The Ethics of Argumentation

Vasco Correia


Normative theories of argumentation tend to assume that logical and dialectical rules suffice to ensure the rationality of argumentative discourse. Yet, in everyday debates people use arguments that seem valid in light of such rules but nonetheless biased and tendentious. This article seeks to show that the rationality of argumentation can only be fully promoted if we take into account its ethical dimension. To substantiate this claim, I review some of the empirical evidence indicating that people’s inferential reasoning is systematically affected by a variety of biases and heuristics. Insofar as these cognitive illusions are typically unintentional, it appears that arguers may be biased despite their well-intended efforts to follow the rules of critical argumentation. Nevertheless, I argue that people remain responsible for the rationality of their arguments, given that there are a number of measures that they can (and ought to) take to avoid such distortions. I highlight the importance of argumentational virtues and critical thinking to rational debates, and describe a set of indirect strategies of “argumentative self-control”.


Argumentative self-control, argumentational virtues, biases, critical thinking, emotional attachment, ethics of argumentation, fallacies.

Full Text:



ISSN: 0824-2577