The Context of an Argument


Finally, whether much can be said in general about contexts is an interesting, significant, and open question. I am optimistic about articulating a general theory of argument contexts, but also recognize the distinct possibility that contexts vary so widely from argument to argument that a general theory may not be possible. At least beginning the exploration into the possibility of a general theory of argument contexts is the prime purpose of this paper. In the remainder of this paper, I shall, firstly, articulate and discuss a constraint on any adequate theory of argument contexts and, secondly, present and evaluate four possible general articulations of what argument contexts are, viz. (i) the particular situation in which the argument is made, (ii) some subset of the beliefs/assumptions of the arguer and the audience, (iii) the contexts of critical thinking as articulated by Charles Blatz and (iv) the settings of arguments as articulated by Terence Parsons. I shall argue that each of the four general articulations are either problematically incomplete or fail to satisfy the constraint. Hence, more work is required to produce an adequate general theory of argument contexts.

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Copyright © 2003, Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation. This article first appeared in Proceedings of the 5th OSSA Conference, Informal Logic @ 25 (2003), 1-14.

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