Presumption as a Modal Qualifier: Presumption, Inference, and Managing Epistemic Risk

Argumentation 31 (3):485-511 (2017)
David Godden
Michigan State University
Standards and norms for reasoning function, in part, to manage epistemic risk. Properly used, modal qualifiers like presumably have a role in systematically managing epistemic risk by flagging and tracking type-specific epistemic merits and risks of the claims they modify. Yet, argumentation-theoretic accounts of presumption often define it in terms of modalities of other kinds, thereby failing to recognize the unique risk profile of each. This paper offers a stipulative account of presumption, inspired by Ullmann-Margalit, as an inferentially generated modal qualifier, “presumably, p,” distinguishing it from other, particularly epistemic modalities, e.g., standing commitments, assumptions, assertions, suppositions, hypotheses, and defeasible claims. By avoiding the tranching of inferential instruments of qualitatively different bona fides and risk profiles, this account provides a more accurate risk-rating system that better manages epistemic risk in inference, as well as contributing to the normative theory of the operation of presumption in reasoning and argument.
Keywords presumption  presumptive inference  epistemic modality  epistemic norms  assumption  epistemic risk  qualifier  argumentation  commitment  informal logic
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DOI 10.1007/s10503-017-9422-1
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