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Seriously Mapping Arguments

July 23rd, 2010      

Following up on our post about debates, Argunet is another tool for visualizing the structure of complex arguments and debates as a graphical network. The key value of Argunet is the restrictions it uses to try and produce clearly defined “argument maps”.
Argument maps may look like mind maps, but according to the Argunet FAQ, their maps are not freeform, but rather are intended to display a logical reconstruction and analysis of controversies and debates. They have a standardized layout, with specific colors and connectors to display the logic of which arguments are supported by or support other arguments. There are other constraints on the layouts to enforce clear reasoning.

Argunet is intended for serious, scholarly-minded visualizations. It is an open platform for creating, sharing, and presenting argument maps. Like other mindmapping tools, the layouts are fixed, though you can zoom in and out. The authoring is done offline in a standalone application (Java Runtime Environment 5.0 or higher) for multiple platforms, and you can display the finished map locally or with their web-based viewer. It’s a bit cumbersome, but there’s a manual for version 1.0. The most recent version, Argunet 1.2.0, was released in April 2009; it’s developed by a group at the Philosophy Department at the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin.

Argument maps are intended as tools to help users make up their mind on issues, and the best argument maps are the most unbiased and neutral. Every argument presupposes certain premises, so logically speaking, the strength of the arguments in the argument map depends upon how plausible their premisses are. The attack and support relations of the argument map don’t determine the plausibility of the premises; they only limit the possibilities by relating the plausibility of different sentences to one another.

If you want to display philosophical arguments using SpicyNodes, you might check out Argument maps and look at their ideas about breaking an argument into premises, attacks, supports, etc. You can borrow some of their ideas for visualizing an argument, and then use flexible SpicyNodes online authoring to make your own visualization.

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