Argumentation Visualization: development through the ages

Topics: Logic, Gottfried Leibniz, Reasoning Pages: 7 (1831 words) Published: September 22, 2013


Report on the course “Knowledge Structuring”
“Argumentation Visualization”

Saint – Petersburg
This essay reviews development and current state of the argumentation visualization concept and tools. Argumentation visualization is a set of methods used to represent complex systems of preconditions, reasons and conclusions via visual tools, such as graphs, diagrams, matrices, charts etc. The overview uses the inductive immersion approach: argumentation visualization phenomenon understanding is gained by following the history of method’s development and absorbing most influential thoughts that contributed to the approach in question throughout the centuries. The milestones of visual reasoning are highlighted, several examples of argumentation visualization tools are provided. Description of the today’s state of argumentation visualization method, known as CSAV, follows the historical reference. A short market overview is given further. An overlook of the main trends that define further development of CSAV and main points of criticism of the method conclude the work.

Table of content

History of argumentation visualization
Before we start, it would be appropriate to give a short definition of the concept in question. Argumentation visualization can be described as a set of methods used to represent complex systems of preconditions, reasons and conclusions via visual tools, such as graphs, diagrams, matrices, charts etc. A simple mind-map in Fig. 1 highlights main topics the essay will touch in regard to argumentation visualization history.

Early precursors of argumentation visualization
For a long time (for more than a thousand years, to be more precise) science of logical reasoning transmission was limited by knowledge gathered and skills developed by Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Works of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero have explicitly covered means of persuasion and explanation with the use of a word, both spoken and written. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that argumentation visualization has emerged as an explicit method. However, some attempts to supplement verbal reasoning communication by ideograms and other visual tools have been undertaken in former times, too. Among those the work of German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716) seems to be most notable and significant. The work in hand is Characteristica universalis: Leibniz had an idea of a universal formal language which could be used to express any scientific concept. In other words, one of Characteristica universalis’s goals was to provide the user means of diagrammatic reasoning, a method, in fact, equal to argumentation visualization. The language’s main method was diagramming. Using words, pictograms and interrelation signs, Leibniz showed how different concepts can be clearly represented via diagrammatic reasoning. As an example of such visualization, a diagram, with help of which Leibniz explains Aristotle’s idea of all material things being formed by different combinations of basic elements, is provided in Fig. 2.

Characteristica universalis’s fundamental feature was the use of the alphabet of human thought, a very important element of any effective argumentation visualization tool, as would be seen from further sections of the essay. Alphabet of human thought, as defined by Leibniz, should serve as a means to explain however complicated concepts by decomposing them into a small number of very simple ideas. An example of this kind of basic concepts drawn from the diagram above is shown on Fig. 3.

Leibniz has only outlined this universal language, admitting that the work is too hard for him alone to complete, but even after refusing further attempts to create Characteristica universalis, he remained excited of the potential of...

References: 1. Goodwin J. 2000. Wigmore’s Chart Method. Informal Logic Vol. 20, No. 3, (200), pp. 222-243.
2. Hoffman M. 2011. Cognitive effects of argument visualization tools [Online] Available at:  [Accessed March 12, 2013]
3. Kirchner P.A. Buckingam- Shum S.J. 2003. Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making. London. p. 218
4. Smith B. 1992. Characteristica Universalis, in: K. Mulligan (ed.), Language, Truth and Ontology (Philosophical Studies Series), Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer pp. 48–77.
5. Strickland 's L. 2011. Leibniz and the two Sophies: the philosophical correspondence. Toronto. p. 355.
6. van Gelder, T. J. (2002). Enhancing Deliberation Through Computer-Supported Argument Visualization. In P. Kirschner & S. Buckingham Shum & C. Carr (Eds.), Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making. London: Springer-Verlag, pp. 97-115.
7. Wigmore J. H. 1913. The problem of proof. Illinois Law Review. Illinois.8 (2) pp. 77–103.
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