In the field of argumentation studies, the word value can refer to:

    1. The truth-value of a proposition, S. Proposition.
    2. The value of an argumentation, S. Evaluation; Force.

The question of values ​​and value judgments: this entry.

1. Values as a unified field

The philosophical tradition considers that questions about

the good, the ends, the right, obligation, virtue, moral judgment, aesthetic judgment, the beautiful, truth, and validity (Frankena 1967, p. 229)

belong to separate domains: morality, law, aesthetics, logic, economics, politics, epistemology.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, these questions have been taken up globally, within the framework of a general theory of values, of distant Platonic ancestry. This “wide-ranging discussion in terms of ‘value’, ‘values’, and ‘valuation’ [then] spread to psychology, the social sciences, the humanities and even to ordinary speech” (ibid.).

2. The New Rhetoric on values

The concept of value was introduced into the field of argumentation by Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca’s New Rhetoric [1958], in the philosophical filiation of Dupréel (1939) (Dominicy n. d.).
It constitutes its permanent foundation, as shown by the introductory chapter of Perelman “Juridical Logic” [Logique juridique] (1979) entitled « The New Rhetoric and Values ».

The status of value and the role of values in argument is extensively discussed and exemplified in Guerrini 2019 Les Valeurs dans l’argumentation [Values in Argumentation]

2.1 Perelman’s research program on the logic of values

Perelman presents his discovery of the theory of argumentation as a step beyond a research program on the “logic of value judgments” (Perelman 1979, §50, p. 101; 1980, p. 457). This latter research led him to the following results:

— « There is no logic of value judgments » (ibid.) that would allow their rational organization. This conclusion that is said to be « unexpected » (ibid.).

— Contrary to the project of classical philosophy, it is impossible to build an ontology that would allow a “calculus of values” regulating their hierarchy.

— The treatment of values by logical positivism leads to a dead end. It maintains a gap between the values and the facts from which they cannot be derived. The consequence of this disconnection is that any recourse to values is rejected as irrational.
Perelman argues that considering that value-based actions are irrational is self-defeating, since it implies that practical reasoning and the whole field of law, both based on values, should be regarded as irrational, which is absurd because unacceptable.

Perelman’s conclusion is that, since science and logic deal with truth judgments, they cannot provide the rules of practical reason, which deals with value judgments. Such is the basic of the Perelmanian claim, that re-asserts the gap between the rational and the reasonable, between “the two cultures”, science and humanities, S. Demonstration; Proof.
Furthering his research program on values, in search of other methods capable of accounting for the rational aspect of the use of values, Perelman sought other perspectives better suited to this specific object. He found them in Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Topics, which provide techniques for an empirical study on how individuals justify their reasonable choices. Perelman was then able to redefine his theoretical objective no longer as a logic, but as a (New) Rhetoric (ibid.). The argumentative-rhetorical method ​​appears to be the solution to the failure of the logical and philosophical treatments of values. Perelman consistently opposes the project of classical philosophy to develop a calculus of values, since it is not possible to derive a hierarchy of values ​​from an ontology of values. More specifically, Perelman opposes Bentham on the possibility of a calculus of pleasures and pains.

2.2 The opposition fact / value, value judgement / reality judgement

The New Rhetoric is thus structured around two issues concerning values.  The first one has a logical origin. It concerns value judgments, made about a being or a concrete situation. second has a philosophical origin. It concerns substantial values such as the true, the beautiful and the good, which are the most general of all values.
In the TA, values are defined by the following distinctions and operations, which actually retain much of its positivist origin.

— Facts are necessary and compel the mind, whereas values ​​call for an adherence of the mind, S. Argumentation (I).

But in practice, value judgments and reality judgments are difficult to distinguish. Contextual considerations may be necessary to characterize a judgment as a value judgment: “this is a car” can be a judgment of fact or a value judgment; “this is a real car” is only a judgment of value (see Dominicy, n. d., p. 14-17).

In science, if two truth-judgments about a reality are contradictory, one of them is necessarily false (principle of the excluded middle), while two contradictory value judgments, “this is beautiful! vs. this is ugly!”, may both be justified by value-based arguments, developed independently from any appeal to reality.

— Values and facts live in separate worlds. Value judgments cannot be derived from nor opposed to reality judgments. Group values ​​are acquired through education and language. and they are specifically reinforced through the epidictic genre.

— Values currently conflict. Legitimate contradictions between value judgments cannot be resolved by eliminating one of the conflicting values, as one eliminates a false proposition. One can only rank the values (ibid., p. 107).


The specific treatment of values in the TA is based upon two assumptions
—A distinction is made between two kinds of substantial values,abstract values ​​such as justice or truth, and concrete values ​​such as France or the Church” (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, [1958], p. 77).

— It follows that substantial values and value judgments are “objects of agreement that cannot make a claim to the adherence of the universal audience” (id., p. 76), but only to the adherence of particular audiences, S. To Persuade – To convince.

The so-called universal values, ​​“such things as the True, the Good, the Beautiful, and the Absolute” might be regarded “as valid for the universal audience only on condition that their content not be specified” (ibid.). They are the “empty frame[s]” suited to all audiences, and are as such pure instruments of persuasion (ibid.). Natural law theorists would object to this conclusion.

— The TA reasserts the link between values and emotions, of positivist origin.

— The Treatise, maintains the opposition between value judgments and judgments of fact only as the result of “precarious agreements” (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca [1958], p. 513) and for special debates.

—  The fact/value dichotomy is at the foundation of the Perelmanian argumentative construction. It absolutizes the gap between the two kinds of rationality, the reasonable [raisonnable] of current practices and law, and the rational [rationnel] of logic and sciences. This decision widens the gap between « the two cultures », the culture of facts (sciences) and the culture of values (humanities), V. Demonstration; Proof.

2.3 Discussions:  The opposition facts / values and agreement

 For Perelman, the functioning as an argument of value claims as well as of reality and truth claims presupposes the agreement of the participants. The whole of these « preliminary agreements » to the argumentation itself creates an atmosphere of « communion » (p. 74) allowing the harmonious development of the argumentative-rhetorical situation itself.
Still according to the Treatise, argumentation can be based on two classes of objects, an object being defined as anything on which one can agree or disagree:

We will ask ourselves which objects of agreement play a different role in the argumentative process. We think it will be useful, from this point of view, to group these objects into two categories, one relative to the real, which would include facts, truths and presumptions, the other relative to the preferable, which would contain values, hierarchies and places of the preferable (Id., p. 88; emphasis in the text).

The Treatise further states that

The notion of « fact » is characterized only by the idea that one has of a certain kind of agreement about certain data, those which refer to an objective reality. (Id. p. 89)

In other words, with the agreement of the participants, statements about values and reality can be used as arguments. In rhetorical argumentation, the speaker proceeds on the basis of values shared with the audience, or presented as such, S. Ex datis. In an adversarial debate, the speech of the proponent and the opponent may be based on radically incompatible values. In such cases, the role of third parties (judges, voters, members of a jury…) becomes essential to settle the conflict of values, rather than to solve it definitely.

Discussion: Agreement erases the difference between fact and values

The facts would be defined by an agreement on the objective data, and the values would be defined by an agreement on something which does not belong to the objective reality.

In practice, this definition erases the hard-won distinction between facts compelling the mind and values calling for an adherence of the mind (cf. supra) and replaces it with the notion of agreement.

For the purposes of argumentation and communication, agreement can be reached on both facts and values, which allows them to be used as arguments. At that point, the deal is done, whatever the ontological differences between facts and values.

Discussion: Is agreement a prerequisite for argumentation?

Argumentation works as well in a regime of disagreement as in a regime of agreement.
Participants can disagree on facts as well as on values. Like values, facts are not imposed on the minds, but must be agreed upon.
In a concrete argumentative situation, the agreement of the participants upon facts as well as upon values cannot be taken for granted, and the absence of agreement does not prevent their use as argument.

A fortiori, in an argumentative situation where a profound disagreement is developing, the discourses of both parties are based on radically incompatible values and facts contested by the other party. Facts and values must then be negotiated by the parties and composed by the mediator. It is in these adjustment processes that the argumentation takes on its full meaning.
The role of third parties (judge, voter, mediator) then becomes essential to settle conflicts of values and reality, always with reference to a particular case.

2.4 Discussion:
Has the epidictic genre a special status in relation to values?

According to the TA, values and truth are acquired via different processes, group values ​​are acquired through education and language. In this per, the epidictic genre specifically deals with values; it does not admit contradiction. Its specific social function is to strengthen the adherence of the group to its common founding values, “without which the discourses aimed at action could not find leverage to move and rouse their listeners” (1977, p. 33)
Perpetually reconstructed in epidictic encounters, where they are subject to a quasi-axiomatic treatment, values find their application in the two argumentative genres properly called, the deliberative and the judicial.
The deliberative and judicial genres are argumentative genres, aimed at collective decision making in situations of conflicting positions. According to Perelman, the epidictic genre has a very different status, it does not admit contradiction; its object is the reinforcement of adherence to group values in order to trigger action, V. Emotion:

Without [values] discourses aimed at action could not find leverage to move and stir their listeners (1977, p. 33).

Discussion:  The epidictic discourse on values is not unanimous

While insisting on the irreducible contradictions that prevail in the field of values, Perelman thus removes values from actual social contradiction by making the epidictic genre inherently unanimous.
The epidictic genre can be let exclude blame and restrict itself to praise, through literary and social conventions aligning the homage to living and dead men and women with the hagiography of saints. These conventions are not different from those that want a group to erect statues to its heroes and saints and not to its scoundrels and demons.
It is the social framework of the discourses of homage and veneration that, if anything, precludes counter discourse in the case of epidictic, not the nature of eulogy with has a perfect counterpart, blame. The devil’s advocate always has a role to play, even in canonization cases. If the eulogy of the deceased is unanimous, it is not because there are no opponents or because the opponents have nothing to say, but because, by convention of mourning, they keep silent; the new generation can be trusted to turn into villain the great men and values of older generations.
Epidictic praise of virtue ceases to be unanimous as soon as it is given a precise content

Exception being made of the specific conventional practice of mourning, the epidictic genre is defined by the two antagonistic acts of language, praise and blame. These acts define not so much a genre as a position (footing) that can be taken in both political and judicial discourse.

2.5 Discussion: Does Argument Schemes applies specifically to facts and Topics to values?

According to the Treatise, the opposition of values and facts corresponds to the opposition of the argumentative principles that govern them. Values are governed by topics (loci, topoi, places):

When it’s a question of founding values or hierarchies or reinforcing the intensity of the adhesion they arouse, we can link them to other values or other hierarchies to consolidate them, but we can also have recourse to premises of a very general order, which we’ll call loci, the [tópoi] from which the Topics, or treatises devoted to dialectical reasoning, derive (p. 112)

The Treatise is formal on this point:

We will call places [lieux] only premises of a general order allowing to found values and hierarchies, and which Aristotle studies among the places of the accident (p. 113)

Discussion:  An unnecessary distinction

Given the preceding definition, of the word “place”, we understand that the principles which found, i.e. which justify, the factual conclusions will not be called places (loci, tópoi).
This is what we actually see in the 3rd part of the Treatise. This part, which forms the main part of the work, is entitled « Argumentative techniques », techniques which are also called « argumentative schemes » (p. 251).

But we obviously notice that the schemes, the techniques of association correspond closely to what the tradition calls « argumentative commonplaces », which the Treatise ratifies incidentally:

these schemes [can also be considered] as places of argumentation (p. 255).

2.6 The so-called “loci of value”

Following the preceding decision, we therefore give up reserving the name of “place” to the rules of values only. It remains to be seen what the consequences of this terminological realignment are for the conceptual opposition fact/value. Just as agreement can be reached on facts and values, the same kind of argumentative rules apply to fact and value.

This is confirmed by the fact that the so-called “loci of value” does not specifically apply to values. The following are considered the « most common » loci (id., p. 95/):

— Quantity: “one thing is better than another for quantitative reasons” (id., 85/115): “the more, the better”.
— Quality is used to challenge Quantity, that is “the strength of numbers” (id., p. 89/119): “the rarer it is, the more precious it is”.
Order: “the loci of order affirm the superiority of that which is earlier over that which is later” (id., p. 93/125).
Existence: “the loci relating to the existent affirm the superiority of that which exists, of the real, over the possible, the contingent, or the impossible” (id., p. 94/126).
— Essence: “according a higher value to individuals to the extent that they embody [the] essence” (id., p. 95/126), which materializes as the topos “the closer to the origin, to life, to the prototype, the better it is.”

These so-called loci of values correspond to the topoi of the accident in Aristotle’s Topics (id., p. 113), V. Topics of the Preferable.  The accident is a kind of predication about an object. Such gradual links can be represented on correlated argumentative scales, S. Scale; Topos in semantics.

Discussion: The so-called “loci of value” are not specific to values

The places of the accident are, by definition, operative on the field of objects as well as on the field of values. So, in keeping with tradition, topic (locus, place) and (argument) scheme can be safely interchanged.

2.7 Discussion: Value and Emotions

The following passage on emotions is perhaps key to understanding the role of values in Perelman’s philosophy. By a clever dissociation, the New Rhetoric puts « passions » out of the picture in favor of values:

Note that passions, as obstacles, are not to be confused with passions that serve as support for positive argumentation, and which will usually be qualified with a less pejorative term, such as value, for example. (Ibid., p. 630; emphasis added)

See also the quotation above (§2.4): the role of values is « [t]o move » the audience. But, on the other hand, if values are opposed to facts (§2.2), and emotions being facts, values should be opposed to.  emotions

The notion of value refers to issues of subjectivity, emotion, and, semantically, the orientation and biases constitutive of ordinary speech. The words expressing values are words carrying argumentative orientations, constituted in antonymic couples. This lexicon organized by antonymy can be considered as a gigantic reservoir of « antagonistic couples », generators of argumentative situations:

« pleasure / displeasure », « knowledge / ignorance », « beauty / ugliness », « truth / lie »; « virtue / vice; « harmony / chaos, discord »; « love / hate; « justice / injustice », « freedom / oppression »…

Antonymy is also expressed by more or less fixed phrases (« self-expression / repression », « life in the open air / life in the offices »). Finally, the discourse can build long anti-oriented sequences, under the figure of the antithesis.

The relation of valorization/de-valorization can be reversed: aesthetics of the ugliness / (beauty), classical praise of the coherence and the constancy, baroque praise of the inconstancy, etc.

3. Values in argument

3.1 Value words

Basic values: The apple and the three libidos

The multiplication of values ​​does not call into question the fact that rhetorical discourse relies on substantial values, perhaps more prosaic than “the True, the Good, the Beautiful, the Absolute”, but nonetheless firmly attached to the human condition, and having highly mundane contents, namely honos, uoluptas, pecunia. That is, glory as the desire for social recognition; pleasure in all its forms; money and possessions. There is no place for knowledge in this trinity of materialistic values. By contrast, knowledge is one of the three criteria used by Eve to evaluate the fruit that put an end to the state of innocence:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Genesis, 3, 6[1]

“Good for food”: the good, pleasure of the mouth; “a delight to the eye”: the beautiful, pleasure of the eyes; “to be desired to make one wise”: the true, pleasure of the mind, which was not included in the previous trinity of values.

Taken together, these three pleasures define the divine: “when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (id. 3:5).
These three values can most probably be attached to the human condition; that is, they are widely available for immediate valorization in pragmatic argument, the argument used by the Devil.

Multiplication of value

All choices involve values and preferences. At the limit, the same valued word can be split in two anti-oriented value-words by a dissociation process, creating two anti-oriented homonyms.

Value words as oriented words

The concept of value refers to issues of subjectivity (Kerbrat-Orecchioni 1980) of affectivity and, to the inherent orientation of ordinary statements, S. Emotion; Orientation. Words which express values are basically antonymic pairs coupling words which have opposing argumentative orientations.

The whole lexicon can be seen as an enormous reservoir of such pairs:

pleasure vs. displeasure
knowledge vs. ignorance
beauty vs. ugliness;
truth vs. lies
virtue vs. vice
harmony vs. chaos
love vs. hate
 justice vs. injustice
 freedom vs. oppression

Antonymic values are also expressed by more or less fixed phrases (“free expression of self vs. repression of aggressive instincts”, “life in the open air vs. life in offices”).

The ratio “valorization vs. devaluation” can be reversed:

aesthetics of ugliness vs. beauty), baroque esthetic of inconsistency (vs. consistency).

Value terms are at the root of “biased” language. Unbiased talk would amount to an elimination of value statements (i.e. of subjective, emotional, oriented statements), in favor of judgments based on facts. This requirement can only be satisfied by rejecting natural language in favor of a formal, scientific or technical language, or an alexithymical expression, S. Pathos.

3.2 Founding and exploiting value judgements

In argument, value words, emotion words function like “facts words”, that is, as word in general. Judgements of value as evaluation attach a value to a specific being, event, or state of things. They can be argued, used as argument or questioned as any other kind of judgement.

Arguments positioning an object in relation to a reference value

The word « valorization » has a positive orientation; the word implies the contribution of an additional value: or passing to a more noble use or place

We will nonetheless speak of evaluation (positive or negative) to designate the argumentative operation that situates a fact, a proposal for action, in relation to a value.

The process of valorization can be argued in a wide variety of ways:

X is (+) because:

— there are many / few
— it is round, it is heavy/light, it is mustard-colored, it has no shape
— I like it
— It is rare, it has just been published
— it is available right now

The story goes that a wealthy old dowager was once asked to sell one of her mansions that had been uninhabited and abandoned for many years. The discussion was long and arduous, and, when the buyer ran out of arguments, he pointed out that unless urgent repairs were made, the manor would fall into ruin. To which the dowager would have answered soberly: « I like ruins ».

The justification is satisfactory as soon as the interlocutor is satisfied or renounces.

From an argumentative point of view, the justification structure is not different from:

It’s flammable, it’s very dry, and they put products in it.

A value judgement about a being, an event, a situation… β is a judgement situating β on the specific valuation scale attached to the value / anti-value system Vi

In other words, oppression is a negative value and freedom is positive one.

Restricting circulation rights is oriented towards oppression
Extending circulation rights is oriented towards freedom

The preference corresponds to the same structures in the comparative, which can be represented on a scale:

β can be characterized as ranking high or low in the value Vi

Y is (+) than X because (even- more (+) (modern, etc.)

          The operation of dissociation is a valuation / depreciation operation, which splits the meaning of a word into two sub-meanings (a single notion into two notions), one of which will have a positive value (orientation), and the other, a negative value (orientation).

The predication of a value upon an object follows standard argumentative procedures. For example, in France, National sovereignty as a political value of reference, is consecrated as such in the Article 3 of the 1789 “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”:

The principle of all Sovereignty lies essentially in the Nation. Nobody, no individual can exercise any authority that does not expressly emanate from it.[2]

An evaluation question can arise, asking for example, that an international treaty be assessed in relation to that value. For this purpose, reference can be made to the preceding axiomatic definition, as enshrined in its legal implementation and by experience drawn from analogous situations in the past. The evaluation follows the general definition based categorization procedure, S. Categorization; Definition.

— National sovereignty is defined by the conditions Ci, Cj, Ck … –
— Treaty T respects / does not respect these conditions.
— We can / cannot sign this treaty without renouncing our national sovereignty.

The evaluation has to take into account that, as in any broad axiomatic definition, national sovereignty has many corollaries and ramifications, financial or military, sovereignty for example.

Arguments using an evaluation

The pragmatic argument and the argument by the absurd routinely implies a valorization operation:

Question: Should we do F?
Argumentation: F will result in C1;
Positive/negative evaluation of C1: C1 is Vi(+) (positive from the point of view of value Vi);
Therefore: Let’s do F.

The rebuttal can take two paths, for example:

(i) A counter evaluation of C1:

C1 is actually Vi (–) (negative from the very point of view of Vi),

— perhaps at the cost of a dissociation opposing to Vi “the true Vi”.
This rejoinder opens an evaluation stasis, an issue about the positioning of C in relation with value Vi. 

(ii) Introduction of another consequence C2, considered to be negative from the point of view of the value Vm.

F will result in C2
C2 is Vm (-)

In this case, the stasis is about the relative weights of C1 being Vi(+) vs. C2 being Vm(-).
Vm can be identical to Vi, which gives the rebuttal an ad hominem tinge:

Legalizing cannabis will certainly reduce the activity of small-scale dealers, but it will increase the activity of large-scale dealers.

In both cases, the conclusion is the same: “don’t do F!”.

This rejoinder opens a stasis about the relative weights of C1 being Vi (+) vs. C2 being Vm(—).
The deadlock can be broken by a prioritization adapted to the circumstances of the moment: « But here Vi is less important than Vm« .

In times of pandemic, public health imperatives allow us to restrict freedom
The Republican motto mentions freedom, not public health.

A value can also be invalidated as such by its practical consequences; this pattern of rebuttal seems to be available for all kinds of value:

In the name of freedom, anything can be said and done.
Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!
(Manon Roland, an historical Girondine, guillotined during the French Revolution).

[1] Quoted after

[2] (09-20-2017).

Guerrini Jean-Claude, 2019, Les Valeurs dans l’argumentation [Values in argumentation]. Paris, Classiques Garnier.