Stephen E. Toulmin, 87, a British-born philosopher and retired University of Southern California professor, has died.

Mr. Toulmin was especially known for creating a model for evaluating the practical arguments that arise from daily life during a six-decade career that brought him prominence in several fields.

He was the Henry R. Luce professor at the Center for Multiethnic and Transnational Studies and died Dec. 4 at USC University Hospital, his son, Greg, said. The cause was pneumonia.

The Oxford-trained theorist was best known for The Uses of Argument, published in 1958 and still in print, which set forth six criteria for building an effective argument. It reflected his belief that philosophers should concentrate less on abstractions and more on real-world issues, such as medical ethics and environmentalism.

"It is time for philosophers to come out of their self-imposed isolation and reenter the collective world of practical life and shared human problems," he wrote.

He embraced this view in a literal way: he and his wife lived in a campus student dormitory for almost a decade, until 2003.

At the same time, he was a highly regarded scholar, who in 1997 was chosen by the National Endowment for the Humanities to deliver the 26th annual Jefferson Lecture, the federal government's highest honor for intellectual achievement in the humanities.

Born in London on March 25, 1922, Mr. Toulmin was trained in mathematics and physics at Cambridge University, earning a bachelor's degree in 1942.

His true passion was the philosophy of science. After the war, he returned to Cambridge to earn his master's and doctorate in moral sciences.

In 1949, Mr. Toulmin began teaching the philosophy of science at Oxford University. Over the next five decades, he taught at a number of distinguished universities in Britain and the United States. He joined the USC faculty in 1992. - Los Angeles Times