Argumentation theory without presumptions

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15 Citations (Scopus)


In their extensive overview of various concepts of presumption Godden and Walton recognise "the heterogeneous picture of presumptions that exists in argumentation theory today" (Godden and Walton in Pragmat Cogn 15:333, 2007). 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" (Kauffeld) is their paradigm case. I argue that such presumptions are satisfactorily covered by the Principle of Charity (Davidson, Quine), or else Gricean maxims or satisfaction conditions for speech acts (Austin, Searle). Formal presumptions are general presumptive rules of argument, theorised as topoi or acceptable inference warrants, including
institutional warrants ("If not proven guilty, then innocent"). Material presumptions are acceptable outcomes of nested or outsourced arguments, which entitles arguers to use them as acceptable premises or opinions (endoxa) 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591–613
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Argumentation
  • Topoi
  • Speech acts
  • Searle
  • Principle of Charity
  • Presumption
  • Endoxa
  • Acceptable premises
  • Burden of proof
  • conversation


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