Modern and Postmodern Rhetoric

Posted: September 3rd, 2013





Modern and Postmodern Rhetoric

            According to Toulmin, people view logic as a solipsistic activity, which is disintegrated from the real work of human comprehension. He proposes that logic arguments on the face of propositions should be considered in remedying the above situation. Toulmin further brings forth a structure of arguments in the form of a model in which it demonstrates that many arguments’ structures are more complex than a syllogism. Additionally, “syllogism misrepresents the very nature of argument by its arbitrary restriction to three-part structure,” (p.1410).

Uses of Arguments

Toulmin categorizes arguments into seven diverse fields. He further categorizes the arguments based on the merits that qualify their conclusions. The field-in-variant refer to “the modes in which we assess arguments, the standards by reference to which we qualify our conclusions about, are the same regardless of the field” and the field-dependents are those that “vary as we move from arguments in one field to arguments in another,” (1413). This is why there are differences in standards of arguments used in a law court and the standards used in establishing a mathematical proof.

However, Toulmin may have overlooked other circumstances dependent on the type of argument being made. From personal experiences, different emphasis is put on the standards used to argue out a case in court as compared to a mathematical proof due to the nature of the arguments. For the former, the life of a person is usually in question. For example, the sentencing of one to life imprisonment death, or the justice of another after his loved one was murdered. In the latter, the arguments may be tested by many for many years and arguments may be approved or disapproved. Although incompetence has consequences in both cases, the consequences in the former may bring immediate fatality than the consequence in the latter case.


Arguments start with a claim. The claim is founded on some data. In his context, Toulmin introduces a warrant. A warrant is the connection between the data and the claim. The author gives an example of one born British but was born Bermudan. The claim would be that this particular person is a British citizen. The data would be represented by the fact that he was born in Bermuda. The warrant would be that Bermudan citizens are legally British.

However, a warrant must be backed by other information in order to establish a good argument. Establishing that a Bermuda was a British Colony makes a better basis for the argument in question. With this information in mind, Toulmin seems to imply that arguments must have certain components for them to qualify to be arguments. They must have claims, data, warrants and further information backing up the warrant. In my opinion, it would not be logical to say that the Americans (those living in the United States) are Britons. The claim is that the Americans are Britons. The data is that the Americans originated from Britain before they moved to the United States. The warrant is that the Americans were once colonized by the Britons in the 18th Century. Other historical information linking the Americans and the Britons form a stronger basis to this argument.

The probability in an argument has the same rational force despite the field. Thus, there is no particular field than is more irrational or rational than the other field. In my experiences, it depends on how the claims are presented, that data presented, the warrants linking the two and the backing of the warrants. If one claims that a suspect is a murderer in a court of law, he mst present the victim, evidence to show that the victim was murdered by the suspect, laws proving that the murder was a crime and information to show there were no  other possibilities leading to the victim’s death.

Work Cited

Bizzell, Patricia & Herzberg Bruce.The rhetorical tradition: Readings from classical times to the present. 2nd edition. Boston: Bedford/St, 2001. Print.


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