My main motivation is to try to show that it makes sense today
to re-read The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, of Chaïm Perelman and
Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, and The Uses of Argument, of Stephen Toulmin, in light of
their fundamental suggestion: that any purely technical notion of argumentation that
lacks “philosophical foundations” in the widest sense of the expression, making it
neutral theoretically speaking, would be necessarily limited and insufficient to fully
The publication of a treatise devoted to argumentation and this subject’s
connection with the ancient Greek rhetoric and dialectic constitutes a break with
a concept of reason and reasoning due to Descartes which has set its mark on Western
philosophy for the last three centuries.
C. Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on
An argument is like an organism. It has both a gross, anatomical structure and
a finer, as-it-were psychological one. When set out explicitly in all its detail, it may
occupy a number of printed pages or take perhaps a quarter of an hour to deliver
(…). But within each paragraph, when one gets down to the level of individual
sentences, a finer structure can be recognised (…).
S. Toulmin, The Uses of Argument.