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What Is Argumentative Dialogue?

By A.M. Boyle
Updated May 23, 2024
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Argumentative dialogue is a type of verbal communication whereby two or more individuals try to reach a consensus through debate. This type of dialogue can revolve around one specific topic or a number of different ones. While typically passionate and lively, argumentative dialogue is usually quite civilized and often takes place in a structured environment with each participant adhering to a general set of rules.

Often considered something of a verbal tennis match, participants in an argumentative dialogue take turns exchanging volleys and challenging opponents with facts and propositions to support his or her position. Typically, the match starts when one opponent serves up a point or proposition. The proposition is then challenged with a counterpoint, and in response, the original point is then modified or bolstered by additional factual support. The debate continues until the participants reach a consensus, which can either be an accord as to the facts or a recognition that both point and counterpoint are valid and an accord simply cannot be reached.

This particular type of dialogue is often used not only for persuasion but also for education. For instance, a teacher might employ this type of repartee to instruct his or her students and lead them to a particular conclusion. The teacher may have the student set forth an opinion as to a certain matter and will then challenge that opinion, coaxing the student to reexamine his or her views until he or she reaches the proper conclusion. This method of teaching, often used at college and graduate levels of education, is sometimes referred to as the Socratic method after the famous philosopher Socrates, who often instructed his students using argumentative dialogue.

One of the most commonly recognized forums for argumentative dialogue is the political debate. During a political debate, candidates state their views and opinions, which are then typically challenged by their opponents. The debate, although often quite heated, is generally carried out in a civilized fashion, with a moderator ensuring that each candidate is allotted a limited period of time to set forth his or her points and counterpoints. In this type of forum, the dialogue includes several key topics rather than one main issue. The goal in this type of argumentative dialogue is not to reach consensus but rather to persuade voters to support one candidate or another.

In addition to education and persuasion, argumentative dialogue can also be a source of entertainment. As an example, many schools have debating teams that host matches during which individuals or teams engage in lively dialogue arguing a particular issue. The purpose of these contests is not only to hone skills that a student might wish to use in a future career but also to entertain and inform spectators as they watch the dynamic debate between contestants.

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