Stephen Edelston Toulmin (born March 25, 1922) is a British
philosopher, author, and educator. Influenced by the Austrian
philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, Toulmin devoted his works to the
analysis of moral reasoning. Throughout his writings, he seeks to
develop practical arguments which can be used effectively in evaluating
the ethics behind moral issues. The Toulmin Model of Argumentation, a
diagram containing six interrelated components used for analyzing
arguments, was considered his most influential work, particularly in
the field of rhetoric and communication, and in computer science.
Stephen Toulmin is a British philosopher and educator who devoted to
analyzing moral reasoning. Throughout his writings, he seeks to develop
practical arguments which can be used effectively in evaluating the
ethics behind moral issues. His most famous work was his Model of
Argumentation(sometimes called "Toulmin's Schema," which is a method of
analyzing an argument by breaking it down into six parts. Once an
argument is broken down and examined, weaknesses in the argument can be
found and addressed.
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Claim: conclusions whose merit must be established. For example, if
a person tries to convince a listener that he is a British citizen, the
claim would be "I am a British citizen."
Data: the facts appealed to as a foundation for the claim. For
example, the person introduced in 1 can support his claim with the
supporting data "I was born in Bermuda."
Warrant: the statement authorizing the movement from the data to
the claim. In order to move from the data established in 2, "I was born
in Bermuda," to the claim in 1, "I am a British citizen," the person
must supply a warrant to bridge the gap between 1 & 2 with the
statement "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British Citizen."
Toulmin stated that an argument is only as strong as its weakest
warrant and if a warrant isn't valid, then the whole argument
collapses. Therefore, it is important to have strong, valid
Backing: facts that give credibility to the statement expressed in
the warrant; backing must be introduced when the warrant itself is not
convincing enough to the readers or the listeners. For example, if the
listener does not deem the warrant as credible, the speaker would
supply legal documents as backing statement to show that it is true
that "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British Citizen."
Rebuttal: statements recognizing the restrictions to which the
claim may legitimately be applied. The rebuttal is exemplified as
follows, "A man born in Bermuda will legally be a British citizen,
unless he has betrayed Britain and become a spy of another
Qualifier: words or phrases expressing how certain the
author/speaker is concerning the claim. Such words or phrases include
"possible," "probably," "impossible," "certainly," "presumably," "as
far as the evidence goes," or "necessarily." The claim "I am definitely
a British citizen" has a greater degree of force than the claim "I am a
British citizen, presumably."
The first three elements "claim," "data," and "warrant" are
considered as the essential components of practical arguments, while
the 4-6 "Qualifier," "Backing," and "Rebuttal" may not be needed in
some arguments. When first proposed, this layout of argumentation is
based on legal arguments and intended to be used to analyze arguments
typically found in the courtroom; in fact, Toulmin did not realize that
this layout would be applicable to the field of rhetoric and
communication until later.
Here are a few more examples of Toulmin's
Suppose you see a one of those commercials for a product that
promises to give you whiter teeth. Here are the basic parts of the
argument behind the commercial:
Claim: You should buy our tooth-whitening product.
Data: Studies show that teeth are 50% whiter after using the
product for a specified time.
Warrant: People want whiter teeth.
Backing: Celebrities want whiter teeth.
Rebuttal: Commercial says "unless you don't want to attract
Qualifier: Fine print says "product must be used six weeks for
Notice that those commercials don't usually bother trying to
convince you that you want whiter teeth; instead, they assume that you
have bought into the value our culture places on whiter teeth. When an
assumption--a warrant in Toulmin's terms--is unstated, it's called an
implicit warrant. Sometimes, however, the warrant may need to be stated
because it is a powerful part of the argument. When the warrant is
stated, it's called an explicit warrant.
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Claim: People should probably own a gun.
Data: Studies show that people who own a gun are less likely to be
Warrant: People want to be safe.
Backing: May not be necessary. In this case, it is common sense
that people want to be safe.
Rebuttal: Not everyone should own a gun. Children and those will
mental disorders/problems should not own a gun.
Qualifier: The word "probably" in the claim.
Claim: Flag burning should be unconstitutional in most cases.
Data: A national poll says that 60% of Americans want flag burning
Warrant: People want to respect the flag.
Backing: Official government procedures for the disposal of
Rebuttal: Not everyone in the U.S. respects the flag.
Qualifier: The phrase "in most cases"
Toulmin says that the weakest part of any argument is its weakest
warrant. Remember that the warrant is the link between the data and the
claim. If the warrant isn't valid, the argument
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tomcas. (2008, May 19). Toulmin\'s Schema. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/English/intermediate-writing/english-2010/-2010/toulmins-schema.html.
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