Why are arguments a subjective term

A successful argumentation is perhaps half the battle. Depending on the subject area and the type of text to be written (home, bachelor's thesis, master's or doctoral thesis), the claim and thus also an appropriate or successful line of argumentation shifts. While short term papers can sometimes remain descriptive or comparative, the master's thesis at the latest requires an empirical or analytical view that should actually bring something new to light. We will retire to introduce a few basic arguments.


1. Basic concepts

Thesis | Hypothesis | Premise | Conclusion | Argument | analysis


2. Linear reasoning

A variant of the presentation of arguments is to line them up in a straight line, as it were. Individual premises result in a logical conclusion, which in turn can be used as a premise for a further step in the argument. The most classic of all examples looks like this:

Beyond all scientific-theoretical complexity, this somewhat simple figure, whose implementation is difficult enough in practice, mostly persists. For a start, it is certainly sufficient to sift through your own text for stringency in this direction.

Further information on the philosophy of science z. B. at:
Karl R. Popper: Logic of research (1935),
Thomas S. Kuhn: The structure of scientific revolutions (1969),
Paul Feyerabend: Against the method constraint (1957),
Hans Poser: Philosophy of science: A philosophical introduction (2012).


3. Descriptive versus judgmental

A relatively undisputed key difference in science is that between descriptive (i.e. descriptive) and prescriptive (i.e. prescriptive or evaluative) statements. The classic - and thus at least partially outdated - scientific ideal provides to operate only with descriptive statements that analyze something in their sequence and develop an evaluation of the facts logically and in a compelling way. Strictly speaking, evaluations are therefore only “permissible” if a logically structured argumentation (inductive, deductive, dialectical or empirical) forces the corresponding (evaluative) conclusion to a certain extent.

Typical terms, which should be used with caution and which can indicate evaluative statements, are, for example:
beautiful, bad, Well, not correct, correct, harmful, little, excessively, nonsensical, fatal etc.
Verbs that also suggest evaluative formulations are: assess, evaluate, appraise, judge, consider, have to etc.
Other forms also quickly go in this direction: something is to be done, someone has to omit something etc. Such rather bureaucratic and apparently irrefutable statements should be avoided.

An example: The statement "Wine contains alcohol." is descriptive, it describes a (verifiable) fact. The phrase "alcohol consumption is harmful to health." However, it remains in itself without any logical justification and is therefore judgmental or prescriptive (insofar as it suggests the conclusion that one should not consume alcohol). However, if the statement is the end of an empirical or logical argumentation (for example according to the pattern: “The evaluation of the data sets a to c has shown that alcohol consumption starts at a lot y the negative health effect z causes), their salary shifts. The sentence is now a logical derivation against the background of clearly defined framework conditions (the data records a to c, the amount y and the effect z).

Another example: "Habermas' theory of communicative action has little relevance to reality." If this statement is empirically or theoretically well founded in the text, then it is absolutely scientifically adequate. Otherwise it is like an assertion, an expression of individual taste, and is, in the sense of scientific writing, questionable.


4. Text structure

The ideal case:

  1. You ask a (research) question
  2. looks for the best theoretical or methodological tools,
  3. examined
  4. and answered the question.

See also the area structure. Below this level, a scientific text can be found in Sections and paragraphs subdivide, each of which is an element of the argumentation. Sections are separated by dummy text, paragraphs by a paragraph mark, recognizable by this symbol (if the non-printable characters are visible in the writing program). Sections and paragraphs should be set as precisely as bullet points; they show how the path goes from one premise to the next and to the conclusion or from one argument to another, for example. In the best case, one paragraph logically results in the next. At the very least, however, it should be clear to the reader why one paragraph follows another. So they are each units of meaning or arguments, which ideally comprise at least three sentences. In the English-speaking world comes the Construction of paragraphs a higher importance, which we introduce in the section Paragraphing. It has advantages and disadvantages, but can be very helpful, especially for beginners, to organize your own text. Several paragraphs, which in turn create a context, can then be bound together in sections.

task description

The next text passage is shown continuously, i.e. without paragraphs. Add paragraphs to the text yourself. Behind the proposed solution you will find the breaks of the original version. (For reasons of presentation, we have marked the paragraphs with spaces, which would actually be a section break.)

Paragraphs Exercise 1
Your solution

What literary studies lacks is a history of writing. Your work - from the interpretation to the writing of history - has to do with the effects of a practice that is no longer an issue itself. What poets thought or even thinkers wrote has been researched. Only the twenty-six black figures on a white background - the storehouse of all poetry for millennia - have preserved their old riddle. Literary studies, however, now settle (in spite of the common slogans of communication) in the space of the libraries. So she never comes back in time for her own cause. Writing is there even before the work, which itself leads to writing, has even started. Scripsi quod scripsisaid Pilate, unassailable.

However, there are escape routes from this location. Even if literary studies (in contrast to high priests) no longer come up with requests for changes, they can always skip it. Two almost classic ways to neutralize writing are called 'work' and 'author'. Either in an after or a before the simple presence of the signs disappeared. Understood in terms of a completed work, characters became the vehicle of a meaning that surpassed and unified them all, if only because it was still outstanding. When read by a subordinate author, what was written disappeared in the apparent precedence of a voice or a thought. What was there no longer counted; instead of the writing in its power there was a meaning in its arbitrariness. The high priests to Pilate: "Do not write 'The King of the Jews', but that he said 'I am the King of the Jews'."

The fact that the literary hermeneutics reduced what was written for a century to the two illusions which since Saint-Beuve have been called “work” and “author” has raised counter-theories. Since Barthes and his Nouvelle critique should in the basic concept écriture the unassailable material basis of literature become a method. Écriture describes a practice without a reason in the author and without a goal in the work, regulated only by laws that the language enacts in its autonomy. Which, in a nice short circuit, releases the literary scholar as well as the writer.


This is how the original paragraphs are set. They each outline a unit of meaning. In addition, because it fits so nicely here, we have underlined the respective "topic sentence", which usually introduces a paragraph relatively briefly.

task description

In the following you will find individual paragraphs of a text. On the right, you can formulate functional headings for these paragraphs in the input field. The proposed solutions make it clear that the sequence of arguments, i.e. each paragraph, is deliberately chosen. Tip: You can organize your own text in a similar way; either from the beginning or when you get stuck and don't know what to do next. An unclean line of argument can often be a hindrance. Then short, functional headings above each paragraph help to check the logical structure.

Argumentation structure exercise 1

Ulrich Bröckling: The entrepreneurial self. Sociology of a form of subjectivation. Frankfrut / Main 2008, introduction (up to page 11, without footnotes)

The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze ranted in the early 1990s that companies have a soul is “really the greatest horror news in the world”. At best, it is surpassed by the demand that everyone should develop into an entrepreneur in their own right down to the last corner of their soul, as proclaimed today by countless motivational gurus and self-management trainers, but also economists, education experts, trend researchers and politicians of (almost) all stripes. This book deals with this demand, with the social pull it triggers, with the force field that builds up around it. The entrepreneurial self, which gives it the title, stands for a bundle of interpretive schemes with which people today understand themselves and their modes of existence, of normative requirements and role offers, on which they orient their actions, as well as of institutional arrangements, social and self-technologies that and with which they are supposed to regulate their behavior. In other words, and to take up a fashionable vocabulary from the business world: The business self is a model.

In this sense, the final report of the "Commission for Future Issues Bavaria - Saxony" from 1997 cites it, a key document for the German discussion, which raises this figure to the rank of a political target and in its basic tenor anticipates much of that what has since been poured into reform agendas. "The model of the future is the individual as the entrepreneur of his labor and services of general interest," it says. "This insight must be awakened, initiative and personal responsibility, that is, the entrepreneurial in society, must be developed more strongly." In the "entrepreneurial knowledge society" of the 21st century, "the perfect copyists of given blueprints" are no longer required, as they are the " worker-centered industrial society ”of the 20th century. Rather, the economy and society are dependent on “creative, entrepreneurial people who are more willing and able than before to take responsibility for themselves and others in all questions”. It is the task of the state to provide assistance with this transition; politics must "set an orderly framework again and steer society in a value-oriented manner". Those measures that are intended to stimulate “more entrepreneurial activity and responsibility” lead “straight to less of the welfare state”, which, however, “by no means only means loss, but also gain for the individual and society at the same time” - an insight that which, however, still closed to large parts of the population. In addition to politics, science and the media must therefore also strengthen the will of the population to keep pace with change. The imperative tone, coupled with the threat that in Germany "in an international comparison almost unique material prosperity paired with social peace, a high degree of internal and external security, a lot of free time, etc." could "collapse like a house of cards" if individual views and behaviors as well as collective models “are not geared towards entrepreneurial action, makes the report itself a component of the force field that it wants to generate.

On the functioning of this force field, on the energies that are bound or released in it, on the direction or the contradicting directions in which the individual is drawn, and last but not least on the processes with which they adjust their own movements to the suction, is the focus of the study presented here. Like the Commission report, it sees the entrepreneurial self as a government program. While the government-commissioned expertise emphatically calls for the implementation of this program, the present work concentrates on preparing its strategic elements, but also on making visible the constitutional excessive demands as well as the logic of exclusion and attribution of guilt to which it exposes the individual. At the same time, following Michel Foucault's lectures on the history of governmentality and the subsequent Studies of Governmentality, she extends the concept of government beyond the sphere of state intervention and also relates it to other forms of systematic influence on human activity. The force field of the entrepreneurial self is fed by many sources, not only from the decisions of the political administration and the recommendations of their scientific advisors.

The materials that are used for the work presented here are correspondingly heterogeneous: Analyzes - among other things - national economic, psychological and sociological theories, as well as management programs, creativity, communication and cooperation techniques as well as popular advisors, the common denominator of which is that they Spell out the ratio of entrepreneurial action and / or provide procedures with which people can approximate their behavior to the model. The force field of the entrepreneurial self is a field of discourse, but at the same time it is more than that. The work is based on books, magazine articles and other published writings, but to a large extent it is texts with a directly practical claim: training manuals, textbooks, success guides and similar handouts try less to convince than to guide action (and only rarely shine through intellectual brilliance, but rather either a decidedly technical or a charismatic-evocative tone). They define a space of what can be said and known, but above all they aim at what is feasible. Not only do they provide answers to the question “What should I do?”, They also give detailed instructions on how I can do what I should do.

Of course, the measurement of the entrepreneurial force field does not allow any statements about how people actually move in it. The following work is only interested in which rules and regularities (also with regard to deviations from the rules) their behavior follows insofar as the strategies and technologies of the entrepreneurial self influence them - and for this purpose also the procedures are more quantitative use qualitative social research. What is examined is a regime of subjectification, not what the people who are subject to this regime and who in this submission constitute themselves as subjects actually say or do. The question is not how powerful the postulate to act entrepreneurially is, but how it unfolds its effect. It is about a grammar of governance and self-governance, not about the reconstruction of subjective worlds of meaning and action orientations or shifts in the social structure. To put it figuratively: What is examined is the current that pulls people in one direction, and not how far they let themselves drift away, use it to move faster, or try to avoid it or swim against it.

The work tries to avoid the danger of reducing the inevitability that this suggests by concentrating on the rationalities and programs by exploring the antinomies inherent in them - for example between self-determination and external determination, rational calculation and action under uncertainty, cooperation and competition - to carve out and thus to keep open the gap between unbounded entitlement and its always limited redemption. The following is not only about what individuals should do and how they are enabled to do so, but also about how their efforts can never be fully sufficient.

Such a project is at odds with the common divisions of sociological research, more precisely, it can be assigned to several departments: The present study sees itself initially as a contribution to a political sociology that does not reduce political action to “main and state actions”, but rather itself also interested in the micropolitics of everyday life, governance structures and generally in the ways in which individuals, public and private institutions regulate their common affairs.

Entrepreneurial action undoubtedly represents a specific form of economic action, and what is called the force field here describes a dynamic of economization. The question pursued in the following is economic sociological insofar as it examines how this type of action is made plausible and diffuses socially. An older Bonment by the American economist James Duesenberry said that economics is about voting, while sociology shows that actors do not have to choose. In contrast, the present study works out - and this is its economic-sociological use - that the current economization of the social leaves the individual with no other choice but to choose continuously, admittedly between alternatives that they have not chosen: they are forced to do so, free to be.

The concept of the entrepreneurial self naturally develops a particular dynamic in the area from which it originates: the world of companies. In the sociology of work and industry, but also in organizational sociology, it has long been discussed to what extent changed forms of work and company organization are pushing back the workers of the Fordist era, the type that the report of the Future Commission - as quoted - is not without cynicism as "perfect copyists given blueprints ”, and a new type, the labor entrepreneur, takes its place. The present work follows on from this discussion insofar as it examines how contemporary management concepts oblige all employees to act in an entrepreneurial manner and which strategies of autonomization, responsibilization and flexibilization they use for this purpose.

The entrepreneurial self is a descendant of Homo oeconomicus, the anthropological construct on which economics build its modeling of human behavior. In this respect, the description of this figure also falls within the field of a social-scientific anthropology that analyzes implicit and explicit images of humans and their behavior-modifying effects. Because it is about at least informally sanctioned behavioral expectations - the fabrication of the entrepreneurial self operates with promises of success and threats to fall - the text presented here can also be assigned to a sociology of norms. With her interest in the processes used in this production, she also makes a contribution to a research area that has so far been little introduced in the discipline, at best within the framework of the Studies of Governmentality, which could be described as the sociology of social and self-technologies. At this point at the latest, sociology has to demonstrate its ability to self-reflect, as it is not least sociological findings and methods that build up technologies for entrepreneurial leadership.

task description

The next text passage is shown continuously, i.e. without paragraphs. Add paragraphs to the text yourself. Behind the proposed solution you will find the breaks of the original version. (For reasons of presentation, we have marked the paragraphs with spaces, which would actually be a section break.)

Paragraphs Exercise 2
Your solution
  • Jay D. Bolter: The Internet in the History of Writing Technologies

The computer is a technology of symbolic representation of communication, in short - a technology of writing. In the 1980s, the personal computer (PC) made this technology available to large numbers of authors such as readers in Europe, North America and Japan. Today the Internet opens up new forms of publication: it frees electronic writing from the individual computer and disseminates it over a network of machines spanning the entire developed world. The World Wide Web on the Internet is a methodical process which finally enables electronic writing to clearly differentiate itself from the spellings for printed publications. A new economy of writing, a new interplay between technical devices and the ways in which they are used, is beginning to spread.

If we look at the computer and the Internet as a new technology of writing, we can place them in a historical context. In the older and more recent history of Europe, these technologies have included the papyrus scroll of antiquity, the codex of late antiquity and the Middle Ages, and the printed book from the Renaissance to the present day. In each age a number of subordinate or supporting technologies were grouped around these basic technologies, the relationship of which to one another changed permanently as part of the wider economy of writing. These subordinate technologies included the wax and stone tablets in the ancient world, various versions of ephemeral and monumental writing in the European Middle Ages, and everything from manuscripts to the first wooden tablet prints to typewriters and dictation machines during the centuries of letterpress printing. [ ] The different epochs are characterized by a whole range of reading and writing practices - more than simply by materials and procedures. If we examine electronic communication within this historical context, we will hear an echo, we will discover how this new way of writing carries on older forms. Such resonances can help us to understand to what extent electronic writing breaks radially with the past - and to what extent it consistently continues it.

Historically, every economy of writing has defined itself in the context of specific genres and styles. The papyrus roll was associated with ancient rhetoric and historiography; the codex with the medieval encyclopedia, marginal notes, glossaries and illustrated religious texts; the printing technology finally with the novella and the newspaper. These genres and styles express different cultural attitudes towards the organization of human knowledge and experiences. Technologies of writing were consistently important to the Western ideas of knowledge and subjectivity.


These are the original paragraphs, but (at least) one more would be conceivable or useful. We have marked it with [] and underlined the thematic sentence. Without this we have an introductory paragraph, one that deepens the topic and expands it in detail and one (first) that captures the subject historically.

Structure / reasoning
How are texts structured and what does a clean argument look like? And what does it mean to proceed logically?