In the same way as refutations, objections are reactive, non-preferred second-turn interventions, opposing the conclusions of the first turn, the target discourse.

From the point of view of their contents, objections can be seen as politely mitigated refutations, which nonetheless have the full strength of a refutation; the choice of presenting a refutation as an objection would be an insignificant price which logic pays in the name of civility.

Objections can also be seen as weak, indecisive refutations, which are easily disposed of. To refute is to shoot down, while to object is just an attempt to stop, at best to weaken, the position under scrutiny.

The status of a rebuttal as an objection or a refutation depends on the kind of dialogue which develops between the participants. In a logical language game, I cannot claim that all swans are white and simultaneously concede that this particular swan is black. Conclusive counter-arguments do count as refutations. In ordinary language, I’ll argue that all swans are indeed white, while conceding the existence of black swans as exotic exceptions.

The same kind of argument can be treated as a refutation or as a concession. In the same way as a refutation, for example, an objection might underline a negative consequence of the interlocutor’s proposal:

— But if you build the new school here, the students’ commuting time will be half an hour longer.

This counter argument can be contextually constructed as a refutation:

— This is clearly unacceptable, classes begin at 7.30, and some students who commute already have to travel for more than an hour. The new school cannot be built here!

or as an objection:

— We’ll have to create a new bus line for commuter students, but this remains the best place to build our new school!

Objection and refutation essentially have different interactional statuses; objections are cooperative, while refutation is antagonistic. The objecting party is a dialectical figure, essential in cooperative everyday argumentative dialogue.

While refutation seeks to close the debate, without even listening to the answers, objections keep the dialogue open; they are in line with the problematic of the discourse under discussion, which are accepted as a working hypothesis. Objections are framed as quests for answers, they seek explanations, precisions and modalizations; they accept, as the case may be, to be only partially answered or integrated.

The ethos and emotional states displayed via refutation and objection are quite different. The former wants to have the final say and is associated with aggression, whilst the latter evokes a spirit of measure, collaboration and openness.

In a proleptic discourse, referring to possible negative observations, the speaker mentions “objections”, not “refutations”, typically using a but structure:

It could be objected that P [anti-oriented discourse], but R [answer to the objection, discourse reinforced]

S. Refutation; Concession; Prolepsis