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The Argumentative Structure of Persuasive Definitions

Fabrizio Macagno

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Douglas Walton

University of Windsor


Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 11, No. 5, pp. 525-549, 2008

In this paper we present an analysis of persuasive definition based on argumentation schemes. Using the medieval notion of differentia and the traditional approach to topics, we explain the persuasiveness of emotive terms in persuasive definitions by applying the argumentation schemes for argument from classification and argument from values. Persuasive definitions, we hold, are persuasive because their goal is to modify the emotive meaning denotation of a persuasive term in a way that contains an implicit argument from values. However, our theory is different from Stevenson’s, a positivistic view that sees emotive meaning as subjective, and defines it as a behavioral effect. Our proposal is to treat the persuasiveness produced by the use of emotive words and persuasive definitions as due to implicit arguments that an interlocutor may not be aware of. We use congruence theory to provide the linguistic framework for connecting a term with the function it is supposed to play in a text. Our account allows us to distinguish between conflicts of values and conflicts of classifications.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: Values, Emotive words, Persuasion, Approva, Condemnation, Argument from values, Definitions

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Date posted: January 23, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Macagno, Fabrizio and Walton, Douglas, The Argumentative Structure of Persuasive Definitions (2008). Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Vol. 11, No. 5, pp. 525-549, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1744718

Contact Information

Fabrizio Macagno (Contact Author)
Universidade Nova de Lisboa ( email )
Av. Berna 26 I&D Building, office 4.02
Lisbon, 1069-061
HOME PAGE: http://fabriziomacagno.altervista.org/
Douglas Walton
University of Windsor ( email )
401 Sunset Avenue
Windsor, Ontario N9B 3P4
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