Since at least the 1980s, the role of adversariality in argumentation has been extensively discussed. Some authors criticize adversarial conceptions and practices of argumentation and instead defend more cooperative approaches, both on moral and on epistemic grounds. Others retort that argumentation is inherently adversarial, and that the problem lies not with adversariality per se but with overly aggressive manifestations therof. In this paper, I defend the view that specific instances of argumentation are (and should be) adversarial or cooperative proportionally to pre-existing conflict. What determines whether an argumentative situation should be primarily adversarial or primarily cooperative are contextual features and background conditions, in particular the extent to which the parties involved have prior conflicting or convergent interests and goals. I articulate a notion of adversariality in terms of the relevant parties pursuing conflicting interests, and argue that, while cooperative argumentation is to be encouraged whenever possible, conflict as such is an inevitable aspect of human sociality and thus cannot be completely eliminated.
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