On How to Get Beyond the Opening Stage

Argumentation 21 (3):233-242 (2007)
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Any well-structured argumentative exchange must be preceded by some preparatory stages. In the pragma-dialectical four-stage model of critical discussion, the clarification of issues and positions is relegated to the confrontation stage and the other preparatory matters are dealt within the opening stage. In the opening stage, the parties involved come to agree to discuss their differences and to do so by an argumentative exchange rather than by, say, a sequence of bids and offers. They should also come to agree on the rules of dialogue, on roles, on logical principles, on types of argument, and on the propositions that can be used as basic premises. All in all, a lot of work needs to be done before the first topical argument can be put forward. Especially the opening stage seems prone to further disagreements and protracted discussions, e.g., about the admissibility of particular kinds of argument or particular basic premises. There is also the problem that a successful opening stage threatens to settle matters beforehand and thus put the argumentation stage out of business. The paper suggests some measures that could alleviate the workload of the opening stage, without making the argumentation stage otiose



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