Critical Analysis Project

Project background

Argumentation is an integral part of how we negotiate our everyday lives in a complex world. In many contexts it matters that arguments are rational, that means, it is not enough that they are simply (subjectively) convincing. Rational argument involves ‘norms’ or ‘standards’ against which actual arguments can be compared. These standards provide a yardstick for argument quality, and allow us to make statements about when particular arguments are weak or strong.

These standards articulate considerations that we should all find ourselves happy to adopt, once we think about them for a bit. Specifically, we should be happy to adopt them if we want to maximise the chance that what we come to believe is actually true. While we might not always care about that when we are trying to convince others, we typically don’t want the wool pulled over our eyes when arguments are addressed at us.

This site tries to illustrate these standards for rational argument in action: specifically, we provide critical analyses of written articles, opinion pieces and debates that are in the public domain. For these pieces, we provide a kind of ‘argument checking’ that complements fact-checking provided by websites such as Politifact and FullFact.

The academic research that underlies our analyses is conducted in across a number of different disciplines: philosophy, communication studies, psychology and computer science. Some of it is found in textbooks on critical thinking or guides to better argument. But some of it is also quite technical and less accessible to the general public. For this reason, our website will be adding further background materials on key topics. This should both help site readers to understand the critical analyses and to learn more on rational argument in general.

The site has grown out of our own research on rational argument. We hope readers will find it useful, and we hope it will contribute to making public debate a little bit better.

This site is part of the Rational Argument Project.