TOULMIN’S SCHEMA The form of an argument
Who is Toulmin? • Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher, developed a concrete system for argumentation based on sound reasoning and consideration of the opposing point of view.
The Courtroom Imagine you are a lawyer. You are defending Ms. Cheap against her landlord, Mr. Megabucks, who is suing her because she has been delinquent on her rent for 5 months. What arguments can you construct for Ms. Cheap? After you construct your arguments, what arguments do you think Mr. Megabucks’ lawyer will have? The Toulmin Model insists that we consider the argument of our opposition in constructing our own argument.
What are Toulmin’s Assumptions? • All arguments are contestable (as in court) • Verdicts will come from a neutral (3rd) party (the judge, the jury, or – in your case – your reader) • Assume that your audience (reader) disagrees with you!
Term 1:Enthymeme An enthymeme is an incomplete logical structure. It depends on “unstated assumptions (values, beliefs, principles) that serve as the starting point of the argument” (Ramage 97). Example: We need laws to control the sale of guns because so many innocent people are getting killed. What is the unstated assumption?
Breaking down the structure Claim: We need laws to control the sale of guns Stated Reason: because so many innocent people are getting killed. Unstated Assumption: Killing is bad. The enthymemeWe need laws to control the sale of guns relies on our moral judgment that killing innocent people is bad.
Let’s try another Identify the claim, the stated reason, and the unstated assumption in the enthymemes below: Abortion must be legalized because a woman has the right to control her body. Elderly drivers must be retested each year because of the high number of accidents they cause. Bilingual education fails because it makes students rely on their native language.
Term 2: Warrant What is a warranty? If you buy a new washing machine, you may get a 5-year warranty that ensures the machine will not fail in that time period. A warrant, according to Toulmin, is like a guarantee that your argument will stand up to critics; that is, it relies on the assumption that the underlying values, beliefs, or principles are so strong that your audience will agree with you. In other words, your claim is warranted.
Term 3: Grounds What grounds do you have to support your claim? Grounds are the evidence you will use to prove your argument: data, statistics, the research of credible authorities in the field, etc. Your grounds should answer the question, “How do you know that . . .?” Think about “the grounds for divorce,” to help you.
Term 4: Backing Usually, the arguments we make have generally supported warrants. That is, most people agree that there has historically been gender bias, or that killing is evil, or that physiological changes as we age can affect the ability to drive. Nevertheless, sometimes we need to back up our warrant by proving it to the audience (reader).
Backing Up your Warrant If your warrant is not shared with your audience, then you will have to prove it (back it up). Example: Affirmative Action is a necessary initiative to help minorities achieve equality in education and employment. What argument is warranted? If you believe that minorities have achieved equality in education and employment, how can we convince you otherwise? The question a backing answers is, “Why do you believe that . . .?”
Term 5: Rebuttal So now you have backed up your warrant, provided grounds for your claim, and you have a person who totally disagrees with you (imagine a debate between political candidates). How can your argument stand up to this very articulate and informed opponent? Your opponent can rebut your argument on two fronts: on its reasons and grounds and/or on its warrant and backing. So you need to be prepared by . . .
Acknowledging In your argument, acknowledge that there are limitations on your claim, that you are aware of the opposing point of view, and that despite that point of view, yours is still the better position.
Term 6: Qualify Most rational people acknowledge that all arguments are not black or white; we often must settle for a gray area. Although many people feel that abortion is wrong in most cases, there are rare cases where they accept its value. When you are stating claims that cannot be proven 100%, it is necessary to qualify them by terms such as: In most cases, very likely, with few exceptions, etc.
Remember the terms! Learn the terms that Toulmin developed for argumentation: enthymeme, claim, reason, warrant, grounds, backing, rebuttal, and qualifier. Here is a helpful website for you to review Toulmin’s Schema: http://ocw.usu.edu/English/english-2010/-2010/toulmins-schema
Works Cited Ramage, John D. and John C. Bean. Writing Arguments A Rhetoric with Readings. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.