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The Toulmin Method of Argumentation

Page history last edited by Jayson Yeagley 9 years, 1 month ago

Contemporary Strategy

 

Toulmin Method

 

The Toulmin Method of argumentation was developed by Stephen Toulmin, a contemporary philosopher whose ideas are often included as part of modern rhetorical theory. This method is designed to assist you in analyzing or constructing the logic of an argument, whether it is spoken or written.

If you consider Toulmin’s Method as an organizational strategy, it does not include either introductory or concluding material. It also only considers the logical aspects of the argument.

Sample construction of an argument with the Toulmin Method

Project’s Claim: a controversial statement

  • Reason #1: the first argument (line of reasoning) supporting the claim
    • Warrant/Principle: the connection between the first reason and the claim:
      • Backing: evidence to support the first warrant
    • Evidence #1: evidence to support the first reason
    • Evidence #2: evidence to support the first reason
    • Evidence #3: evidence to support the first reason

Reason #2: the second argument (line of reasoning) supporting the claim

  • Warrant/Principle: the connection between the second reason and the claim:
    • Backing: evidence to support the second warrant
  • Evidence #1: evidence to support the second reason
  • Evidence #2: evidence to support the second reason
  • Evidence #3: evidence to support the second reason

Reason #3: the third argument (line of reasoning) supporting the claim

  • Warrant/Principle: the connection between the third reason and the claim:
    • Backing: evidence to support the third warrant
  • Evidence #1: evidence to support the third reason
  • Evidence #2: evidence to support the third reason
  • Evidence #3: evidence to support the third reason

(for as many arguments/lines of reasoning that you have in the paper)

Refutation Section

  • Objection #1: the first argument against your claim (you can argue against the reason, the warrant, the backing, and/or the evidence)
    • Rebuttal: your argument against the first objection
  • Objection #2: the second argument against your claim
    • Rebuttal: your argument against the second objection
  • Objection #3: the third argument against your claim
    • Rebuttal: your argument against the third objection

(for as many objections that you have in the paper)

REFERENCE

Toulmin, S. (1964). The Uses of Argument. New York: Cambridge University Press.

 

 

Example of the Toulmin Method

 

Project’s Claim: Juicy Fruit is the Best Gum Ever!

Reason #1: Juicy Fruit is the best tasting gum.

  • Warrant/Principle: Good gum must taste good.
    • Backing: (This is a pretty “well duh” warrant that probably wouldn’t need any backing. In other words, would anyone disagree with this warrant?)
  • Evidence #1: Consumer Reports survey compared the taste of Juicy Fruit with other types of gum.
    • Warrant/Principle: People trust research done by the Consumer Reports magazine
      • Backing: Consumer Reports is not invested in the research. They do not care which gum tastes best.
      • Backing: Consumer Reports uses research methods that are sound.
      • Backing: Consumer Reports studies usually include a lot of people in the research; in other words, they don’t just ask ten people what they thing about the taste of different gums.
  • Evidence #2: Juicy Fruit uses real fruit juice in the recipe.
    • Warrant/Principle: Real juices taste better than artificial flavors. (Compared to the backing for the warrant connecting the reason to the claim, this warrant might be up for debate. People might argue artificial flavors are crisper, creative, etc.)
      • Objection: Real juices do not necessarily taste better than artificial flavors. Today’s technology allows for well developed and distinguished artificial flavors.
        • Rebuttal: Most artificial flavored gums are very sweet; too sweet most of the time.
  • Evidence #3: The flavor lasts longer.

Reason #2: Juicy Fruit blows the biggest bubbles.

  • Warrant/Principle: Gum must blow bubbles.
    • Objection: Not all gum is meant to blow bubbles. Some gum is just to provide fresh breath.
      • Rebuttal: Gum that is only meant to provide fresh breath might as well be a breath mint. Gum is supposed to be elastic enough to chew; therefore, elastic enough to blow bubbles.
  • Warrant/Principle: Big is always better.
    • Backing: (This is a warrant that is always at work in American Culture; think of “biggie size” combo meals and such.)
      • Objection: Big bubbles usually burst and make a mess everywhere.
        • Rebuttal: That is a problem with the individual blowing the bubbles. The point is that Juicy Fruit can make the biggest bubbles.
  • Evidence #1: Survey of 20 friends with different types of gum. Juicy Fruit bubbles were biggest 8 out of 10 times.
    • Warrant/Principle: The results of studies are to be trusted and valued over mere opinion.
      • Objection: What was your methodology for conducting this study?
        • Rebuttal: You describe the methods of your study, maybe citing sources about how/why this method is sound and valid.
  • Evidence #2: A competitive gum bubble blower says so.
    • Warrant/Principle: Professionals have authoritative opinions (another “well duh” warrant).

Reason #3: Juicy Fruit stays soft and pliable.

  • Warrant/Principle: A person can chew “good” gum for a long time without getting sore jaws.
    • Backing: evidence to support the third warrant
  • Evidence #1: The same survey conducted on the 20 friends for blowing bubbles also evaluated pliability.
    • Objection: How do you measure “pliability”?
      • Rebuttal: The persons in the test would time how long it took for their jaws to get tired.
  • Evidence #2: Juicy Fruit is softer right out of its package than other gums.
    • Objection: How do you measure “softness”?
      • Rebuttal: After opening up the gum, Juicy Fruit can be folded four times before it breaks. All the other gums could only be folded three times.

 

TEACHING STRATEGY: LESSON INTRODUCING TOULMIN TO STUDENTS

This lesson is an effective pedagogical strategy for introducing Toulmin to students in a way that makes them see Toulmin’s power without intimidating them. The strategy we use is to begin with plenty of clearcut, easy examples. The For Class Discussion exercises in Chapters 4 and 5 are particularly helpful in this regard.

The central feature of our pedagogy is to begin with the enthymeme rather than with Toulmin and to get students used to the enthymemic concepts of issue, claim, stated reason, and unstated assumption before introducing Toulmin language. On the day that we assign students to read Chapters 4 and 5, we put the following enthymemes on an overhead.

Issue: What car should we buy?
Enthymeme 1: We should buy this Geo Metro because it is extremely economical. Enthymeme 2: We should buy this used Volvo because it is very safe. Enthymeme 3: We should buy this Ford Escort because it is red.

Our hope is that students will find something humorously fishy about Enthymeme 3 as soon as they see it, even if they can’t yet quite articulate what’s wrong with it. Before getting specifically to Enthymeme 3, however, we conduct a general class discussion about each of the enthymemes. We begin by getting students to articulate the unstated assumption behind each enthymeme.

Assumption for Enthymeme 1: We should buy the car that is most economical. (Economy is the major criterion we should use in selecting a car.)

Assumption for Enthymeme 2: We should buy the car that is most safe. (Safety is the major criterion we should use in selecting a car.)

Assumption for Enthymeme 3: We should buy a car that is red. (The color red is the major criterion we should use in selecting a car.)

We then enter a general discussion of Enthymemes 1 and 2 by talking about how we would support them or try to refute them. One possibility is that we might agree with the criterion in Enthymemes 1 and 2 but disagree with the stated reason by arguing that the Geo Metro isn’t as economical as another car or that the Volvo isn’t as safe as another car. But another possibility is that we might disagree with the criterion in each case and thus argue that we should base our decision not on economy or safety but on performance or driving fun or cargo space or reliability. The key here is to have students see the difference between supporting or attacking the stated reason itself versus supporting or attacking the unstated assumption behind the reason.

We then switch to Enthymeme 3 and ask students why they thought something was fishy about that enthymeme. We say tongue in cheek that we see nothing wrong with it. We assure them that the reason is really true–we can verify that the car is red through both the testimony of a survey of randomly chosen people (100 percent said the car was red) and through a special chemical spectroscopy test we ran on the paint. “No,” they will say. “That’s not what’s at issue. We agree that the car’s red, but we can’t see what color has to do with buying the car.” Then we'll reply, “Oh, you

 

 

can’t see how we get from the facts to the claim” (echoing Toulmin’s phrase that the warrant is how you get from data to claim). Or, “So you think the claim is unwarranted?” (trying to work in some Toulmin language naturally). “What we need, then, is some kind of argument to ‘back up’ this unstated assumption that redness is the major criterion we should choose.”

At this point, we begin introducing Toulmin terminology to students. The unstated assumption behind each enthymeme we now call the warrant. Together the claim, the stated reason, and the warrant constitute the frame or skeleton of the argument. These frame sentences can be stated in a single sentence each:

Claim: WeshouldbuythisusedVolvo.
Stated Reason: It is very safe.
Warrant: Weshouldbuythecarthatisthesafest.

We explain that what fleshes out the argument–what gives it development and detail–are the grounds and/or the backing. The grounds, we say, are all the facts, data, examples, evidence, or chains of reasons we use to support the stated reason. The backing is all the facts, data, evidence, examples, or chains of reasons we use to support the warrant. Whether we concentrate on providing grounds, backing, or both depends on where we anticipate our audience’s needs and objections.

We now go back to discuss each enthymeme again, this time using Toulmin terminology. We take the class through a series of questions like these:

1. Imagine a situation in which a writer might need to provide extensive grounds for Enthymeme 1, but no backing. What would that situation be? What kinds of grounds might you use? [Possible answer: Writer and audience have already agreed that economy is the chief criterion for choosing the car; they are disagreeing on which of two cars is the most economical.

The writer supporting the Geo Metro might provide grounds in the form of data about fuel economy, maintenance costs, taxes and licensing fees, and resale value.]

2. Imagine a situation in which a writer might need to provide backing for Enthymeme 2, but no grounds. What would that situation be? What kind of argument could be devised for backing? [Possible answer: Writer and audience agree that Volvos are very safe, but they disagree on whether safety should be the primary criterion. The writer might argue that this car is for a very safety-minded middle class couple with young children. The husband of the couple lost a sister in an auto accident several years ago and is obsessed with safety. He could never enjoy driving or riding in a car that wasn’t, in his mind, the safest car he could buy. The wife of the couple has similar concerns for safety.]

3. Now reverse the situation and imagine a scenario that requires no backing for Enthymeme 2, but plenty of grounds. [Here writer and audience have agreed that they will buy the safest car on the market, but there is disagreement over whether a used Volvo is the safest car. To argue for the Volvo’s safety, the writer might provide grounds in the form of insurance claim data, crash test data, data about the actual construction of the car, and so forth.]

 

 

Finally, we move to a discussion of Enthymeme 3. We ask why something seemed fishy about that enthymeme from the start. The answer, which can now be cast in Toulmin terms, is that the Warrant seems silly. We can readily see how economy or safety could be a criterion for buying a car, but not redness. In Toulmin's term, this enthymeme cries out for backing:

Claim: WeshouldbuythisFordEscort.
Stated Reason: It is red.
Grounds: Direct observation; 100 percent consensus on informal survey that the car is

red; statement “red” under “color” on sales form; scientific analysis of light

spectrum as it is reflected from car’s surface. Warrant: Ifwefindacarthat’sred,weshouldbuyit. Backing: ? ? ?

We then ask students either individually or in small groups to think of some kind of scenario in which one really might buy a car because it is red. In short, we ask them to think of a way to provide backing for the warrant. After students share some of their ideas, we put the following argument on the overhead [which is based on a true case–John Bean’s neighbor bought a little red Escort for his mother for exactly the reasons stated]:

You must think it ludicrous that I think we should buy the Escort because it is red. But think for a minute about Grandma’s situation. Grandpa died four months ago. Grandma has hardly left the house since then and needs to snap out of her depression. She likes to drive, even though Grandpa usually did all the driving in that clunky old Buick they owned. She never liked that car, and she won’t drive it now–maybe because it reminds her of Grandpa. What Grandma needs is a sporty, new, little, easy-to-drive-and-park car. So, of course, redness isn’t the only criteria we should think about. But there are dozens of sporty little cars on the market that fit our other criteria. What is most important, I think, is that the car be red. That has always been her favorite color. It is youthful and energetic. I think a little red car will help her snap out of her mourning and get her out of the house. And let’s get it for her by next Monday, her birthday. Let’s have her wake up and see her own little red car in the driveway. So I say, let’s go get the Escort. It’s available today, and it is just exactly the kind of red that will perk Grandma up.

These what-car-should-we-buy examples have proven effective for us in teaching students the difference between grounds and backing. Clearly, to provide grounds for Enthymeme 3 would be comically pointless. Nobody disputes the car’s color in the way they might dispute the car’s economy or safety. Just as clearly, it is essential to provide backing for Enthymeme 3 because no one will accept redness as a plausible criterion for buying a car the way they might accept economy or safety. The obvious difference between grounds and backing in Enthymeme 3 helps students see the distinction between grounds and backing in the other arguments also. Likewise, they see how Toulmin’s system helps them make rhetorical decisions: Will my audience accept my stated reason? If not, I need substantial grounds. Will they accept my warrant? If not, I will need to make it explicit and provide backing.

We have put this introductory lesson on Toulmin on the following seven transparency masters

 

 

for convenient use in the classroom. Instructors will most likely want to use this introduction to Toulmin in conjunction with teaching Chapters 4 and 5.

 

 

Transparency #1
AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN

Issue: What car should we buy?

Enthymeme#1: WeshouldbuythisGeoMetrobecauseitisextremely economical.

Enthymeme #2: We should buy this used Volvo because it is very safe. Enthymeme #3: We should buy this Ford Escort because it is red.

Does one of these arguments seem a little odd or off-base? Why?

Toulmin analysis will provide concepts and language to talk effectively about these enthymemes.

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN: Transparency #2

Each of these enthymemes depends on an unstated assumption. If the audience is going to be swayed by the argument, the audience has to grant this unstated assumption. What is the unstated assumption behind each enthymeme?

Enthymeme#1: WeshouldbuythisGeoMetrobecauseitisextremely economical.

Enthymeme#2: WeshouldbuythisusedVolvobecauseitisverysafe. Enthymeme#3: WeshouldbuythisFordEscortbecauseitisred.

Assumption for enthymeme #1: We should buy the car that is most economical. [Economy is the major criterion we should

use in selecting a car. ]

Assumption for enthymeme #2: We should buy the car that is most safe. [Safety is the major criterion we should use in selecting

a car. ]

Assumption for enthymeme #3: We should buy a car that is red. [The color red is the major criterion we should use in

selecting a car. ]

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN: Transparency #3

Here is how each of these enthymemes would be displayed using the Toulmin term “warrant” for the unstated assumption.

Enthvmeme #1: Claim:
Stated Reason: Warrant:

Enthymeme #2: Claim:
Stated Reason: Warrant:

Enthymeme #3: Claim:
Stated Reason: Warrant:

We should buy this Geo Metro.
It is extremely economical.
We should buy the car that is most economical.

We should buy this used Volvo.
It is very safe.
We should buy the car that is most safe.

We should buy this Ford Escort. It is red.
We should buy a car that is red.

• We call these three statements (claim, stated reason, warrant) the “frame” or “skeleton” of a line of reasoning.

This frame or skeleton needs to be fleshed out with “grounds” and/or “backing,” depending on the rhetorical context.

For each of the above enthymemes, imagine a scenario in which you would most have to defend the stated reason. Then imagine another scenario in which you would most have to support the warrant.

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN: Transparency #4

TOULMIN SCHEME FOR ENTHYMEME #1 Claim: We should buy this Geo Metro.
Stated Reason: It is extremely economical.

Grounds: Evidence that the Geo Metro is extremely economical. [Government statistics on gas mileage; projected repair costs; testimony from other Metro owners, etc.]

Warrant: We should buy the car that is most economical.

Backing: Arguments showing why economy is the most important criterion.

[Argument would be aimed at specific audience: We need to save money; we have a long commute and need to cut fuel costs; we can put the money saved into our dream vacation, etc.]

Conditions of Rebuttal:
Questioning the stated reason and grounds: The Geo Metro isn't
as economical as you think. [Granted it gets high gas mileage, but repair costs are high, resale value is low, etc.]
Questioning the warrant and backing: I'll grant you that the Geo
Metro is economical, but economy shouldn't be our most important criterion. What about safety? Imagine that little Metro in a head- on collision with an SUV. Other arguments downgrading
economy as the chief criterion. ]

Qualifier: Perhaps the Geo Metro is the best choice for us.

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN: Transparency #5

TOULMIN SCHEME FOR ENTHYMEME #2 Claim: We should buy this used Volvo.
Stated Reason: It is very safe.

Grounds: Evidence that the used Volvo is very safe.
[Crash and injury data on Volvos; insurance company figures on Volvo safety; government crash tests; other data demonstrating safety of this particular make of car.]

Warrant: We should buy the car that is most safe.

Backing: Argument for why safety is the most important criteria. [Writer generates arguments aimed at particular audience: We have a young family; my sister died in an auto accident so I am uncomfortable in any car that isn't safe; lower insurance rates; we commute on a dangerous highway; etc.]

Conditions of Rebuttal:
Questioning the stated reason and grounds: Maybe the Volvo isn't
as safe as you think. [Evidence suggesting that another kind of car would be more safe]
Questioning the warrant and backing: While safety is important,
other criteria are more important in our situation–economy, reliability, etc. [We'll spend a fortune keeping the Volvo running; other cars are nearly as safe so the difference is negligible; this used Toyota Camry will be cheaper to buy, gets much better mileage, and will have smaller repair costs.]

Qualifier: Let's put the Volvo high on our list of cars to consider.

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN: Transparency #6

TOULMIN SCHEME FOR ENTHYMEME #3 Claim: We should buy this Ford Escort.
Stated Reason: It is red.

Grounds: Evidence that it is red.
[Humorous–nobody will dispute redness: testimony from others; scientific spectroscopy results; stated color on dealer's spec sheet for car.]

Warrant: We should buy a car that is red.

Backing: Argument that the color red should be the primary criterion for deciding what car to buy.

[Can you think of any situations in which a specific car color should be a primary criterion?]

[see next overhead]

 

 

AN INTRODUCTION TO TOULMIN: Transparency #7

Possible Backing for Enthymeme #3

Warrant: We should buy a car that is red.

Backing: You must think it ludicrous that I think we should buy the Escort because it is red. But think for a minute about Grandma's situation. Grandpa died four months ago. Grandma has hardly left the house since then and needs to snap out of her depression. She likes to drive, even though Grandpa usually did all the driving in that clunky old Buick they owned. She never liked that car, and she won't drive it now–maybe because it reminds her of Grandpa. What Grandma needs is a sporty, new, little, easy-to-drive-and-park car. So, of course, redness isn't the only criterion we should think about. But there are dozens of sporty little cars on the market that fit our other criteria. What is most important, I think, is that the car be red. That has always been her favorite color. It is youthful and energetic. I think a little red car will help her snap out of her mourning and get her out of the house. And let's get it for her by next Monday, her birthday. Let's have her wake up and see her own little red car in the driveway. So I say, let's go get the Escort. It's available today, and it is just exactly the kind of red that will perk Grandma up.

Conditions of Rebuttal:
Questioning the reason and grounds: Nobody will deny the car is red.
Questioning the warrant and backing: I agree that red might perk Grandma up, but let's look at other criteria before we buy on impulse.

Qualifier: Maybe we should buy the Escort.

 

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