Dialectics and polylogues: The case of multi-party deliberations

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The rationale behind dialectical procedures for argumentation lies in their capacity to decide on an issue by critically examining arguments “on both sides of an issue.” What frequently happens in actual argumentation, however, is that more than “two sides of an issue” are debated simultaneously, such as when voters deliberate over three or more competing candidates with mutually exclusive political positions. How can dialectics apply to such multi-sided issues open to more than just two solutions? I discuss two practical possibilities reflecting broad theoretical orientations: issue-based and role-based dialectics. I argue that the role-based approach is more in line with the exigencies of actual argumentation, especially in competitive political discussions. Still, it is incapable of grasping the specificities of genuine multi-party discussions. As a remedy, I propose the notion of argumentative polylogues – discussions in which multiple (i.e., more than two) distinct, contrary positions are debated simultaneously. I illustrate how polylogues work by analysing four different argumentative strategies in political deliberations during the 2012 presidential elections in Egypt – an important episode in a series of political upheavals known as “The Arab Spring.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDialogues in Argumentation
EditorsRon von Burg
Place of PublicationWindsor, Ontario
PublisherWindsor studies in argumentation
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-0-920233-79-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Arab Spring
  • Deliberation
  • Dialectics
  • Polylogue
  • Strategic manoeuvring


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