Toulmin Model Assignment

             Mathematician and philosopher Stephen Toulmin created a model of practical reasoning as an alternative to formal logic.  He believed that formal logic (as taught in philosophy as mathematics classes) was virtually useless in real life because it deals with absolute statements presented in a restrictive syllogistic form.  In formal logic, the conclusion can go no farther than what is contained in the premises.

            Toulmin believed that real life arguments do not offer “proof” in the absolute, mathematical sense.  Instead arguments offer varying degrees of justification for accepting a claim.  This justification of a claim comes from the substance of the argument.  Substance goes beyond the premises to consider the quality of the evidence and reasoning that supports those premises.

            The Toulmin Model of Argument provides a means of “dissecting” the substance of an argument in order to evaluate the strength of the justification for the claim.  The three basic elements of the model resemble the components of a syllogism, but notice that the substructure of the model allows for the consideration of pros and cons that are not contained in the premises themselves.

GROUNDS                            WARRANT                                      CLAIM
[What we have                        [What justifies moving                    [What you are attempting to go on]                                  from grounds to claim]                    establish with the


                                                BACKING                  MODALITY
[Additional evidence and         [The degree of certainty
                                    reasoning to support the         of the claim]
                                    warrant or the grounds]


                                                                                    CONDITION OF REBUTTAL
[Conditions under which the claim
                                                                                    would not be true]

Toulmin Model example

Diagram the argument below in the Toulmin Model:

America wants to encourage the growth of freedom and prosperity in Cuba.  It is likely that trade and travel restrictions with Cuba will be eased unless President bush and Governor Jeb Bush succumb to political pressure from Florida's influential Cuban American community.  All the evidence indicates that more engagement with Cuba would advance the cause of freedom.  If Americans invest in Cuba, Cubans will learn more about free enterprise.  If Americans travel to Cuba, Cubans will be exposed to new ideas.  In general, contact with a democratic culture will undermine Castro's totalitarian regime.  

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