Philosophy Argument Mapping
Michael Hoffmann
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0364


The term “argument mapping” needs to be clarified with regard to both of its components because “argument” as well as “mapping” are used in a variety of ways. This is mainly due to the fact that argument mapping is an interdisciplinary field with roots in philosophy, law, planning theory, and computer science. In the early 21st century, a lot of work is additionally been done in education. The term “argument” is used either (a) in the sense of justification—defined, for example, as a set of propositions composed of reasons and a conclusion; (b) in the sense of a controversy between a pro and con position; or (c) in the sense of a debate among multiple parties. The term “mapping,” on the other hand, refers usually to the graphical representation of propositions in boxes on a canvas which are connected by arrows. However, it is also used for the representation of arguments in the form of matrices and of “threads” (lists of statements in which some are indented to visualize subordination; often icons are used to specify functions such as “pro” and “con” with regard to the main statement). Along with “argument mapping,” the terms “argument diagramming” and “argument visualization” are also used. It has to be noted that diagrammatic notations to represent logically valid inferences such as those developed by Leonhard Euler, John Venn, Charles Peirce, and others are usually not discussed as part of the history of argument mapping. Outside of introductory textbooks on logic, critical thinking, and argument, the term argument mapping is mostly used in the early 21st century to refer to software tools that allow the visualization of arguments. With regard to these tools, it is important to distinguish between single-user applications and web-based platforms that allow the collaboration of multiple users on the same argument map, either synchronously or asynchronously.

General Overviews

The first—and still the best—broader introduction to the field is the anthology Kirschner, et al. 2003. This collection is important to understand the history of argument mapping and the various motivations behind the development of software tools (in particular complexity and cognitive overload). This history is complemented by Reed, et al. 2007. A broader and more recent range of software tools and mapping techniques is discussed in Okada, et al. 2014 and in Scheuer, et al. 2010. Schneider, et al. 2013, finally, focuses exclusively on software tools that allow collaboration on argument maps. This reflects the direction in which most development efforts seem to move. In addition to these publications, further overviews—supplied with lists of references and links to software tools—are available on the web. It’s impossible to predict which of these websites will still be accessible and updated in the future, but the “Resources” page on the blog about RAIL: Reasoning, Argumentation, and Informal Logic is worth mentioning.

  • Kirschner, Paul A., Simon J. Buckingham Shum, and Chad S. Carr, eds. Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-making. London: Springer, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    After presenting the history of “computer-supported argument visualization” (CSAV), going back to John Henry Wigmore’s “chart method” for organizing large amounts of evidence in legal cases in 1913, and a cognitive framework for collaborative problem solving, further contributions discuss nine different “Applications,” a term that refers to approaches, tools, and contexts in which tools are used. In a quickly evolving field, some of the tools are no longer available.

  • Okada, Alexandra, Simon Buckingham Shum, and Tony Sherborne, eds. Knowledge Cartography. Software Tools and Mapping Techniques. 2d ed. New York: Springer, 2014.

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    Besides argument mapping, this volume also includes contributions on mind mapping and concept mapping. The focus is on tools that support the externalization of one’s understanding to improve reasoning as well as communication. The twenty-two chapters are divided into two parts: the first discusses knowledge maps for learning and teaching, and the second those for professional information analysis and knowledge management. First edition 2008.

  • RAIL: Reasoning, Argumentation, and Informal Logic.

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    RAIL is a blog for scholars engaged in the study of reasoning, argumentation theory, informal logic, rhetoric, and critical thinking. On its “Resources” page, links to argument mapping software, computational argument help, and further resources are provided.

  • Reed, Chris, Douglas N. Walton, and Fabrizio Macagno. “Argument Diagramming in Logic, Law and Artificial Intelligence.” The Knowledge Engineering Review 22.1 (2007): 87–109.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0269888907001051E-mail Citation »

    The history provided here goes further back to Richard Whately’s Elements of Logic (1836) and covers then also Beardsley’s Practical Logic (1950), Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument (1958), Scriven’s Reasoning (1976), and Freeman’s Dialectics and the Macrostructure of Arguments (1991). For current developments, the focus is on argument diagramming in computer science and artificial intelligence (AI).

  • Scheuer, Oliver, Frank Loll, Niels Pinkwart, and Bruce M. McLaren. “Computer-Supported Argumentation: A Review of the State of the Art.” International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 5.1 (2010): 43–102.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11412-009-9080-xE-mail Citation »

    The review focuses on education and the need to improve people’s argument skills. It develops important terminological distinctions such as different types of argument representation, argument ontologies, and system architectures. A total of fifty argument mapping systems are analyzed. Automated features for argument assessment and intelligent feedback are discussed, as well as empirical studies that compare, for example, the effects of textual versus graphical representations of arguments.

  • Schneider, Jodi, Tudor Groza, and Alexandre Passant. “A Review of Argumentation for the Social Semantic Web.” Semantic Web 4.2 (2013): 159–218.

    DOI: 10.3233/SW-2012-0073E-mail Citation »

    More than 150 scholarly papers are reviewed, limited to those that focus on “modeling argumentation for the Social Semantic Web.” Illuminating is the distinction of fourteen theoretical models of argumentation. Thirty-seven online argumentation tools are reviewed.

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