Pluralism, Disagreement, and the Status of Argument in the Public Sphere

Robert Asen


Argument teachers and scholars have frequently invoked external justification-impressing one's viewpoint upon another-as the primary social
function of argument. Pluralism and fundamental disagreement in contemporary democratic societies raise questions regarding the status of argument, including the functions argument should serve. In this
essay, I suggest alternatives of agenda expansion, responsibility attribution, and identity formation as important functions of argument in diverse societies. These
alternative functions are especially important under conditions of social inequality, since they allow less powerful individuals and groups to confront more powerful actors in situations where decision
making is not open to all.

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ISSN: 0824-2577