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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979) [25th Anniversary Edition, Crown, 2004]


The process of forming reasons, justifying beliefs, and drawing conclusions with the aim of influencing the thoughts and/or actions of others. Argumentation (or argumentation theory) also refers to the study of that process.

See also:


  • "The three goals of critical argumentation are to identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments. The term 'argument' is used in a special sense, referring to the giving of reasons to support or criticize a claim that is questionable, or open to doubt. To say something is a successful argument in this sense means that it gives a good reason, or several reasons, to support or criticize a claim."
    (D. N. Walton, Fundamentals of Critical Argumentation. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)

  • "Argumentation is a verbal, social, and rational activity aimed at convincing a reasonable critic of the acceptability of a standpoint by putting forward a constellation of one or more propositions to justify this standpoint. . . .

    "Argumentation relates both to the process of putting forward argumentation and to its 'product,' and the term argumentation covers the two of them. . . .

    "People who make use of argumentation always appeal--whether explicitly or implicitly--to some standard of reasonableness. This, however, does not always mean that each argumentation is indeed reasonable."
    (F. H. van Eemeren et al., Argumentation: Analysis, Evaluation, Presentation. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002)

  • "The study of argumentation as process has emerged primarily since about 1970 within studies in interpersonal communication. Here the focus is on how people engaged in everyday argument--'naive social actors,' as they often are described in the literature--conduct and seek to resolve disagreement."
    (D. Zarefsky, "Argumentation." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Oxford Univ. Press, 2001)

  • "An argumentative situation . . . is a site in which the activity of arguing takes place, where views are exchanged and changed, meanings explored, concepts developed, and understandings achieved. It may also be a site in which people are persuaded and disagreements resolved, but these popular goals are not the only ones, and too narrow a focus on them threatens to overlook much for which argumentation is a central and important tool

    "As a 'site,' the argumentative situation is a nongeographical space, located in and created by discourse. We inhabit such spaces with different facility, some of us with ease, others with discomfort. Yet they are crucial to our self-understanding and our understanding of others."
    (Christopher W. Tindale, Rhetorical Argumentation: Principles of Theory and Practice. Sage, 2004)

  • Argumentative Theory of Reasoning
    "For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. . . .

    "Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick . . . is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

    "The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists . . .."
    (Patricia Cohen, "Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth." The New York Times, June 14, 2011)

  • The Hitch Hiker's Guide to Argumentation
    "The argument runs something like this. 'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing.' 'But,' says Man, 'the Babel Fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It proves you exist, and so therefore you don't. QED.' 'Oh dear,' says God. 'I hadn't thought of that,' and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

    "'Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore he goes on to prove that black is white and gets killed on the next zebra crossing. Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo's kidneys. But this didn't stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme for his best-selling book Well, That About Wraps It Up For God. Meanwhile the poor Babel Fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communications between different cultures and races, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation."
    (Peter Jones as the Book in episode one of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1979)
Pronunciation: are-gyu-men-TAY-shun

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