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Logical Argument Mapping (LAM):

A tool for problem solving, argumentation,
deliberation, and conflict management
Michael H.G. Hoffmann

March 31, 2007



Foundational Problems: Ontology and epistemology

Tools for a solution: Semiotics, pragmatism, and
boundary critique
Problems of boundary critique
Problems of problems
What can we do? Logical Argument Mapping (LAM)

LAM: Its functions

LAM: Theoretical background
LAM: The procedure
LAM: Three essential ideas
LAM: Other logical forms
LAM: Summary of important, valid argument forms
LAM: Notation for its ontology
LAM: Evaluation criteria
LAM: Examples on the web


Foundational Problems I: Ontology

Whatever we are talking or thinking about, it is

about something (to on = the being in Greek)

Two fundamental problems of ontology:

1. how to grasp a world in flux that is full of complexity,
interdependencies, and without clear boundaries and
2. how to bridge the gap between what exists and the
languages, both natural and artificial, for talking and
reasoning about what exists? (Sowa 2001)

Since we can comprehend what exists only so far

as our cognitive abilities go, there is no ontology
without epistemology

Foundational Problems II: Epistemology

Epistemology focuses on three

1. How to justify knowledge claims?
2. How to explain the creation of knowledge?
3. What are the conditions for the possibility of
knowledge and the creation of knowledge?

Its fundamental problem is: Since

everything can be represented in an
infinite number of different ways, what
is an adequate representation?

Tools for a solution I: Semiotics

Semiotics is the theory of signs and

representation systems
Since there is no knowledge, no
thinking, no communication without
signs and representation systems,
there is no ontology and epistemology
without a semiotic foundation

Tools for a solution II: Pragmatism

Pragmatism is, first of all, a theory of

While traditional approaches to
meaning define the meaning of a sign
either by
1. its extension (the set of objects signified by a
sign) or
2. by its intension (i.e. a definition that refers to
other signs),

pragmatism defines it by its usage

Tools for a solution III: Semiotic pragmatism

Semiotic pragmatism in the tradition of

Charles S. Peirce claims that defining the
meaning of a sign by its usage depends
on interpretation
The set of acceptable interpretations is
constrained by a community of sign users
1. the meaning of signs is relative to social and
cultural communities, and evolves over time
2. also epistemology and ontology are always
relative to time and lifeworlds (Habermas)

Tools for a solution IV: Boundary critique

Boundary critique is a concept

developed by Werner Ulrich
It refers to the epistemological relevance
of boundary judgments:
1. The idea is that both the meaning and the validity
of practical propositions (eg solution proposals or
evaluations) depend on assumptions about what
facts (observations) and norms (valuations) are
to be considered relevant and what others are to
be ignored or considered less important. I call
these assumptions boundary judgements, for
they define the boundaries of the reference
system to which a proposition refers and for which
it is valid. (Ulrich 2003, p. 333)

Tools for a solution IV: Boundary critique

2. No argument can be completely rational in the sense of

justifying all the assumptions on which it depends as well
as all the consequences it may have. What ought to count
as knowledge, that is, as relevant circumstances, facts
and evidence that should be considered? And what
counts as relevant concerns, that is, value judgments
concerning purposes, measures of success and other
criteria of evaluation (norms)? Whose facts and whose
concerns should they represent? Ultimately, there is no
single right way to decide such questions. Yet at some
point argumentation has to end and practical action has
to begin. Boundary judgments define the boundaries of
argumentation (Ulrich 2001, p. 91)

Tools for a solution IV: Boundary critique

analyzes how any claim about facts or

values is conditioned by boundary

shows how facts and values change when
boundary judgments are modified
assumes that observations, evaluations,
and boundary judgments form an
interdependent system of selectivity
analyzes the practical implications of
selectivity: how it may affect all the
parties concerned (Ulrich 2003, p. 333f.)

Problems of boundary critique

Boundary judgments are not always explicit

From an epistemological point of view,
boundary judgments are mostly implicit
judgments, i.e. they are invisible and
From a cognitive point of view, bounding is
like framing, or sensemakinga basic
cognitive process: it determines how we
interpret the world around us
All this means: Any attempt to critique
boundary judgments is itself determined by the
same mechanisms it analyzes
This leads to an infinite regressthere is no
way to look at systems of selectivity from the

Problems of problems

Remember: Whenever we are talking about

something, we are facing the two ontological
1. how to capture a world in flux that is full of
complexity, interdependencies, and without clear
boundaries and structure?
2. how to bridge the gap between what exists and the
languages for talking and reasoning about what
exists? (Sowa 2001)

Since any talk about something is additionally

constrained by the selectivity of boundary
setting, we get problems of problems

What can we do? Logical Argument Mapping (LAM)

The infinite regress, and the fact that

bounding determines our thinking on each

level of analysis, is problematic only if we
try to describe what is going on in these
Any description carries with it a pretense
of objectivity that can never be fulfilled
since bounding selectivity is inevitable
The solution: Not description, but a stepby-step process of visualizing bounding
conditions that must be performed by the
involved parties themselves

LAM: Its functions

Heuristic function:
- visualizing boundary judgments and constraints
- clarifying vague thinking and implicit assumptions
- stimulating creativity, the discovery of alternative
perspectives, and experimenting with representations
- visualizing implications and problems of our assumptions
and possible contradictions among them
- challenging critical thinking and self-reflexivity

Social function:
- coordinating different problem representations and
boundary judgments
- stimulating negotiation of meanings and argumentation
- connecting expertise
- promoting mutual understanding by visualizing implicit
assumptions and boundary constraints (Hoffmann 2005)

LAM: Theoretical background

Peirces concept of diagrammatic reasoning

(Hoffmann 2004, in press)
Vygotskys idea of semiotic mediation: the main
function of signs is to regulate both social
interaction and our own thinking (Seeger 2005)
Toulmin-model of argumentation: argumentation
as procedure; working with graphs (Toulmin 2003
Application-oriented approaches to logic
(e.g. Luckhardt & Bechtel 1994)
Computer-Supported Argument Visualization
(CSAV; Kirschner, Buckingham Shum, and Carr

LAM: The procedure

1. Formulate a claim: the central goal of

your argument, a central thesis

All maps are created with
IHMC Cmap tools: http://
The example
is based on

LAM: The procedure

2. Provide a reason for your claim

LAM: The procedure

3. Justify the relation between reason and claim

by means of a warrant

LAM: The procedure

4. Try to refute your reason and the proposition

by which you justified the relation between

your reason and your claim (= warrant)
5. If necessary,
a) provide further reason(s) for your original reason and/or
the warrant; this way, your argument becomes an
argumentation; or
b) provide alternative reasons for your original claim, or
c) reformulate your claim and start again with step 1

LAM: The procedure

5.a) Provide further reasons for your reason

LAM: Three essential ideas


By providing a justification for the relation between reason

and claim in the 3. step, a crucial part of the arguers
boundary judgments and constraints becomes visible


Because: A reason is a reason for a claim only if one acknowledges

at least implicitlythe justifying statement
Therefore: LAM makes boundary judgments, bounding constraints,
and implicit assumptions visible

LAM motivates an ongoing process of argumentation

The third step transforms the argument into a logically valid

argument (here: modus ponens)
However, it is only a sound argument if both the premises are true
That means: you have to defend two very different things:


your primary reason

the statement that justifies the relation between reason and claim

Since everything can be doubted, you are challenged to provide

further reasons, or to modify the argument

LAM allows to check the consistency and completeness of

argumentations based on a visualization of all its elements

LAM: Other logical forms: alternative syllogism

LAM: Other logical forms: modus tollens

The whole example is available online. Click here

LAM: Summary of important, valid argument forms

modus ponens

If A, then B
(=A, only if
= A implies
modus tollens
If A, then B
(=A, only if
= A implies
not B
not A

alternative syllogism

Either A or B
not A (not B)

A if and only if B
A (B) (not A) (not
B (A) (not B) (not

disjunctive syllogism

conditional syllogism

Not both A and B

not B (not A)

If A, then B
If B, then C
If A, then C

LAM: Forms of warrants

The validity of those argument forms depends on

the following truth-table definitions of the warrants

If A then B




Either A or





Not both A and



B A if and only if




LAM: Notation for its ontology

Ontology refers to the content that can be represented in

a map. LAMs ontology contains the following elements:


Function: to represent

can be doubted

claims, data, imperatives, etc.

can be refuted by one


what somebody presupposes

in order to justify a certain
reason for a certain claim

LAM: Evaluation criteria

any relation between elements must be clearly

specified both by connector terms (therefore,
objects to, but, refutes, includes, means,
supports, e.g., makes unlikely, defined as,
etc.) and by directed arrows
arguments must be logically valid
argumentations must be as complete as possible; if
there is any element that can reasonably be
doubted, it has to be justified by further reasons
argumentations must be consistent (i.e. no
contradictions within your map); if you add an
objection to any part of an argument, you have to
indicate how to deal with it: Are there further
objections to refute the objection? Should the
objection lead to a qualification, or reformulation, of
the argument? Is there a problem you do not know
how to deal with?

LAM: Examples on the web

Analysis of an argument about the importance

of jihad (October 23, 2007, 877 KB)


Searching for common ground on Hamas

(March 31, 2007; 279 KB)

Hume on causality
(March 12, 2007; 2.0 MB!)

Regulating kidney supply

(Feb 27, 2007; 618 KB)

Middle East conflict. An Argumentation on the

sovereignty over al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple
Mount in Jerusalem (May 30, 2006; 763 KB)

Economist. (2006). Organ transplants. Your part or mine? Iran's example, and the broader case for making it
worthwhile to give kidneys. The Economist, Nov 16th.
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(2005). Logical argument mapping: A method for overcoming cognitive problems of conflict management.
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logic," ed. by J. Queiroz and F. Stjernfelt).
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and Educational Sense-making. London: Springer.
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Peirce. (CP). Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP.
Seeger, F. (2005). Notes on a semiotically inspired theory of teaching and learning. In M. H. G. Hoffmann, J. Lenhard &
F. Seeger (Eds.), Activity and Sign - Grounding Mathematics Education (pp. 67-76). New York: Springer.
Sowa, J. F. (2001). Signs, Processes, and Language Games. Foundations for Ontology.
Toulmin, S. E. (2003 <1958>). The Layout of Arguments. In The uses of argument (Updated ed., pp. 87-134). Cambridge,
U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ulrich, W. (2001). Critically systemic discourse: a discursive approach to reflective practice in ISD (Part 2). JITTA,
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