Challenging Authority with Argumentation: The Pragmatics of Arguments from and to Authority

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Authority is both a pragmatic condition of much public discourse and a form of argumentative appeal routinely used in it. The goal of this contribution is to propose a new account of challenging authority in argumentative discourse that benefits from the interplay of the resources of recent speech act theory and argumentation theory. Going beyond standard approaches of the two disciplines, the paper analyzes nuanced forms of establishing and, especially, challenging discourse-related authority. Can Donald Trump advise his own scientific advisors on potential COVID-19 treatments? Addressing questions like this, the paper identifies various paradoxes of authority and the forms of authority discussed in the literature. It then distinguishes between argument from authority (or expert opinion) and argument to authority (or expert opinion) and argues that this rearranged structure mutually benefits the pragmatic account of speech act theory and the schematic account of argumentation theory in the task of better understanding and critiquing discourses such as Trump’s.
Original languageEnglish
Article number207
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Advice
  • Argument from expert opinion
  • Argumentum ad verecundiam
  • Authority
  • Expertise
  • Illocution
  • Speech act theory


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