Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Deductivism as an Interpretive Strategy: A Reply to Groarke's Recent Defense of Reconstructive Deductivism

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

Deductivism as an Interpretive Strategy: A Reply to Groarke's Recent Defense of Reconstructive Deductivism

Article excerpt

1--INTRODUCTION

Debates concerning deductivism seem to be a hallmark of the informal logic tradition. The very first issues of the Informal Logic Newsletter, published in the late 1970s, were the site of a sustained debate concerning whether inductive arguments could be distinguished categorically from deductive arguments and, if so, how (Fohr, 1980a, 1980b; Govier, 1980a; Hitchcock, 1980; Johnson, 1980; Weddle, 1979, 1980). (1) At the time, the prevailing view was that deductive and inductive marked kinds of arguments. This prevailing opinion was challenged by Hitchcock (1980) who, following Skyrms (1986, pp. 6-13), proposed that "we regard the distinction between deductive and inductive as a broad and exhaustive distinction between types of validity" (p. 9). This proposal that inductive and deductive are "standard[s] for appraising arguments" (Govier, 1980b, p. 4) has been adopted subsequently by many theorists. For instance, Machina (1985) has argued that "inductive logic [like deductive logic] will be defined by reference to its central concepts and rules" and not in relation to a special set of arguments (p. 578). (Johnson [2000, ch. 3], on the other hand, seems content to continue to use the categories inductive and deductive to mark kinds of arguments.) It also has been argued that additional evaluative standards of argument, e.g., conductive and analogical (Govier, 1980b, p. 3), must be included in any comprehensive theory of argument evaluation.

In the context of this discussion, many questions regarding the role that deduction should play in our theories of argument remain unanswered. Among these is the question whether and how deduction can provide a basis for the interpretation of argument. This essay considers attempts to defend deductivism as a reconstructive thesis as they have appeared in recent informal logic and argumentation theory literatures. These attempts are primarily Groarke's (1992, 1995, 1999, 2002), and I consider them to be representative of the kinds of arguments that could be offered in defense of reconstructive deductivism. The essay begins with the observation that deductivism can be formulated as an evaluative and as a reconstructive (or interpretive) thesis, and some initial observations concerning the relationship between these two theses. I note that one way of defending deductivism as an interpretive thesis is to assert the correctness of deductivism as an evaluative thesis (section 2). Against this, I argue that there are pluralities of nonequivalent standards of evidence against which arguments can be evaluated, and that not all of these are reducible to the standard of deductive validity (sections 3-5). Therefore, the correctness of deductivism as an evaluative thesis cannot justify deductivism as an interpretive thesis. I then consider and reject alternative attempts to defend reconstructive deductivism by recourse to theories about the proper semantics of indicator words and the commitments of arguers (section 6). In place of these approaches, I argue that the interpretation of arguments as deductive must be justified on grounds that involve considerations that are not exclusively evaluative, including contextual and situational features of arguments as well as psychological facts about arguers. In particular I argue that, to interpret an argument correctly as deductive, it must be established that the arguer is, or ought to be, aiming at the deductive standard of evidence. I conclude (in section 7) that deductivism as an evaluative thesis can and should be justified independently of deductivism as an interpretive thesis.

2--DEDUCTIVISM

There is some question how the thesis of deductivism should be understood. On one hand, sometimes deductivism is presented as an evaluative thesis, i.e., that [D1] "all good arguments are deductively valid" (Groarke, 1992, p. 113). (2) This is a thesis about the proper standards of evidence by which arguments should be evaluated. …

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