What is an argument map?
An Argument map is a visual representation of the logical structure of an argument. The elements of an argument (propositions and relations) are represented by coloured boxes and arrows arranged on a 2D surface.
How to read an argument map
An argument is a series of propositions whereby the truth of one proposition (the conclusion) is affirmed or denied on the basis of one or more other propositions. Arguments, therefore, consist of (1) propositions and (2) relations between propositions.
A proposition is a statement or assertion which may be true or false. Propositions are represented by white boxes with coloured borders.
In an argument, propositions are formed in relation to one another, so that one proposition (a conclusion) is affirmed or denied on the basis of other propositions. Relations between propositions may be (1) supporting, (2) refuting, or (3) undercutting.
(1) Supporting relations are represented with a green arrow. In the map below, Proposition 2 supports (provides a reason for affirming the truth of) Proposition 1.
(2) Refuting relations are represented with a red arrow. In the map below, Proposition 3 refutes (provides a reason for denying the truth of) Proposition 1.
(3) Undercutting relations are represented with a purple arrow. In the map below, Proposition 4 does not deny the truth of Proposition 2. Instead, it undercuts Proposition 2, so that it no longer supports Proposition 1.
When two or more propositions combine to support a conclusion (a + b --> c), these supporting propositions may be represented in a single coloured box. In the map below, "Argument 1" has two propositions within it. Individually, neither of these propositions supports the conclusion that "David wrote Psalm 51." Together, however, they do provide support.
Arguments, and thus argument maps, can become quite complex. The issue of David's writing certain psalms is a case in point. The following map explores the issue of the meaning of the phrase Ledavid ("of David") found in the psalm titles. The view of Davidic authorship is taken as a hypothesis, and the arguments for and against that view are presented.
Approaches to reading
Top-down. When reading maps such as this one, it may be helpful to start at the top. The highest proposition will be the thesis of the argument. From the top, you can work your way down, following the arrows and tracing the argument one step at a time.
Bottom-up. One may instead choose to read the map from the bottom-up. The lowest parts of the map usually present the objective evidence on which all of the arguments build. Starting from the bottom allows you to see all of the evidence up front and to see how arguments are built (or not built) on that evidence.
The map above employs some visual features that have not yet been explained.
Sections. The grey boxes in the background group parts of the map into sections. Oftentimes, an interpretive issue breaks down into multiple sub-issues. These might be represented as distinct sections. In this case, it is helpful to distinguish between the linguistic issue of the meaning of the phrase ledavid and of the historical issue of Davidic authorship.
Different colours. Different colours may be used to show the different sides of an argument. In this map, arguments and propositions are either orange or purple. Orange propositions and arguments are those which support the hypothesis of Davidic authorship. Purple propositions and arguments are opposed to it.
Symbols. Certain symbols (e.g., 🄲) follow after secondary source references. These symbols indicate types of secondary sources.
- A = article
- C = commentary
- D = dictionary
- G = grammatical resource
- I = OT introduction
- L = lexical resource
- M = monograph
Why use argument maps?
The aim of this project is to equip interpreters (translators in particular) to make informed decisions about the Psalms. Argument maps are ideally suited to this aim, because they encourage scholarly rigour, transparency, and accessibility.