The argumentative nature of holding strong views: A case study


  • The author is grateful to Marie Kennedy, who conducted the interview and to the members of the Loughborough Discourse and Rhetoric Group, and in particular to Nigel Edley, Derek Edwards, Ros Gill and Jonathan Potter, for helpfully providing argumentatively strong views of earlier drafts. The author would also like to thank John Shotter for his helpful remarks.


Recently a number of critics of traditional approaches to the study of attitudes have stressed the need to study the ways in which people express views in natural discourse. The present study examines the rhetorical aspects of holding strong views by providing a detailed case study. It focuses on the discourse of a family discussing the British Royal Family, where one member of the family is recognized to hold strong views. A number of rhetorical complexities of the discourse are highlighted and particular attention is placed on the argumentative dimensions of holding strong views. It is suggested that strong views are held in relation to opposing views and in arguing about the issue of monarchy participants are also reflexively arguing about arguments. Examples are given to show that the holder of strong views, as opposed to the holder of weak views, does not necessarily have a greater opposition to the assumption of multisubjectivity, for the discourse of views is paradoxically marked by both assumptions of multisubjectivity and intersubjectivity. It is also shown that the holder of strong views may produce a variable discourse. The rhetorical nature of such variability is discussed and implications are drawn for the study of beliefs and for analysing the relations between thinking and arguing.