Argumentation Theory Without Presumptions

Argumentation 31 (3):591-613 (2017)
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In their extensive overview of various concepts of presumption Godden and Walton recognise “the heterogeneous picture of presumptions that exists in argumentation theory today”. I argue that this heterogeneity results from an epiphenomenal character of the notion of presumption. To this end, I first distinguish between three main classes of presumptions. Framework presumptions define the basic conditions of linguistic understanding and meaningful conversation. The “presumption of veracity” is their paradigm case. I argue that such presumptions are satisfactorily covered by the Principle of Charity, or else Gricean maxims or satisfaction conditions for speech acts. Formal presumptions are general presumptive rules of argument, theorised as topoi or acceptable inference warrants, including institutional warrants. Material presumptions are acceptable outcomes of nested or outsourced arguments, which entitles arguers to use them as acceptable premises or opinions in further arguments without the typical burden of proof. If this is correct, then the study of presumption always collapses into the study of other, likely more fundamental, concepts. Does it render presumptions, by Occam’s Razor, altogether redundant in argumentation theory? I tentatively answer this question from a consistently conversational perspective on argumentation; I argue that the pragmatic grounds for presumptions are to be found in the conditions for speech act performance in the institutional social world, as developed by Searle.



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References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Studies in the way of words.Herbert Paul Grice - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language.John Rogers Searle - 1969 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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