Argumentation in Social and Institucional Contexts

Course Objectives

To learn about theoretical developments within argumentation studies that have adopted a specific approach to particular argumentative practices of an institutional and regulated character. We will focus on argumentative fields and practices with an obvious public projection and relevance, as those related to political and legal discourse. We will revise both classical and contemporary approaches to field-dependent aspects of argumentation and reflect on descriptive, normative, critical and ethical questions issued from the study of specific argumentative fields, especially those pertaining to the public sphere.

Course Contents

The course presents as a starting point the reflection on the different attitudes of argumentation theorists and scholars towards the effective existence of somewhat different and rather specific argumentative practices. While, in general terms, contemporary argumentation studies, since their renaissance towards the middle of the 20th century, show an evident interest in abstract and universally applicable models of argument and assessment criteria, we will see that in the origins of our rhetorical tradition, in classical Athens, the attention to particular argumentative practices and paradigms, most especially those really significant in the public life of the polis, was foremost in theoretical reflection on argument and discourse. The course will revise, from a contemporary perspective, the most significant argumentative practices of our own society, engaging in the description of such practices and paying attention as well to the inherent normativity they present, either in a tacit or implicit manner or in a more explicit and institutionalized one.

Unit 1. Classical and contemporary perspectives on the argumentative practices of public discourse.

Revision of the different theoretical perspectives, evaluating their contribution to the study of special field argumentative practices. The Aristotelian three genres. The historical evolution of the oratory genres. The contemporary public sphere of discourse. Participation and rhetorical citizenship.

Unit 2. Political discourse

From the deliberative genre to political discourse. J. Bentham: parliamentary tactics and political fallacies. Contemporary discursive formats in political and parliamentary life. Decision taking contexts: legislation, politics and propaganda. Audiences and participation (political ethos and pathos). Political discourse and deliberative democracy.

Unit 3. Legal argumentation

From the judicial genre to legal argumentation. Ancient Status Theory. Legal reasoning and justification. The theories of R. Alexy and N. McCormick. Dialectical issues: presumption and onus theories. Weighing reasons. 

Unit 4. Journalism and citizens’ participation

The genres of public opinion. From the pamphlet to the column. The ethos of the opinion-maker (column writers and media commentators). The new formats of digital journalism (blog-sphere and social networks)

Basic and complementary bibliography

Alexy. R. (1989). Teoría de la argumentación jurídica: la teoría del discurso racional como teoría de la fundamentación jurídica. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales.
Anaxímenes de Lámpsaco (1989). Retórica a Alejandro. Ed. de José Sánchez Sanz.   Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca.
Aristóteles (1985). Retórica. Ed. de Antonio Tovar. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales.
Atienza, M. (1993). Las razones del derecho: teorías de la argumentación jurídica. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales.
Bentham, J. (1990). Falacias políticas. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Constitucionales.
Bentham, J. (1991). Tácticas parlamentarias. Madrid: Congreso de los Diputados.
Cantavella, J. y J. F. Serrano, eds. (2007). Redacción para periodistas: opinar y
argumentar. Madrid: Universitas.
Cogency. Journal of Reasoning and Argumentation, Vol. 3 - No. 2 - Summer 2011.
Edmondson, R., ed. (2005). The Political Context of Collective Action. Power, argumentation and democracy. Londres/N. Cork: Routledge.
Fredal, J. (2006). Rhetorical action in ancient Athens : persuasive artistry from Solon to Demosthenes. Southern Illinois University Press.
Goodwin, J. and V. Cortes. "Theorists' and practitioners' spatial metaphors for argumentation: A corpus-based approach," Verbum 23 (2010) 163-78.
van Haaften, T., H. Jansen, J. de Jong y W.  Koetsenruijter, eds. (2011).  Bending opinion. Essays on persuasion in the public domain. Ámsterdam: Leiden University Press.
Kock, C. y L. Villadsen, ed. (2012). Rhetorical Citizenship and Public Deliberation. Penn State University Press.
MacCormick, Neil (1994). Legal reasoning and legal theory. Oxford: Clarendom Press.
Marafioti, R. (2007). Parlamentos : teoría de la argumentación y debate parlamentario. Buenos Aires: Biblos.
Santibáñez, C. y B. Riffo (2007). Estudios en argumentación y retórica. Teorías contemporáneas y aplicaciones. Concepción (Chile): Universidad de Concepción.
Steiner, J., A. Bachtiger, M. Spörndli, y M. R. Steenbergen, eds. (2004). Deliberative Politics in Action. Analyzing Parliamentary Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vega, L. y P. Olmos, eds. (20122). Compendio de Lógica, Argumentación y Retórica. Madrid: Trotta.


Basic skills

BS6. To have a strong knowledge base that allows them to innovate in the development and/or implementation of ideas, especially for research purposes.
BS7. The ability to apply the knowledge they have acquired and their ability to solve problems in new or little known areas within wider (or multidisciplinary) contexts related to their field of study.
BS8. The ability to integrate knowledge and deal with the complexities of forming opinions based on incomplete or limited information, including reflections on social responsibilities and ethics.
BS9. The ability to clearly and unambiguously communicate conclusions and the knowledge and reasons behind them to specialized and non-specialized audiences.
BS10. Learning skills to carry out further studies and research in a self-directed and autonomous way.

General skills

GS1. Students should be able to produce readable, detailed and technically correct documents and research work that meets the current international standards for the disciplines.

Specific skills

SS1. The ability to identify traditional and current knowledge specific to the field of logic and philosophy of science, as well as the different trends of thought and tradition involved.
SS2. Mastery of the analytical tools provided by philosophy to facilitate the clear identification of the semantic, logical, epistemological, ontological, axiological and ethical factors that are present in science and technology.          
SS3. The ability to assess disputes, considering and overviewing alternatives to decide upon the better justified and reasoned parts.   
SS4. To be able to identify arguments as they appear in texts, dialogues and discussions, assessing their accuracy, acceptability and persuasiveness.

Teaching Methodology

  • Theoretical education through classroom lectures, bibliographic suggestions and additional audiovisual material.
  • Individual tasks and tutoring: supervision of course assignments and individual learning through available resources of the master program.
  • Supervised final essays: studying the application of the revised perspectives to concrete cases of argumentative practices or reflecting on the theoretical and critical issues faced by those perspectives.

Assessment System

  • Attendance and participation (required): 20 %
  • Assignments and exercises: 40%
  • Final essay supervised by the teacher (required): 40 %

Student workload

  • Total hours: 125 h
  • Classroom hours: 10 h
              Lecture hours: 10 h
  • Non classroom hours (Personal work): 115 h
              Tutoring hours: 10 h
              Asignments to be done along the semester: 73 h
              Final essay supervised by the teacher: 32 h

Recommendations for the study of the subject

It is a recommended to have already taken one of the following courses:

  • Argumentation theory: perspectives and problems
  • Concepts and Techniques for the Analysis of Arguments
  • Logic and argumentation

The headquarter for 2017-2018 is the University of Valladolid

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