ArgLab • Colloquium

Dima Mohammed

How to argue (well) about evaluative standpoints? Argumentation in accountability practices

Accountability is a key indicator of democratic governance in our world today (Mulgan 2004). In order to hold politicians accountable, democratic systems put them under the obligation to explain and justify their conduct, publicly as well as in closed doors in front of specialised bodies. The exercise of accountability is a fundamentally argumentative practice. Whether for the politician, who is expected to be of the opinion that her own conduct is satisfactory, or for the critics who challenge that, engaging in good argumentative exchanges about the conduct of those in power is central for a healthy political culture.


In this talk, I address the question of what counts as a good defence of an evaluative claim, in particular claims  about the conduct of a political actor. I formulate an answer that combines insights from argumentation scholarship on the different types of standpoints (the prescriptive, evaluative and descriptive) and the argumentation schemes that are suitable to defend them with insights from philosophical literature on the fact-value distinction and the difference between theoretical and practical reasoning, as well as insights from debate literature on the difference between fact, value and policy debates. Guided by the political literature on the exercise of accountability, my goal is to make a proposal that is best suitable for analysing and evaluating the type of evaluative claims that is typically discussed in accountability practices.