for describing this relationship is ‘analogy’, the lever can be formulated as:

cycling on the grass (a) IS ANALOGOUS TO walking on the grass (b)

This is supported by textual evidence, as the author states that: “There is every reason to argue by analogy: so as walking is prohibited, so cycling is also prohibited”.

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 analogy’ (represented in the table by the symbol ‘An’).

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SOURCE

Kolb, R. (2016). The law of treaties. An introduction. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.