Category: Analysis

Research Question

In his article titled Toward Reviving Rationality in Argument: Adding Pieces to Johnson’s Puzzle, Bruschke (2004), sought to strengthen Johnson’s theory of argument by incorporating rational assessments of arguments through the introduction of pragmatic theory of truth. In spite of numerous scholars who have taken part in the study of argument, rational approach to such studies has been taken by just a few of the scholars. Unfortunately, the few scholars such as Johnson, who took this path, did not give much attention to rationality and logical components of the argument.

The author wonders about what might have thrown rational assessments of arguments in such studies. He affirms that the major threat to argument-as-reason is the popular culture’s aversion to intellect. Modern scholars prefer mathematical and symbolic logics to the more open rational component of arguments (Johnson, 2000).


Even though argument has been studied from a different points of view and defined in a variety of ways, one’s expectation of logics as the core of such studies has remained unmet. Argument theorists have largely backed away from evaluations of the logic of an argument. Theoretical gaps should be filled despite Johnson’s effort in developing pragmatic theory of argument that has revived rational evaluation of arguments. Addition of a pragmatic theory of truth is the best way to fill this theoretical gap (Bruschke, 2004).

Theoretical Approach

Bruschke (2004) picked on the pragmatic theory of truth as the most effective approach in the study of argument in its context while maintaining the rationality at the core of an argument theory. He intended to fill the theory gap that was left by Johnson when he located the teleology of argument to strengthen his focus on rationality. For the sake of the research’s relevance, he sought to base this pragmatic approach on the previous works by empiricists (Geyer, 1916). It provides a sound foundation for redefining theoretical system that argument scholars can use in evaluation of rational components of arguments.

Article’s Major Conclusions

According to Johnson (2000), any theory that seeks to address rationality in arguments must get its base on the raw definition of rationality. For this purpose, he defines rationality as “the ability to engage in the practice of giving and receiving reasons.” As a result of this view, he spent most of his effort in illuminating the commonplace arguments.

Even though Johnson advocated argument teleology that is based on truth as the best method for rational evaluation of such arguments, the author points at Johnson’s failure to identify the practical ways in which arguments occur (Bruschke, 2004).

Nature of Argument

As opposed to other types of human discourses, Bruschke (2004) presents argument as a specialized type of discourse characterized by truth-based persuasion. According to him, the threshold of an argument is met when the arguer produces valid reasons that support the truth of his thesis to convince the other party. In retrospect, the truth is the fundamental factor that initiates and sustains an argument (Boudon, 1989). The author concludes by asserting that argument has both illative core and dialectical levels in which it should be evaluated.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The principal strength of Bruschke’s analysis is mostly founded on his articulation power. Though Bruschke does not present new ideas, he is able to clearly refine Johnson’s ideas and make them take practical shapes. He presents objective analysis with an aim of reinforcing the article’s weak points and introducing new aspects in rational evaluation of argument.

However, some parts of his analysis lack substantial grounds for belittling some of Johnson’s ideas. While downplaying Johnson’s model in rational evaluation of arguments, Bruschke (2004) ironically acknowledges the model’s ability to facilitate Johnson’s quest. The truth embedded in his adversarial model depends on the protection by the same normative standards as the truth in Johnson’s model. 

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