Backing (argument)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In the ​Toulmin model of argument, backing is the support or explanation provided for the warrant. The backing is often characterized by the word because.

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Examples and Observations

  • "[Stephen] Toulmin's The Uses of Argument, which appeared in 1958, is mainly known for the model of argumentation presented in this book. This model represents the 'procedural form' of argumentation: the various steps that can be distinguished in the defense of a standpoint. According to Toulmin, the soundness of argumentation is primarily determined by the degree in which the warrant, which connects the data adduced in the argumentation with the claim that is defended, is made acceptable by a backing. . . .

    "What kind of backing is required, however, is dependent on the field to which the question at issue belongs. An ethical justification, for instance, requires a different kind of backing from a legal justification. Toulmin concludes from this that the evaluation criteria for determining the soundness of argumentation are 'field dependent.'"
    (Frans H. Van Eemeren, "Argumentation Theory: An Overview of Approaches and Research Themes," in Rhetorical Argumentation in Biblical Texts, edited by Anders Eriksson, et al. Continuum, 2002)
  • Different Kinds of Backing
    "Toulmin . . . emphasizes the difference between backing and warrant: backings can be categorical statements of fact just like data, while warrants always are general bridge-like statements . . .. A central point in Toulmin's book [The Uses of Argument] is that different kinds of backings occur in different fields of argument. Among Toulmin's examples of backings are statutes and acts of Parliament, statistical reports, appeals to the results of experiments and references to taxonomical systems. All can provide the backing that warrant the arguments as they are acceptable in particular fields."
    (Bart Verheij, ""Evaluating Arguments Based on Toulmin's Scheme." Arguing on the Toulmin Model: New Essays in Argument Analysis and Evaluation, edited by David Hitchcock and Bart Verheij. Springer, 2006)
  • Backing as Evidence
    "Initial Statement: It should be investigated whether Peter murdered George.
    Claim: Peter shot George.
    Backing: Witness W states that Peter shot George.

    [Here] . . . the backing statement is the kind of evidence you need to collect in a murder investigation. Of course, the witness may be lying, or what he says may not be true. But if he says that Peter shot George, that statement needs to be investigated in any proper investigation. It is relevant in that context."
    (Douglas N. Walton, Witness Testimony Evidence: Argumentation, Artificial Intelligence, and Law. Cambridge University Press, 2008)