Warrant (Argument)

The Uses of Argument, revised edition, by Stephen Toulmin (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

In the Toulmin model of argument, a warrant is a general rule indicating the relevance of a claim.

A warrant may be explicit or implicit, but in either case, says David Hitchcock, a warrant is not the same as a premise. "Toulmin's grounds are premises in the traditional sense, propositions from which the claim is presented as following, but no other component of Toulmin's scheme is a premise."

Hitchcock goes on to describe a warrant as "an inference-licensing rule": "The claim is not presented as following from the warrant; rather it is presented as following from the grounds in accordance with the warrant" ("Toulmin's Warrants" in Anyone Who Has a View: Theoretical Contributions to the Study of Argumentation, 2003).

See Examples and Observations below.

Examples and Observations

  • "[T]he Toulmin warrant usually consists of a specific span of text which relates directly to the argument being made. To use a well-worn example, the datum 'Harry was born in Bermuda' supports the claim 'Harry is a British subject' via the warrant 'Persons born in Bermuda are British subjects.'"
  • "The connection between the data and the conclusion is created by something called a 'warrant.' One of the important points made by Toulmin is that the warrant is a kind of inference rule and in particular not a statement of facts."
  • Unstated Warrants in Enthymemes
    "In enthymemes, warrants are often unstated but recoverable. In 'alcoholic beverages should be outlawed in the U.S. because they cause death and disease each year,' the first clause is the conclusion, and the second the data. The unstated warrant is fairly phrased as 'In the U.S. we agree that products causing death and disease should be made illegal.' Sometimes leaving the warrant unstated makes a weak argument seem stronger; recovering the warrant to examine its other implications is helpful in argument criticism. The warrant above would also justify outlawing tobacco, firearms, and automobiles."


    Philippe Besnard et al., Computational Models of Argument. IOS Press, 2008

    Jaap C. Hage, Reasoning With Rules: An Essay on Legal Reasoning. Springer, 1997

    Richard Fulkerson, "Warrant." ​Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. by Teresa Enos.

    Routledge, 1996/2010