A strategy is a complex set of coordinated actions, planned by an actor in order to achieve a specific goal. Strategies can be antagonistic or cooperative. Antagonistic strategies develop in non-cooperative fields of action, such as war, game of chess, or commercial competition. Such strategies serve to secure a decisive advantage over an opponent pursuing an antagonistic goal. Antagonistic strategies are covert, and discovered by the adversary as they are implemented, S. Manipulation. Co-operative strategies are developed by partners working together to achieve a common goal, from which both will benefit. The strategic intentions are transparent to all partners. A research strategy for example is an action plan to solve a problem; and teachers and students will collaborate to implement a pedagogical strategy.

In the military field, the strategy is set up before combat operations and tactics during the fight; tactics refers to the local implementation of a global strategy.

1. Argumentative strategies

An argumentative strategy is a set of speech choices planned and coordinated to support a point of view. Argumentative strategies are a subspecies of language and communicative strategies, speech and text construction strategies, interactional strategies.

An argumentative strategy is antagonistic if it is devised in order that the speaker may take the upper hand over the opponent.

There are two cases in which argumentative strategies may be cooperative:
— Firstly, if the speakers have the same argumentative role, share a common point of view and collaborate to support it.
— Secondly, they may have different roles, and without identifying themselves with these roles, they might collaborate in the construction of a shared solution.

The phrase argumentative tactics is not used, but could be useful to refer to local argumentative phenomena as part of the global argumentative action. The choice to use such argument schemes can be seen as a tactical move, an implementation of a general policy. This does not suffice, however to define an argumentative strategy which requires the application of different kinds of instruments, at all discourse levels, for example coordinating the choice of words, the choice of arguments and self-presentation (as open/closed to objections for example). An argument scheme can be identified on the basis of a brief passage, while the study of a strategy requires an extended corpus which fully represents a position.

2. Some argumentative strategies

The first strategic level is that of the choice of answer to be given to the question, S. Stasis.

— A defensive strategy merely refutes the opponent’s proposals.

— A counter-proposal strategy ignores the opponent’s proposition P and argues a proposition Q which is incompatible with P. In such a context, argumentation may take an explanatory turn, S. Explanation.

— An objectivizing strategy focuses on objects without questioning people.

— Ruining the discussion is a way to ruin the opponent’s arguments,, S. Destruction of speech.

— Bentham has identified types of arguments whose coordinated use defines a stalling strategy, a conservative strategy, aiming to postpone the debate n the hope that it will never take place: “the conditions are not yet fulfilled for you to join the European Union.

— Conciliation vs. breakthrough strategies are characterized by the acceptance vs. refusal of concessions, the flexibility vs. radicalization of the proposals presented as compatible / incompatible. Conciliatory strategies use information accepted by the audience, present the conclusions and its recommendations as a continuation of previous beliefs and actions. Rupture strategies defy the audience, reject all its representations in order to replace them with new ones. The first strategy is reformist, the second is revolutionary.


These two last strategies are used by Paul, the Apostle of Christianity. In the following passages, in order to get the ear of the Athenians that he addresses for the first time, he uses a typical rhetorical captatio benevolentiae strategy, and begins his discourse with a reference to their own creeds, S. Rhetoric; Beliefs of the Audience:

21 The one amusement the Athenians and the foreigners living there seem to have is to discuss and listen to the latest ideas. 22 So Paul stood before the whole council of the Areopagus and made this speech: “Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters,
23 because, as I strolled round looking at your sacred monuments, I noticed among other things an altar inscribed: To an Unknown God. In fact, the unknown God you revere is the one I proclaim to you.
Acts of the Apostles, 17, 21-23[1]

Nonetheless, the message was met by skepticism on the part of the Athenians. In particular, they questioned the message about the resurrection of the dead. Later, in quite different circumstances, Paul claims a rupture between his message and “the wisdom of the wise”:

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.
First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 17-23.[2]

3. “Strategic Maneuvering”

Pragma-dialectics has introduced the concept of strategic maneuvering to reconcile dialectical and rhetorical demands. The rhetorical requirement is defined as a search for efficiency: each party wishes its point of view to triumph. The dialectical requirement is a quest for rationality. During an encounter, each party simultaneously pursues these two objectives. In practice, the dialectical dimension is appraised according to the pragma-dialectical rules for the rational resolution of a difference of opinion. The rhetorical dimension is essentially communicational and presentational. It updates the classical demand that the issue and position must be presented in the correct language or format for the target audience (van Eemeren, Houtlosser 2006).

[1] Quoted after (05-05-2017)

[2] Quoted after (05-05-2017)