Synthese 197 (5):2051-2072 (2020)

John R. Welch
Saint Louis University
Some arguments are good; others are not. How can we tell the difference? This article advances three proposals as a partial answer to this question. The proposals are keyed to arguments conditioned by different degrees of uncertainty: mild, where the argument’s premises are hedged with point-valued probabilities; moderate, where the premises are hedged with interval probabilities; and severe, where the premises are hedged with non-numeric plausibilities such as ‘very likely’ or ‘unconfirmed’. For mild uncertainty, the article proposes to apply a principle referred to as ‘Jeffrey’s rule’, for the principle is a generalization of Jeffrey conditionalization. For moderate uncertainty, the proposal is to extend Jeffrey’s rule for use with probability intervals. For severe uncertainty, the article proposes that even when lack of probabilistic information prevents the application of Jeffrey’s rule, the rule can be adapted to these conditions with the aid of a suitable plausibility measure. Together, the three proposals introduce an approach to argument evaluation that complements established frameworks for evaluating arguments: deductive soundness, informal logic, argumentation schemes, pragma-dialectics, and Bayesian inference. Nevertheless, this approach can be looked at as a generalization of the truth and validity conditions of the classical criterion for sound argumentation.
Keywords argument evaluation  probability  plausibility  Bayes' theorem  Jeffrey's rule  deductive soundness
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-1782-z
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Truth and Probability.F. Ramsey - 1926 - In Antony Eagle (ed.), Philosophy of Probability: Contemporary Readings. Routledge. pp. 52-94.

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