Reassessing different conceptions of argumentation

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


In this chapter, I reassess and compare three familiar conceptions of argumentation: what could be described as the Millian conception, according to which engaging with dissenters should automatically lead to epistemic improvement; the argument-as-war conception, according to which argumentation is nothing more than a power game to score points; the argumentation-as-therapy conception, which can be traced back to the Socratic method. All three get some things ‘right’ and other things ‘wrong’ about argumentation. I then introduce a fourth conceptualization, argumentation as epistemic exchange, which borrows elements from each of the other conceptions while seeking to avoid their pitfalls. On this conceptualization, argumentation consists in exchanges of epistemic resources that can be mutually beneficial, thus rejecting the zero-sum conception of argumentation as war, as well as the inherent asymmetry of argumentation as therapy. The conceptualization of argumentation as epistemic exchange can be viewed as belonging to the Millian tradition (broadly speaking) in that it emphasizes the potential epistemic gains brought about by argumentation in social settings, but it avoids the overly idealized assumptions underlying the Millian conception. The goal is to formulate a realistic social epistemology of argumentation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolarisation, Arrogance, and Dogmatism
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical Perspectives
EditorsAlessandra Tanesini, Michael P. Lynch
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780429291395
ISBN (Print)9780367260859
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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