Toulmin Model

Stephen Toulmin; Philosopher and Modern Day Leader of Rhetorical Theory

Stephen Toulmin is one of the modern day leaders of rhetorical theory. He did not start out as a rhetorician though. He was born in London, England in 1922, and died Dec. 4 2009. Toulmin received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and natural sciences from King's College in 1942. Later he received his Masters of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Cambridge. After graduating from Cambridge, Toulmin was appointed university lecturer in the philosophy of science at Oxford University. Stephen Toulmin was an English philosopher and educator noted for his study of the history of ideas. In his work on ethics, Toulmin was concerned with describing prescriptive language ”that is, imperative sentences and value judgments used for ethical statements” while holding that ethics, or the logical study of moral language, cannot be reduced to subjective or objective facts but is a unique expression of duty or right Toulmin spent much of his life teaching at various universities around the United States, and has written several books.

Toulmin’s first book was on ethics, An Examination of the Place of Reason in Ethics (essentially his dissertation), brought him to philosophical attention. Already typically Toulminian, it argued that moral philosophers should stop analyzing isolated ethical terms and examine how ethical judgment works in particular contexts. His flouting of absolutism might seem to ally him with AJ Ayer and the eroticists, but, in fact, he incisively demolished all the prevailing met ethical approaches, whether objective, subjective or imperative. In a style much closer to Aristotle and medieval casuistry than to the distanced met ethics then fashionable, he advocated that moral reasoning be done on a case-by-case basis. Throughout many of his works; Toulmin pointed out that absolutism (represented by theoretical or analytic arguments) has limited practical value. Absolutism...