Value-based argumentation for democratic decision support

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Citation: Katie Atkinson (2006) Value-based argumentation for democratic decision support. Computational Models of Argument (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): Value-based argumentation for democratic decision support
Tagged: Computer Science (RSS) e-government (RSS), argumentation (RSS), online argumentation (RSS), decision support (RSS), value-based argumentation frameworks (RSS), Parmenides (RSS)


This paper discusses Parmenides, a structured, survey-based system for e-consultation. Unlike most consultation systems, it provides both ease-of-use and highly structured output.

Foundational theory

The system is based on the notion of Bench-Capon's value-based argumentation frameworks (see Bench-Capon 2003), an extension of Dung's argumentation frameworks (Dung 1995). Another basis is the notion of practical reasoning. Previously, the author had extended Walton's "sufficient condition scheme for practical reasoning" specifically the author's particular argument scheme and critical questions for persuasive argument in practical reasoning (from Justifying practical reasoning).

Argumentation Scheme AS1

In the current circumstances R,
we should perform action A,
to achieve new circumstances S,
which will realise some goal G,
which will promote some value V.

The 16 critical questions associated with Argumentation Scheme AS1

  • CQ1: Are the believed circumstances true?
  • CQ2: Assuming the circumstances, does the action have the stated consequences?
  • CQ3: Assuming the circumstances and that the action has the stated consequences, will the action bring about the desired goal?
  • CQ4: Does the goal realise the value stated?
  • CQ5: Are there alternative ways of realising the same consequences?
  • CQ6: Are there alternative ways of realising the same goal?
  • CQ7: Are there alternative ways of promoting the same value?
  • CQ8: Does doing the action have a side effect which demotes the value?
  • CQ9: Does doing the action have a side effect which demotes some other value?
  • CQ10: Does doing the action promote some other value?
  • CQ11: Does doing the action preclude some other action which would promote some other value?
  • CQ12: Are the circumstances as described possible?
  • CQ13: Is the action possible?
  • CQ14: Are the consequences as described possible?
  • CQ15: Can the desired goal be realised?
  • CQ16: Is the value indeed a legitimate value?

Structuring feedback with simple questions

These critical questions relate to goals, consequences, or values. By asking a user a series of questions, relating to each of these, Parmenides can identify the source of the disagreement, in terms of the critical questions. This simplifies the presentation of the source of the disagreement, which can now be analyzed using value-based argumentation frameworks.

Running example

The running example throughout the paper is a hypothetical government justification for invading Iraq. Successive figures construct and update the graph representing the value-based argumentation framework (VAF). The advantage, as the paper discusses, is the ability to ensure that all opinions have been assessed in relation to each other, by analyzing which arguments defeat each other. While in general this depends on the audience, the author provides an example of one argument defeating another for all audiences.

Comparison with other systems

The paper provides a brief comparison with two systems, an IBIS-based and a dialogue-game based system. IBIS-based systems such as Zeno (see e.g. Zeno: Groupware for discourses on the Internet and Discourse support systems for deliberative democracy, full citations at Providing argument support for e-participation), provide "a preference ordering according to the constraints defined in the debate", while VAF's/Parmenides' focus on the audience yields "goal-value pairs". Meanwhile, the Risk Agora System, a dialogue-based system (McBurney and Parsons 2000), focuses on modeling debates through tracking utterances and commitments.

Selected references

Note the updated book, Douglas Walton, Christopher Reed and Fabrizio Macagno. Argumentation Schemes. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

This paper is an extension of the EGOV paper K. Atkinson (2006) Computational support for public debate and policy justification. In A. Grönlund, H. Jochen Scholl, K. V. Andersen and M. A. Wimmer (editors): Electronic Government. Communications Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on eGovernment (EGOV 2006), Krakow, Poland, pp. 35-42. Trauner Verlag, Linz, Austria.