Argument — Conclusion

1. Argument

The word argument is used in different domains, in grammar, logic, literature, and argumentation, with quite different meanings.

— In logic and mathematics, the arguments of a function f are the empty places x, y, z… characterizing the function; the independent entities (variables) organized by the function.

— By analogy, in grammar, the verb plus its subject and object(s) can be considered the counterpart of a function. To give for example, corresponds to a predicate governing three arguments “x gives y to z”; to love to a two-argument predicate, “x loves y”. By substituting adequate phrases (i.e., respecting the semantic relationship characterizing the verb) for each of these variables, we form a proposition@: “Adam gives Eve an apple”, S. Proposition.

— In literature, the central argument of a play or a novel corresponds to the plan, the summary, or the guiding principle of the plot. With this meaning, the word argument is morphologically and semantically isolated; argument as “summary” bears no relation to conclusion, nor to to argue, argumentation.

2. Argument and argumentation

The words argument and proof are used to translate the Greek word pistis and the Latin word argumentum.

2.1 Argument ~ argumentation

By synecdoche, argument often means argumentation: “let the best argument prevail!”

2.2 Premise, data, argument

— In logic, the premises of the syllogism lead to a conclusion. The premises are propositions expressing true or false judgments. The conclusion is a proposition which is different from the premises and which is derived exclusively from their combination, without the surreptitious introduction of implicit background information into the reasoning, S. Syllogism. A premise is not an argument but a constituent of an argument; the argument is constructed by combining the two premises.

— In argumentation, the conclusion is derived from an item of information combined with an inferential topic. The situation is the same in Toulmin’s layout of argument, where the data becomes an argument when combined with an often implicit system warrant / backing. The word argument is routinely used to refer to the data element as the head of such combinations.

— In analytical and immediate inferences, the conclusion is derived directly from a single statement, which is an argument in itself. The conclusion is derived from the form or the semantic contents of the statement argument, S. Proposition.

Argument and conclusion are correlative terms. The “argument — conclusion” relationship is expressed, more or less accurately by expressions such as those listed below. If necessary, “is” may be replaced by “is presented as such by the speaker” (as in line 1, etc.).

The argument The conclusion
— is a consensual statement, or presented as such by the arguer) — is a dissensual, challenged, disputed statement
— is more likely than the conclusion — is less likely than the argument
— is the cognitive starting point in deliberative argumentation

— is the end point in justificatory argumentation

— is the end point of deliberative argumentation

— is the starting point in justificatory argumentation

— expresses a reason — is in search of a reason
— does not carry the burden of proof — carries the burden of proof
— is oriented towards the conclusion — is a projection of the argument
— (in a functional perspective) determines legitimizes the conclusion — (—) determined, legitimized by the argument
— (in a dialogical perspective) accompanies the answer given to the argumentative question — (—) is the proper answer to the argumentative question

2.3 Argument: true, probable, plausible, accepted, conceded…

A statement is considered (or presented) as a certain truth and may function as an argument on very different bases.

— The argument conveys a well-known fact, an intellectual self-evidence, S. Self-Evidence.

the heat of the wax dilates the pores and pulling up is thus less painful (Linguee)

— The partners have explicitly agreed on the statement, for example as part of a (quasi-) dialectical agreement:

We agree that now Syldavia cannot leave the Eurozone, so we can place further requirements upon them.

— The speaker has chosen his argument from those considered to be true by the audience, even if he or she has personal doubts about its validity, S. Ex datis:

You think that Syldavia will never leave the Eurozone, so…

— A simple fact: the statement is challenged neither by the opponent nor by the audience.

The audience’s acceptance of stable statements that may serve to support the conclusion, is always precarious. The opponent’s belief in the truth of a given statement is even less stable. The choice of what will be considered a valid argument is thus a strategic choice which will change in view of the circumstances, S. Strategy.

Challenging the argument — If the argument is disputed, it must itself be legitimized. As part of this operation, the argument takes the status of a claim put forward by the proponent and supported by a series of arguments. These new arguments serve as sub-arguments supporting the overarching claim, S. Linked argument; Epicheirema. If no agreement can be reached on any statement, things can, theoretically, go back indefinitely and the debate may continue without end. The risks associated with such “deep disagreement” should not be considered to invalidate argumentation as a useful social tool to deal with social incompatibilities, as far as third parties play their role in well-regulated settings.

3. Claim, thesis, conclusion, point of view, standpoint

In argumentation, the conclusion is also called the claim, or point of view. A philosophical conclusion is often called a thesis, S. Dialectic. The set of conclusions drawn from complex data at the end of an abduction process can be a full-blown theory, S. Abduction.

3.1 Point of view, viewpoint, standpoint

In the socio-political domain, a point of view is an “opinion”, possibly justified by arguments. The pragma-dialectical program is aimed at reducing, resolving, or eliminating differences of opinions. The corresponding expressions “resolving… differences of conclusions, claims, thesis…” are not in use.
An argument as a point of view, an opinion, a perspective… conveyed in just one sentence is a very special case. Points of views and opinions are generally expressed in complex discourses, supported by equally complex argumentative sub-discourses. The expression point of view can be used to refer to a whole speech, including the point of view and the good reasons supporting it.
In ordinary language, the concept of point of view organizes the perceptual reference system of the speaker:

On the other side of the hedge, was a gardener.
On the other side of the hedge, we saw a road.

In one case, the speaker is outside the garden, in the other in the garden. The concept of point of view used in argumentation is strongly metaphorical. It frames the argumentative situation according to the visual metaphor of a spectator within a landscape, which would be the reality, inaccessible as such, if not represented on a map.
The spectator’s vision provides a slice of reality restructured according to the laws of perspective. The reality referred to by the point of view is only so with regard to a, by definition, unstable focus. In this sense, a point of view is either questionable as it functions as blinkers; or valuable, because it protects one from the objectivist illusion produced by consensus, and from the paranoia of absolute knowledge.

An affirmation corresponds to a point of view if it is brought back to one subjective source, while absolute truth, or vision, is independent of any source, or has a universal, absolute source.
The point of view is an inescapable starting point. Points of view are comparable and assessable. We cannot be without perspective-point of view, yet we are able to define a better point of view; change our point of view, and multiply our points of view. In order to eliminate differences in points of view, one would have to eliminate subjectivity, or the plurality of voices, and de-contextualize the discourse. Scientific discourses do that routinely, but, as far as argumentative discourse seeks to deal with human affairs, involving (legitimate) interests, values, and their affective correlates, argumentation analysis cannot align itself with scientific language without changing the nature of its objects and objectives. The radical elimination of points of view would require the resurrection of the absolute rational Hegelian subject, or of the objective and omniscient narrator of nineteenth century novels.

3.2 Conclusion

The opening section of a discourse is its introduction, its closing section its conclusion. The argumentative conclusion is distinct from the material conclusion ending an intervention. The argumentative conclusion can be stated, or repeated, in any part of speech, at the beginning or at the end, or both.

The argumentative conclusion is defined in correlation with the argument (see Table above). In an argumentative monological text, the conclusion is the assertion according to which the discourse is organized; towards which it converges; in which its orientation materializes; the intention which gives the discourse its meaning, and the ultimate core of the text obtained by condensing it.

The conclusion is more or less detachable from the arguments supporting it. Once we have reached the conclusion that “probably, Harry is a British citizen”, we can, by default, act on the basis of this belief. But, as far as the modal probably expresses clear reservations on the whole inferential process, the claim will remain revisable if conditions change. The “fire and forget” principle[1] does not work well in argumentation. The conclusion is never fully detachable from the speech used in its construction.

A statement S becomes a claim in the following dialogical configuration

(1) — S is put forward by a speaker (as something essential for him, or merely anecdotal)
(2) — S is not ratified by the addressee: not preferred second turn
(3) — S is re-asserted, possibly reformulated by the speaker

(4) — S is explicitly rejected by the dialogue partner (re-statement not ratified: disagreement ratified)
(5) — Emergence of pro- and contra-arguments.

At stage (3), the disagreement emerges. At stage (4) the disagreement is ratified as such, a stasis is formed, and S is now a Claim put forward by the first speaker. At stage (5), the stasis begins to develop

Stage (1) is not a dialectical “opening stage”. The speaker does not necessarily intend to open a dispute. Non-ratification can occur at any time in an interaction, and may concern any foreground or background statement, S. Denying; Disagreement. In other words, being a claim is not a property of a statement, but is attached to the treatment of a statement in an interactive configuration.

[1] “(Of a missile) able to guide itself to its target once fired.” (EOD, fire-and-forget) (11-08-2017)