Thinking About Warrants...

last updated 11/21/06

When you begin to study the Toulmin argument model, one of the strengths of it is to think about why people make the arguments they make.  This can be tied to thinking about people's identity laundry lists (education, religion, ethnicity), ideological laundry lists--their politics or theoretical bents, etc.  In other words, their angle of vision...and all of this is something we have been trying to think about this semester as we analyze what people are saying and how they are saying it.

These are the things that can help you uncover the part of an argument that is often unstated--the warrant.  In other words, what are the grounds of the argument I am looking at?  Where is it coming from?  What is the basic belief system that lets this person argue this way?

Let's take a simplistic claim just for analytical purposes:  "Abortion is wrong!"

Why would someone say this?  Often the first answers come from the Data or evidence the arguers want to use to show why abortion is wrong, but there is usually something much deeper that is guiding their argument, and that deeper thing is the warrant, the grounds.  Often I see people making an anti-abortion, or pro-life, claim from the basis of a religious grounding or point of view, more specifically in this country from the point of view that is based on the Christian 10 Commandments: "Thou shalt not kill."  

Tracing a warrant can help you argue against a claim--to either find additional weaknesses in an argument, or to join the arguers on their ground in order to be listened to.

Here's an attack based on weakness:

Here's a way of joining them on their ground

Notice that I'm trying to argue against the argument with the same grounds the arguers might be using, but I'm also getting into more detail that show how complex a belief system can be, and how hard it is to make simplistic statements based on it.

Click here for more examples...