Just as it is a structuring feature of ordinary language, subjectivity is a defining condition of argumentation. Argumentative discourse is all about people, their characters, emotions, values and interests, as well as their knowledge and beliefs.

1. The person as an issue

Essentially, when involved in an issue, an individual may be “objectified” and treated in the same way as any other discursive object. In particular, the person may be rhetorically constructed on the basis of a priori doxical knowledge, in order that he or she serve as a basis for pro or contra arguments concerning his or her role in the issue at stake, S. Common Place.

2. Values and interests

Values and interests, even the most specific and bizarre, contribute to the definition of a person’s identity; truth is one of these values. Consequently, they will intervene in all the argumentative operations involving an assessment, such as in an argument from the absurd or in a pragmatic argument. Values and desires are at work when a consequence is defined as absurd, undesirable, or unwanted.

3. Group character and emotions

One’s rhetorical ethos is not defined as an individual, specific, psychological identity, but as the public character of an individual. All the same, rhetorical pathos is composed of a set of public emotions, not private feelings.

Rhetorical theory considers that  group character and emotions play a central role in public persuasion. Critical argumentation and fallacy theories take some distance from such agglomerations of individuals, condemning the futility of their emotions, the baseless charisma and authority of their leaders, abundantly labelled and rejected as “ad –” fallacies”.

When it comes to these issues, a defensive argumentation opposes offensive rhetoric. By enrolling the whole person in the battle of ideas and action, rhetoric adopts an offensive outlook. Conversely, critical approaches to argumentation take rather a secondary, defensive position.

3.1 Pathemic arguments

Points of view come with affects; both are correlative realities. On this basis, a sustained affective activity is a defining feature of an argumentative situation. S. Pathos; Emotion.

3.2 Ethotic argument

Rhetoric proposes a global, multidimensional approach to the person-group social interaction. The character of the audience sets the intellectual and affective conditions of the interaction, as well as the strategic construction of the orator as such, as embodying the values and virtues formally acknowledged by the audience, which can be the seven gifts of the Catholic Holy Spirit as well as the three Aristotelian democratic virtues, or the scientific virtues claimed by a plenary session audience. S. Ethos.

Global ethotic advantage can be analyzed along different dimensions, from charismatic power to scientific prestige, to delegated institutional authority. Among the different form of authority we find expert authority, which consists in well-defined skills, which may be the easiest to assess. Insofar as it satisfies the condition of propositionality, any kind of authority can be sourced, quoted, and valued by default as peripheral evidence. S. Authority.

From a normative point of view, submission to an artfully designed charismatic-authoritarian ethos is analyzed as a fallacy of intellectual inhibition or unjustified humility (ad verecundiam), S. Modesty.

4. Universal or local knowledge

A specific subgroup of these fallacies concerns the knowledge and systems of representation specific to the target, the persons to be convinced or refuted.

From an epistemic point of view, the person is defined as a necessary limited synthetic focus of beliefs and knowledge. Commenting on Whately on the ad hominem, ad verecundiam, ad populum, and ad ignorantiam fallacies, to which he adds the ad baculum and ad misericordiam, Walton notes that these six fallacies taken as a whole are opposed to the ad rem and ad judicium argument (argument aimed at the thing itself, S. Matter). This opposition is based on the fact that the fallacious arguments all contain “a ‘personal’ element, meaning that they are source-based in some ways directed at a source or person (a participant in an argument) rather than at just ‘the thing’ itself. They all have a ‘subjective’ quality, as opposed to the ‘objective’ evidence traditionally appealed to in argumentation” (Walton 1992, p. 6).

These forms of argumentation take as premises the specific representations or circumstances of a person or a group; they are deemed fallacious because of their localism. In contrast to this judgment, the localism of the premises is at the root of the definition of argumentation as a “logic of subjects” (Grize), S. Schematization; Default reasoning. Subjectivity is seen not as a potentially manipulative limitation, but as the stamp of the fact that argumentation irreducibly does not deal with absolute truth but with a revisable process of combining knowledge with human interests, in critical discussions under the supervision of a more or less structured community.

4.1 Causal assertions and human interests

S. Cause to Effect argumentation

4.2 Arguments based on the beliefs of the target

The arguer can choose to base his arguments on the beliefs accepted and the information known by the audience, therefore limiting his discourse to reorganizing and expanding these representations, S. Ethos, §5 Character of the audience; Beliefs of the audience; Concession; Ex datis.

4.3 Arguments based on a specific body of representations

Such arguments are referred to by invalidating labels, as appeals to superstition (ad superstitionem), to imagination (ad imaginationem), to stupidity or intellectual laziness (ad socordiam). These forms are sometimes associated with fallacies of emotion (ad passiones), which is strange, unless we qualify as emotional all the beliefs, nonsensical or not, we do not approve of, S. Faith. S. Collections of arguments.

4.4 Arguments based on the lack of knowledge

This lack of knowledge can be attributed to a person, S. Ignorance, or to humanity at large, S. Vertigo.

5. Silencing the opponent

A set of arguments is oriented towards the invalidation or elimination of the individual as an arguer. To refute the truth of an assertion carried by a person it is shown that it leads to contradictions from the point of view of that person, which may result in silencing the person, S. Ad hominem.

In order to disqualify a point of view, negative characteristics are attributed to the individuals supporting this point of view, either in the particular encounter or in general. These negative features can bear any relation to the question under discussion, S. Personal attack.