Towards an account of argumentation in science

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In this article it is argued that a complex model that includes Toulmin's functional account of argument, the pragma-dialectical stage analysis of argumentation offered by the Amsterdam School, and criteria developed in critical thinking theory, can be used to account for the normativity and field-dependence of argumentation in science. A pragma-dialectical interpretation of the four main elements of Toulmin's model, and a revised account of the double role of warrants, illuminates the domain specificity of scientific argumentation and the restrictions to which the confrontation and opening stages of scientific critical discussions are subjected. In regard to the argumentation stage, examples are given to show that a general account of argumentation, as advocated by informal logicians, is not applicable to arguments in science. Furthermore, although patterns of inference differ in various scientific practices, deductive validity is argued to be a crucial notion in the assessment of scientific arguments. Finally, some remarks are made concerning the burden of proof and the concluding stage of scientific argumentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-298
Number of pages30
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1990


  • Argumentation
  • Stephen Toulmin
  • deductive validity
  • field-dependency
  • generalization
  • pragma-dialectical theory of argumentation
  • relevance
  • science
  • stage analysis


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