Arguments, Stories and Evidence: Critical Questions for Fact-Finding

Floris Bex and Bart Verheij


In this paper, we have proposed a series of critical questions for the hybrid argumentative-narrative theory of reasoning about the facts and the evidence in legal cases. Some of the critical questions correspond closely to argumentative approaches to reasoning with evidence (in particular critical question 2 about the sufficient support of the events, and question 3 concerning the relevance and strength of the support). There are also questions that are strongly connected to a narrative style of analysis (in particular question 4 about the coherence of the supported story, and question 5 about the consideration of alternative stories). But there are also questions that have a more hybrid position between argumentation and narrative. For instance, critical question 1 requires that an argument about the facts has a specific story as a conclusion, and question 6 considers the weighing of the pros and cons for individual events and for complete stories. We have used the analytic tool of the critical questions associated with argumentation schemes as studied in argumentation theory (recently by Walton et al 2008, building on work by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca 1958, Hastings 1963 and Kienpointner 1992). We have extended the use of critical questions to questions for stories and the schemes on which they are based, and for hybrid structures of arguments, stories and evidence. One of the lessons learned from the work on the hybrid theory is that stories and arguments are essentially "communicating vessels": when dealing with the complex reasoning involved in large criminal cases, a narrative approach works best for some points of a case, while in other instances an argumentative approach is most natural. However, for a deeper understanding of the connection between argumentation and narrative, it seems to be required to develop a genuine integration of both. Meanwhile, our hybrid approach allows for the flexibility of the separate argumentative and narrative approaches whilst at the same time it uses arguments and stories as complementary tools for complex reasoning. The case studies in this text and another one by Bex (2011) accentuate the value of a hybrid, argumentative-narrative analysis of reasoning about the facts in criminal cases.


Bex, F.J., and Verheij, B. (2011). Arguments, Stories and Evidence: Critical Questions for Fact-Finding. Proceedings of the 7th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation (ISSA 2010) (eds. F.H. van Eemeren, B. Garssen, D. Godden and G. Mitchell), pp. 71-84. Amsterdam: Rozenberg/Sic Sat.

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