Five Questions of Argument 

 

1. What do you think? 

2. Why do you say that? 

3. How do you know? 

4. Why do you think your reason supports your claim? 

5. But what about this alternative claim/reason/evidence/warrant? 

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CLAIM

REASONS

EVIDENCE

WARRANT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT & RESPONSE

 

Claim

A statement made to resolve a problem by motivating others to act or think in ways they otherwise would not. Claims are always in question. 

In brief, a claim is a statement that is: 

  • contestable 
  • supportable with reasons and evidence 
  • not obvious or otherwise already known
 

Reasons

Statements made to support a claim. Reasons are always in question: they represent the arguer’s contestable judgments about the states of affairs that make a claim acceptable. Reasons interpret, generalize from, or highlight aspects of evidence. 

In brief, reasons are statements that: 

  • Explain why you think your claim should be accepted by you and by your readers. 
  • Represent judgments that you assume are not shared by readers. 
 

Evidence

Statements (or other representations) of states of affairs that are not in question (at least for the purposes of the argument) and that make reasons and claims acceptable. Evidence almost always involves representations of states of affairs. 

In brief, evidence are statements that: 

  • Describe or otherwise represent facts about the world that are assumed to be shared with readers. (“You could look it up.”)
  • Will not be questioned by readers, at least not for the moment.
  • Are representations of states of affairs that are treated as external, foundational facts. 
 

Warrants

Statements of general principles of reasoning that connect certain kinds of reasons with certain kinds of claims. Warrants are often drawn from familiar background knowledge shared by the participants in an argument, but they can also be principles articulated for the first time. Warrants are most effective when they don’t have to appear on the page. 

In brief, warrants are general statements that:

  • Assert a principled connection between a kind of reason or evidence and a kind of claim.
  • Have two components: a reason or evidence side and a claim side.
  • Are normally assumed rather than stated.
  • Represent shared beliefs and values without which an argument could not get off the ground. 
 

Acknowledgement and Response

Statements that acknowledge alternative claims, reasons, evidence, and warrants that do not support the claim in question. Responses can reject the alternative summarily, argue against it, or indicate the degree to which the alternative reduces the acceptability of the claim. 

In brief, acknowledgements are statements that: 

  • Raise or refer to alternative claims, reasons, evidence, or warrants. 
  • Locate an argument in a field of possible arguments.
  • Show readers that you have not ignored their concerns. 

Responses are statements that: 

  • Accept or reject an acknowledged alternative.
  • Offer arguments or mini-arguments against an alternative.
  • Explain the complications and limits of your argument.