Argumentation Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning

By Douglas N. Walton | Go to book overview

PREFACE

As a member of a research group on "Fallacies as Violations of Rules of Argumentative Discourse" at Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) in 1989-1990, the author heard a lot of talk about argumentation schemes as the glue that holds argumentation in a critical discussion together, making it "reasonable." But, what are these argumentation schemes and where do you find them? Frans van Eemeren, in answer to these questions, said that they are found in the ( 1963) doctoral dissertation of Arthur Hastings. This, indeed, did turn out to be the best source of material on argumentation schemes, called "modes of reasoning" by Hastings. Although Hastings' account was incomplete, and insufficiently structured to be as useful as one would like (in the current state of the art), it proved to be the most helpful treatment of argumentation schemes, in the scant literature on this subject.

My own previous research in the field of argumentation has been in the area of informal fallacies. It seems to be a recurrent pattern with these fallacies that the basic tool required to work out an analysis of the fallacy is some kind of argumentation scheme, or structure of inference underlying the fallacy. It seems that to understand the fallacy, or incorrect (erroneous) argument, you first of all have to understand the correct type of argumentation that was abused or misused.

The basic problem with many of the traditional examples of the informal fallacies given in textbooks is that they are not clearly fallacious. Indeed, in many cases, arguments of the same kind as that identified with the fallacy are quite reasonable, provided we lower our standard of what is a reasonable argument by including presumptively reasonable arguments. These are inconclusive and defeasible arguments that nevertheless have a practical function of shifting a burden of proof in a dialogue. This notion of presumptive reasoning will be defined dialectically in chapter two. But for the present, we need to see that an argument can be weakly or presumptively reasonable, even if it is inconclusive, and yet not be a fallacious argument.

Many of the fallacies are misuses of presumptive inference, a kind of reasoning that is neither knowledge-based nor probability-based, but has the function of shifting a weight of presumption onto the other party in a dialogue. Presumptive inference has been analyzed in Walton ( Plaus. Arg., 1992), and this research is extended and applied to argumentation schemes in chapter two. Presumptive inference has been in the past systematically ignored by logicians, but it is the basis of kinds of argumentation that are very common in everyday arguments like the argument from sign, the argument from consequences, and the appeal to expert opinion in argument. The analysis of forms of these kinds of arguments is the subject of this book.

A good example is the use of appeal to authority in argumentation. Appeal to expert opinion in argument has, especially during some historical periods, been rejected as inherently fallacious. However, currently, with the advent of expert systems as a practically useful technology, the trend is to accept appeal to expert opinion as a legitimate kind of argumentation. But what kind of argument is it? The best answer is that it is a presumptive kind of argumentation which can

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Argumentation Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Lea Titles in Argumentation ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Presumptive Reasoning 17
  • Chapter Three - the Argumentation Schemes 46
  • Chapter Four - Argument from Ignorance 111
  • Concluding Remarks 131
  • Chapter Five - Ignoring Qualifications 133
  • Chapter Six - Argument from Consequences 168
  • Author Index 212
  • Subject Index 214
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