Collections 1 and Typologies of Arguments Schemes

The tradition has bequeathed us more or less systematized inventories of argument schemes:

Collections 2: From Aristotle to Boethius
Collections 3: Modernity and Tradition
Collections 4: Contemporary Innovations and Structurations

and a series of questions about them:

— About their nature and number,

— Lists of argument schemes have been compiled, and still are; but what is the unifying factor underlying these lists? Have they a proper systematic organization? Are they amenable to some elementary headings (Blair 2012, Chap. 12 and 13)?

— Where do they come from? Are they recurring remarkable stable structures picked up in (successful) argumentative discourses of all kinds? Or are they construed from the a priori categories of the human mind?

— Are they logical, cultural or anthropological beings? Are they culture-dependent?

— What kind of historical change, if any, can affect the topics? The question arises, when the 19 “forms of reasoning” of Toulmin, Rieke & Janik are compared with the Ciceronian and post-Ciceronian lists of topoi, S.Collections (4) and Collections (2).

1. Categorization of arguments: collections and typologies

A class is a set of beings; basically a typology is a class subdivided into various subtypes; the same class can admit organized different subtypes, S.  Classification. A catalog can be considered as a single-level typology.

A typology of arguments is a set of topics or argument schemes linking the argument to the conclusion. Typologies of arguments include from ten to several dozens of argument schemes.

To categorize a speech segment (an individual, level 0) as a “pragmatic argument” is the process by which the characteristic features that define the pragmatic argument are recognized in this segment. This operation is itself argumentative, and obeys the rules of argumentation by definition. S. Nomination; Definition; Argumentation Scheme.

The idea of argument type, the possibility of drawing up inventories of these types, and giving an internal structure to these inventories, in order to build a “typology of topics”, is the very foundation of the theory of rhetorical argumentation. Walter Ong sees these typologies of arguments as engaged in a perpetual movement of renewal and attempt at redefining:

As the general intellectual tradition changes, the active associative nodes for ideas change, and classification changes too. Revising the tradition has been a common phenomenon in antiquity, when Aristotle differed from the sophists in the list of topics he proposed, Cicero from Aristotle, Quintilian from Cicero, Themistius from all these, and Boethius from all of them again and from Themistius as well. The revision continues in our day with Professor Mortimer Adler’s “Great ideas” (augmented beyond their original hundred), and with such articles as Père Gardeil’s very helpful study of the lieux communs in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, where, after reporting Melchior Cano’s description of the loci (which he notes are taken at times verbatim from Agricola) and Cano’s organization of theological loci, Gardeil proposes, in true topical tradition, a still better classification of his own. (Ong 1958, p. 122)

There are many lessons to be learnt from this passage. First it provides us with a definition of topics as “active associative nodes for ideas”, as theorized since the birth of rhetoric in the context of the theory of argumentation in discourse. Yet the particular interest of this passage lies in the description of the taxonomic trap. To bring the irritating proliferation of typologies to an end, one might be tempted to propose a new and final one, thus bringing everyone into agreement — but, in the end, it appears that an additional typology has been added to an already overloaded list, aggravating the very evil, which it claimed to remedy. This observation can be read as an ironic historical counterpoint to the works that, in that year, 1958, were reviving reflection on topics and arguments.

2. Place of collections in the theories of the argumentation

The question of argument schemes plays a key role in some argumentation theories whilst in other schemes it is either re-defined, or plays only a marginal role.

(i) The question of argument types does not arise in Anscombre and Ducrot’s theory of Argumentation within Language. The concept of topos is defined as a semantic link between predicates. It follows that the number of topoi is extremely large, uncountable even, while classical theories enumerate less than one hundred topoi.

(ii) Grize’s “Natural Logic” is based on the concept of schematization@. The operations of “reasoned organization”, or “shoring” amounts, in substance, to the classical concept of a conclusion supported by an argument. The types of arguments correspond to types of scaffolding. To my knowledge, this line is not further developed. Grize focuses on inference, causality, explanation.

(iii) In Toulmin’s terminology, a type of warrant corresponds to a type of argument, as shown by Ehninger and Brockriede ([1960]). Moreover, Toulmin, Rieke and Janik (1984) proposed a brief collection of arguments, S. Collections (4). The example illustrating Toulmin’s “layout of argument” corresponds to a very productive topic, the categorization of an individual.

(iv) The concept is central to the New Rhetoric of Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, as well as for Pragma-Dialectic and Informal Logic, S. Collections (4).

3. Dimension of the classification:
number of argument schemes

Classic lists of argument schemes tend to propose a relatively large number or argument schemes. The Rhetoric of Aristotle offers a set of twenty-eight schemes, plus some “lines of argument that form the spurious enthymemes” (Rhet., II, 24; RR, p. 379); plus some rules taken from the Topics. Cicero’s Topica lists a dozen of schemes, and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria twenty-five. Boethius passed fifteen forms on to the Middle Ages, S. Collections (2).

The Dupleix’s Logic (1607) and Bossuet’s Logic (1677), can probably be considered as representative, in modern times, of this classic tradition. The former retains fourteen schemes and the latter twenty schemes.

Other modern typologies are quite divergent: Locke [1690] proposes a typology — if it can be considered as such — consisting of four elements to which Leibniz [1765] adds one. Locke’s scientific world is, however, extremely different from, and antagonistic to the rhetorical world of the classics.

Bentham enumerates thirty-one argumentative formulas for the field of political argumentation, S. Political arguments.

In contemporary times, Conley counts “more than eighty different argument types” in Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca Treatise (Conley 1984, p. 180-181) S. Collections (4).

4. Forms of the collections

In the Rhetoric, Aristotle presents a catalogue of twenty-eight topoi randomly listed.

Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca have constructed a clearly organized four-level typology of the various “techniques of argumentation”

— A speech segment (an individual, level 0) can, for example be categorized as a “pragmatic argument”; that is, this segment presents the essential features that define the pragmatic argument (level 1).

— Level 1 arguments are grouped within a super-category; for example, a “pragmatic argument” is classified as an “argument based on the structure of reality” (level 2).

— Level 2 arguments are grouped in the class of the “techniques of association”, (level 3), one of the two kinds of “techniques of argumentation” (Level 4, top level).

5. Foundations of the collections

The collections of argument schemes can be organized in different ways.

(i) From the perspective of their contribution to the growth of scientific knowledge, inconclusive arguments are opposed to compelling arguments. The latter are, in modern times, generally equated with mathematical demonstration and scientific evidence. In the words of Locke, they “bring true instruction with [them] and advance us on our way to knowledge” (Locke [1690], Chap. 17, § 19-22), S. Collections (3). Person-centered arguments are, from this point of view, irrelevant. The same might be said of those that play only on the guiles of natural language and the nuances of interpersonal relationship.

(ii) From the perspective of their linguistic functioning, metonymic arguments based on a relationship of contiguity, can be distinguished from the metaphoric arguments based on a relationship of similarity. This distinction mirrors the opposition between the arguments “establishing the structure of reality” (analogy type) and those “based on the structure of reality’ (causal type) (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca [1958] p. 261; 350). S. Metonymy — Synecdoche; Metaphor; Collections (4).

(iii) From the point of view of their productivity. The productivity of an argument scheme depends on the number of actual arguments (enthymemes) derived therefrom. Intuitively, some topics are very productive. One might think for example of those based on the twin argument schemes by categorization@ and definition; or arguments based on causal or analogical relations, or from the contraries, etc. Others, including the argument from sacrifice@ are less productive. Other argument schemes are apparently, no longer in use, such as the argumentative exploitation of syzygies.

(iv) From the point of view of their legitimating power. A good example of organizing topical forms according to their strength is given by the hierarchy of legal and theological arguments in the Arab-Muslim culture and religion, such as proposed by Khallaf ([1942]). He distinguishes between ten sources, ordered according to their degree of legitimacy. The most legitimate forms are those based on the Quran and the Tradition. Those that have the weakest degree of legitimacy are, on the one hand, “the laws of monotheistic peoples”, and, on the other hand, perhaps quite surprisingly given the situation in 2017, “the opinions of the Prophet’s companions”, in that order. In other words, the argument put forward at the time of the origin of Islam is granted the smallest possible weight in the hierarchy of arguments. Such was the situation in 1942; it has undergone significant change with the rise of Salafism.