ArgLab

ArgLab is a research structure within the larger research-oriented Institute for the Philosophy of Language (IFL) at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal.

ArgLab aims at contributing with original results to the enlightening of important contemporary social problems that can be approached with the tools of Philosophy. Generally speaking, we are concerned with argumentation and decision making processes as far as they can be philosophically approached and thus related with Practical Reason and Values. The particular focus of our research is, then, on practical reasoning and practical argumentation.

 

Modeled under the paradigm of rational agents arguing in the search of an acceptable solution to a particular issue, practical reasoning and argumentation have two relevant features, each of them yields a correspondent research question:

1) Practical reasoning and argumentation are present every time an important rational decision, individual or social, is called for and more so when the issue is 'big' enough not to be tackled by a specific scientific field. For instance, when the following 'big' issues are at stake, it is not possible to rely on a specific combination of scientific sub-fields to get (just) one straight answer: environmental protection vs. economic development; citizen security vs. individual and collective rights; free market ('everything is for sale') vs. the corruption of values ('some things are priceless'); and so on. Of course, scientific knowledge and relevant data are necessary to tackle these crucial issues. But they are never enough. They cannot by themselves decide these issues. Experts of the very same rank disagree, sometimes deeply. Human interests and values are at stake here, and so value-based practical reasoning and rational argumentative processes are essential here, and cannot be 'reduced away'.

What are the rationales underlying the decisions that are essentially argumentative in nature? Or: How does practical reason work in today’s global society, one that is both market and communication driven? This is our first research question.

2) All processes of practical argumentation exploit patterns of reasoning and forms of linguistically coding information: there are not too many ways of constructing an argument and an argumentative strategy. Philosophy deals with these constructions by analyzing and classifying them, and by sorting out their conditions of success on two complementary viewpoints: their rational merits (good vs. bad arguments) and their effectiveness (more persuasive vs. less persuasive arguments). Further we assume that a mere formal theory of argumentation (a logic, say) is a hopeless project. All dimensions of individual or collective decision-making are based on rational processes that articulate different types of reasoning, relevant data about the particular contexts under consideration, and, importantly, values and preferences. Our approach stresses decisions made under uncertainty and will be based on the analysis of plausible-defeasible reasoning (the one that is used in these decision-making processes) as it is at work in specific argumentative contexts.

How different forms of reasoning (abductive, inductive, deductive, heuristic, preferences oriented, etc.) converge to ground a decision that is taken under uncertainty? What is our rational gain in working out, sometimes strenuously, these forms of reasoning to ground a decision, instead of merely ‘flipping the coin’? This is our second, and last, research question.

 

The activities at ArgLab are concentrated around a number of research projects sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and conducted by ArgLab's highly qualified international researchers.

 

Institutions

IFIL FCSH/NOVA
Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa
FCSH
UNL
FCT