The Uses of Argument

The Uses of Argument

The Uses of Argument

The Uses of Argument

Excerpt

The purpose of these studies is to raise problems, not to solve them; to draw attention to a field of inquiry, rather than to survey it fully; and to provoke discussion rather than to serve as a systematic treatise. They are in three senses 'essays', being at the same time experimental incursions into the field with which they deal; assays or examinations of specimen concepts drawn rather arbitrarily from a larger class; and finally ballons d'essai, trial balloons designed to draw the fire of others. This being so, they may seem a little inconsequent. Some of the themes discussed will recur, certain central distinctions will be insisted on throughout, and for literary reasons I have avoided too many expressions of hesitancy and uncertainty, but nothing in what follows pretends to be final, and I shall have fulfilled my purpose if my results are found suggestive. If they are also found provoking, so much the better; in that case there is some hope that, out of the ensuing clash of opinions, the proper solutions of the problems here raised will become apparent.

What is the nature of these problems? In a sense they are logical problems. Yet it would perhaps be misleading to say that they were problems in logic, for the whole tradition of the subject would lead a reader to expect much that he will not find in these pages. Perhaps they had better be described as problems about logic; they are problems which arise with special force not within the science of logic, but only when one withdraws oneself for a moment from the technical refinements of the subject, and inquires what bearing the science and its discoveries have on anything outside itself -- how they apply in practice, and what connections they have with the canons and methods we use when, in everyday life, we actually assess the soundness, strength and conclusiveness of arguments.

Must there be any such connections? Certainly the man-in-thestreet (or the man-out-of-the-study) expects the conclusions of logicians to have some application to his practice; and the first words of the first systematic treatise on the subject seem to justify his . . .

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