The common view is that no novel IS an argument, though it might be reconstructed as one. This is curious, for we almost always feel the need to reconstruct arguments even when they are uncontroversially given as arguments, as in a philosophical text. We make the points as explicit, orderly, and (often) brief as possible, which is what we do in reconstructing a novel’s argument. The reverse is also true. Given a text that is uncontroversially an explicit, orderly, and brief (...) argument, in order to enhance plausibility, our first instinct is to flesh it out with illustrations and relationships to everyday life. If this process is fictive (e.g., with “thought experiments”) and orderly, it is story-telling. This paper investigates whether there is a principled way of determining a novel’s argument, which should contribute as much to understanding arguments as to understanding novels. (shrink)
Although in some contexts the notions of an ordinary argument’s presumption, assumption, and presupposition appear to merge into the one concept of an implicit premise, there are important differences between these three notions. It is argued that assumption and presupposition, but not presumption, are basic logical notions. A presupposition of an argument is best understood as pertaining to a propositional element (a premise or the conclusion) e of the argument, such that the presupposition is a necessary condition for the truth (...) of e or for a term in e to have a referent. In contrast, an assumption of an argument pertains to the argument as a whole in that it is integral to the reasoning or inferential structure of the argument. A logical assumption of an argument is essentially a proposition that must be true in order for the argument aside from that proposition to be fully cogent. Nothing that is both comparable and distinguishing can be said about presumptions of arguments. Rather, presumptions of arguments are distinctively conventional; they are introduced through conventional rules (e.g., those that concern how to treat promises). So not all assumptions and not all presuppositions of arguments are presumptions of those arguments, although all presumptions of arguments are either assumptions or presuppositions of those arguments. This account avoids making the (monological) notion of presumption vacuous and dissolving the distinction between assumption and presumption, which is a vulnerability of alternative views such as Hansen’s and Bermejo-Luque’s, as is shown. (shrink)
If novels can be arguments, that fact should shape logic or argumentation studies as well as literary studies. Two senses the term ‘narrative argument’ might have are (a) a story that offers an argument, or (b) a distinctive argument form. I consider whether there is a principled way of extracting a novel’s argument in sense (a). Regarding the possibility of (b), Hunt’s view is evaluated that many fables and much fabulist literature inherently, and as wholes, have an analogical argument structure. (...) I argue that a better account is that some novels inherently exhibit a transcendental argument structure. (shrink)
The doctrine of the specious present holds that sensation at an instant encompasses objects as they are over an interval. Now there actually is intersubjective agreement with respect to past, present, and future determinations, and it is a necessary condition for legitimately postulating them as objective. I argue that the specious present doctrine would make this actuality an impossibility, and that the data on which the doctrine is based do not in fact support it.
This paper’s main thesis is that in virtue of being believable, a believable novel makes an indirect transcendental argument telling us something about the real world of human psychology, action, and society. Three related objections are addressed. First, the Stroud-type objection would be that from believability, the only conclusion that could be licensed concerns how we must think or conceive of the real world. Second, Currie holds that such notions are probably false: the empirical evidence “is all against this idea…that (...) readers’ emotional responses track the real causal relations between things.” Third, responding with a full range of emotions to a novel surely requires that it be believable. Yet since we know the novel is fiction, we do not believe it. So in what does its believability consist? (shrink)
In their book EVALUATING CRITICAL THINKING Stephen Norris and Robert Ennis say: “Although it is tempting to think that certain [unstated] assumptions are logically necessary for an argument or position, they are not. So do not ask for them.” Numerous writers of introductory logic texts as well as various highly visible standardized tests (e.g., the LSAT and GRE) presume that the Norris/Ennis view is wrong; the presumption is that many arguments have (unstated) necessary assumptions and that readers and test takers (...) can reasonably be expected to identify such assumptions. This paper proposes and defends criteria for determining necessary assumptions of arguments. Both theoretical and empirical considerations are brought to bear. (shrink)
“Ethical criticism” is an approach to literary studies that holds that reading certain carefully selected novels can make us ethically better people, e.g., by stimulating our sympathetic imagination (Nussbaum). I try to show that this nonargumentative approach cheapens the persuasive force of novels and that its inherent bias and censorship undercuts what is perhaps the principal value and defense of the novel—that reading novels can be critical to one’s learning how to think.
Can fictional narration yield knowledge in a way that depends crucially on its being fictional? This is the hard question of literary cognitivism. It is unexceptional that knowledge can be gained from fictional literature in ways that are not dependent on its fictionality (e.g., the science in science fiction). Sometimes fictional narratives are taken to exhibit the structure of suppositional argument, sometimes analogical argument. Of course, neither structure is unique to narratives. The thesis of literary cognitivism would be supported if (...) some novels exhibit a cogent and special argument structure restricted to fictional narratives. I contend that this is the case for a kind of transcendental argument. The reason is the inclusion and pattern of occurrence of the predicate ‘believable’ in the schema. Believability with respect to fictional stories is quite a different thing than it is with respect to nonfictional stories or anything else. (shrink)
I show that in our theoretical representations of argument, vicious infinite regresses of self-reference may arise with respect to each of the three usual, informal criteria of argument cogency: the premises are to be relevant, sufficient, and acceptable. They arise needlessly, by confusing a cogency criterion with argument content. The three types of regress all are structurally similar to Lewis Carroll’s famous regress, which involves quantitative extravagance with no explanatory power. Most attention is devoted to the sufficiency criterion, including its (...) relation to the view au courant that inferring necessarily involves the thinker taking her premises to support her conclusion. I contend that this view is mistaken and likewise that arguments make no such assumption or inference claim as that the premises support the conclusion. The core of the positive alternative model I propose is that there is commitment to, but not claiming, the proposition that the premises support the conclusion. (shrink)
What can make storytelling “evil” in the sense that the storytelling leads to accepting a view for no good reason, thus allowing ill-reasoned action? I mean the storytelling can be argumentatively evil, not trivially that (e.g.) the overt speeches of characters can include bad arguments. The storytelling can be argumentatively evil in that it purveys false premises, or purveys reasoning that is formally or informally fallacious. My main thesis is that as a rule, the shorter the fictional narrative, the greater (...) the potential for argumentative evil. Here, the notion of length is to be understood such that it is generally a proxy for more abstract features such as how complex and nuanced the piece is. In other argumentative contexts, length generally appears to make no comparable difference. This feature would put fictional narrative arguments in a special class beyond what is determined by obvious features, such as the definitional fact that they in some way(s) collapse two of the four traditional types of discourse: exposition, description, narration, and argument. The nonobvious features that distinguish this class have been a source of puzzlement and inquiry. (shrink)
The initial one-third of the paper is devoted to exposing the first chapter (“Sense-Certainty”) of Hegel’s PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT as a thesis about reference, viz., that singular demonstrative reference is impossible. In the remainder I basically argue that such a view commits one to radically undermining our conceptions of space, time, and substance (concrete individuality), and rests on the central mistake of construing <this> on the model of a predicable (or property).
Rodden writes, “How do stories persuade us? How do they ‘move’—and move us? The short answer: by analogies.” Rodden’s claim is a natural first view, also held by others. This chapter considers the extent to which this view is true and helpful in understanding how fictional narratives, taken as wholes, may be argumentative, comparing it to the two principal (though not necessarily exclusive) alternatives that have been proposed: understanding fictional narratives as exhibiting the structure of suppositional argument, or the structure (...) of a kind of transcendental argument. Three key aspects of understanding a fictional narrative as an argument from analogy are identified. First, the argument will be relativistic or depend in an essential way upon the circumstances or intentions of the auditor or author. Second, in view of the first aspect, the argument will be loose and subjective, and accordingly less likely to yield knowledge. Third, the argument will not exhibit a distinctive structure applicable only to fictional narratives. I find that the third, and sometimes the first and second, of these same three aspects apply to understanding fictional narratives as suppositional arguments. I present considerations that point to a way of establishing that some extended fictions exhibit the structure of a kind of transcendental argument that is neither relativistic nor subjective, is knowledge-generating, and is uniquely applicable to fictional narratives. This supports literary cognitivism—the thesis that “literary fiction can be a source of knowledge in a way that depends crucially on its being fictional.”. (shrink)
The nontechnical ability to identify or match argumentative structure seems to be an important reasoning skill. Instruments that have questions designed to measure this skill include major standardized tests for graduate school admission, for example, the United States-Canadian Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Writers and reviewers of such tests need an appropriate foundation for developing such questions--they need a proper representation of phenomenological argumentative structure--for legitimacy, and because these (...) tests affect people's lives. This paper attempts to construct an adequate and appropriate representation of such structure, that is, the logical structure that an argument is perceived to have by mature reasoners, albeit ones who are untrained in logic. (shrink)
This paper attempts to define indexicality so as to semantically distinguish indexicals from proper names and definite descriptions. The widely-accepted approach that says that indexical reference is distinctive in being dependent on context of use is criticized. A reductive approach is proposed and defended that takes an indexical to be (roughly) an expression that either is or is equivalent to ‘here’ or ‘now’, or is such that a tokening of it refers by relating something to the place and/or time that (...) would have been referred to had ‘here’ and ‘now’ been tokened instead. Alternative reductive approaches are criticized. (shrink)
This paper considers whether universally—for all (known) rational beings—an argument scheme or pattern can go from being cogent (well-reasoned) to fallacious. This question has previously received little attention, despite the centrality of the concepts of cogency, scheme, and fallaciousness. I argue that cogency has vanished in this way for the following scheme, a common type of impersonal means-end reasoning: X is needed as a basic necessity or protection of human lives, therefore, X ought to be secured if possible. As it (...) stands (with no further elaboration), this scheme is committed to the assumption that the greater the number of human lives, the better. Although this assumption may have been indisputable previously, it is clearly disputable now. It is a fallacy or non sequitur to make a clearly disputable assumption without providing any justification. Although this topic raises critical issues for practically every discipline, my primary focus is on logical (as opposed to empirical or ethical) aspects of the case, and on implications for practical and theoretical logic. I conclude that the profile of vanishing cogency of the scheme may be unique and is determined by a peculiar combination of contingent universality and changing conditions. (shrink)
The paper interprets Kant’s neglected argument at FOUNDATIONS 401 as consisting of these two premises and conclusion: (1) It follows from consequentialism that in a natural paradise people would not be obligated to be morally good. (2) But this is absurd; one ought to be morally good no matter what. Therefore, consequentialism is false. It is shown that this argument is a powerful one, mainly by showing that independent grounds support (2) and that (1) may survive a number of strong (...) possible objections. One that it does not appear to survive, though, is that the paradise envisioned is not logically possible. (shrink)
The paper argues for the applicability of the notion of collective truth as opposed to distributive truth, that is, truth at times or possibilia taken in groups rather than individually. The underlying reasoning is that there are transtemporal and transworld relationships, e.g., those involving the relations of <being a descendant of> and <thinking about>. Relationships are (one type of) truth-makers. Hence, there are transtemporal and transworld truth-makers. Therefore, there is transtemporal and transworld truth, i.e., collective truth. A semantics is developed (...) (formalized in the appendix) which embodies the notion of collective truth, and which thereby, it is argued, has various advantages over standard intensional semantics. For example, it avoids a commitment to certain impossible entities. (shrink)
Suppositional reasoning can seem spooky. Suppositional reasoners allegedly (e.g.) “extract knowledge from the sheer workings of their own minds” (Rosa), even where the knowledge is synthetic a posteriori. Can literary fiction pull such a rabbit out of its hat? Where P is a work’s fictional ‘premise’, some hold that some works reason declaratively (supposing P, Q), imperatively (supposing P, do Q), or interrogatively (supposing P, Q?), and that this can be a source of knowledge if the reasoning is good. True, (...) I will argue, although only within the context of judicious critical interpretation. Further evident constraints include that the form of the suppositional reasoning needs to be declarative or imperative, and that the fictional ‘premise’ of the work needs to be a metaphysical counterfactual possibility, not merely a temporal counterfactual and not merely an epistemic possibility or probabilistic supposition. (shrink)
I argue against the skeptical epistemological view exemplified by the Groarkes that “all theories of informal argument must face the regress problem.” It is true that in our theoretical representations of reasoning, infinite regresses of self-justification regularly and inadvertently arise with respect to each of the RSA criteria for argument cogency (the premises are to be relevant, sufficient, and acceptable). But they arise needlessly, by confusing an RSA criterion with argument content, usually premise material.
There is ample justification for having analogical material in standardized tests for graduate school admission, perhaps especially for law school. We think that formal-analogy questions should compare different scenarios whose structure is the same in terms of the number of objects and the formal properties of their relations. The paper deals with this narrower question of how legitimately to have formal analogy test items, and the broader question of what constitutes a formal analogy in general.
Some believe that all arguments make an implicit “inference claim” that the conclusion is inferable from the premises (e.g., Bermejo-Luque, Grennan, the Groarkes, Hitchcock, Scriven). I try to show that this is confused. An act of arguing arises because an inference can be attributed to us, not a meta-level “inference claim” that would make the argument self-referential and regressive. I develop six (other) possible explanations of the popularity of the doctrine that similarly identify confusions.
The transcendental approach to understanding narrative argument derives from the idea that for any believable fictional narrative, we can ask—what principles or generalizations would have to be true of human nature in order for the narrative to be believable? I address two key issues: whether only realistic or realist fictional narratives are believable, and how could it be established that we have an intuitive, mostly veridical grasp of human nature that grounds believability?
Our thesis is that reasoning plays a greater—or at least a different—role in understanding oral discourse such as lectures and speeches than it does in understanding comparatively long written discourse. For example, both reading and listening involve framing hypotheses about the direction the discourse is headed. But since a reader can skip around to check and revise hypotheses, the reader’s stake in initially getting it right is not as great as the listener’s, who runs the risk of getting hopelessly lost. (...) We also consider how representing the content of discourse and dealing with its pragmatic logic differs in reading and listening. (shrink)
One might ask of two or more texts—what can be inferred from them, taken together? If the texts happen to contradict each other in some respect, then the unadorned answer of standard logic is EVERYTHING. But it seems to be a given that we often successfully reason with inconsistent information from multiple sources. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to develop an adequate approach to accounting for this given.
Joseph Almog says concerning “a certain locus where Quine doesn’t exist…qua evaluation locus, we take to it [singular] propositions involving Quine [as a constituent] which we have generated in our generation locus.” This seems to be either murder, or worse, self-contradiction. It presumes that certain designators designate their designata even at loci where the designata do not exist, i.e., the designators have “Kaplan rigidity.” Against this view, this paper argues that negative existentials such as “Quine does not exist” are true (...) only at ordered couples of loci (times or possible worlds) < l, l’ > such that the constituents of the truthmaker are the designatum itself from l and whatever corresponds to “does not exist” from l’. (shrink)
I question whether the case for “literary cognitivism” has generally been successfully made. As it is usually construed, the thesis is easy to satisfy illegitimately because dependence on fictionality is not built in as a requirement. The thesis of literary cognitivism should say: “literary fiction can be a source of knowledge in a way that depends crucially on its being fictional” (Green’s phrasing). After questioning whether nonpropositional cognitivist views (e.g., Nussbaum’s) meet this neglected standard, I argue that if fictional narratives (...) can impart propositional knowledge in virtue of their fictionality, it would be largely via a suppositional framework. Yet in many cases, such as Huxley’s Brave New World, the key literary supposition could simply be an epistemic possibility (‘suppose X, which for all we know, occurs sometime’), not counterfactual supposition, that is, distinctively fictional supposition. The best general case for literary cognitivism may be the limited one that literary fiction can alert us to nonactual metaphysical possibilities that may be important for understanding actuality. Yet even here, seemingly possible fictions are often impossible. (shrink)
Partly following suggestions from Dewey, I show how we may acquire the concepts of Now and time without our being able to sense time. I rationally reconstruct these concepts by ‘deriving’ them from the concepts of ‘required for’ and ‘sensed’ (taken tenselessly). Among other reasons, because activity is explicitly required for succeeding or failing, and because these ubiquitous conditions are sensed, our concept of time is rooted squarely in our experience of these conditions.
Some hold that proper names and indexicals are “Kaplan rigid”: they designate their designata even in worlds where the designata don’t exist. An argument they give for this is based on the analogy between time and modality. It is shown how this argument gains forcefulness at the expense of carefulness. Then the argument is criticized as forming a part of an inconsistent philosophical framework, the one with which David Kaplan and others operate. An alternative account of a certain class of (...) negative existentials is developed, one which eliminates both the inconsistency and the need for Kaplan rigidity. After all, mustn’t whatever is referred to exist? (shrink)
It seems a contradiction to hold of something both that it took a while and that no time elapsed or passed between its start and finish; there is a connection between the ideas of temporal extendedness and passage. The article develops this connection into a defense of the passage view of time and shows how without this sort of defense, conclusions of arguments putatively in support of the passage view may be reinterpreted as not in fact being expressions of that (...) view. (shrink)
Research using current literature on legal reasoning was conducted with the goals of (a) determining what skills are most important in good legal reasoning according to such literature, (b) determining the extent to which existing Law School Admission Test item types and subtypes are designed to assess those skills, and (c) suggesting test specifications or new or refined item types and formats that could be developed in the future to assess any important skills that appear [by (a) and (b)] to (...) be measured in a limited or minimal way by the current LSAT. So far as can be determined, such systematic research using legal reasoning literature has never been previously conducted. This report presents the findings of this research. (shrink)
Expressing a widely-held view, David Hitchcock claims that "an enthymematic argument ... assumes at least the truth of the argument's associated conditional ... whose antecedent is the conjunction of the argument's explicit premises and whose consequent is the argument's conclusion." But even definitionally, this view is problematic, since an argument's being "enthymematic" or incomplete with respect to its explicit premises means that the conclusion is not implied by these premises alone. The paper attempts to specify the ways in which the (...) view is incorrect, as well as seemingly correct (e.g., the case of a Modus Ponens wherein the major premise is implicit). -/- . (shrink)
The dissertation is a study primarily in analytic metaphysics. The emphasis is on time, and the focus, on the whole, is on the notion of Now. In the first chapter I consider Now as it figures in singular demonstrative reference by giving an exposition and partially Kantian refutation of Hegel's argument that such reference is impossible. The ability to so-refer is the ability to mean and express 'this', i.e., what is here and now to me. Hegel's central mistake was to (...) confuse a demonstrative's having general applicability with standing for a generality; so he construes 'this' on the model of a predicable. He would have individuals as properties of Spirit. Thus, this sort of opening move toward absolute idealism is blocked. In ch. II I consider Now within the context of the question of the similarity of space and time. A methodology for constructing spatio-temporal (dis)analogies has recently become widely accepted and utilized, viz., formulating statement pairs with interchanged spatial and temporal terms, and then comparing their truth and logical status. I argue that space and time are quite dissimilar in the course of showing that this methodology, which has never been critically scrutinized, has serious deficiencies and limitations, and is paradox-generating. In part following suggestions from Dewey, in ch. III it is shown how we may acquire the concepts of Now and time without our being able to sense time. I rationally reconstruct these concepts by 'deriving' them from the concepts of required-for and sensed (taken tenselessly). Among other reasons, because activity is explicitly required for succeeding or failing, and because these ubiquitous conditions are sensed, our concept of time is rooted squarely in our experience of these conditions. Lastly, in ch. IV I present a new argument for the objectivity and transitoriness of Now. What's new about it is that it proceeds by considering pertinent issues (like intersubjective agreement) that arise in connection with "the specious present doctrine," which falsely casts the sensory present as a (variable) interval. (shrink)
I attempt to show, via considering Schlesinger’s device of putting the word ‘now’ in capitals, that the transient view of time can explicate temporal extensivity without presupposing it, and the static view can’t. The argument hinges on the point that duration is generated by continuance of the present—such that ‘the present’ here is used in a nontechnical, nonindexical, and nonreflexive sense, which Schlesinger and others unknowingly give to the word ‘now’ (by “NOW” or “Now” or “’now’”).
This paper argues that A-determinations (past, present, and future) and B-relations (simultaneity and succession) have the same empirical status in that they are all neither historically discoverable nor sensible, but are detectable and are detectable in the same way. This constitutes a reason for thinking they are in the same class with respect to objectivity, contrary to the Russellian view that “in a world in which there was no experience there would be no past, present, or future, but there might (...) well be earlier and later.” The argument is developed to furnish an explanation of how in fact (and contra McTaggart) we are “immediately certain of the reality of time,” the explanation being that we detect time. (shrink)