Johnson and the Soundness Doctrine

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Why informal logic? Informal logic is a group of proposals meant to contrast with, replace, and reject formal logic, at least for the analysis and evaluation of everyday arguments. Why reject formal logic? Formal logic is criticized and claimed to be inadequate because of its commitment to the soundness doctrine. In this paper I will examine and try to respond to some of these criticisms. It is not my aim to examine every argument ever given against formal logic; I am limiting myself to those that, as a matter of historical fact, were instrumental in the replacement of formal logic by informal logic and initially established informal logic as a separate discipline (in particular, Toulmin’s attacks on what he calls the “analytic ideal” will not form part of the discussion and were not instrumental in this way, only becoming appreciated later). If the criticism of the soundness doctrine is defective, then the move from formal logic to informal logic was not theoretically well-motivated. It is this motivation that I wish to bring into question, rather than the adequacy or inadequacy of formal or informal logic as such. While I will tend to the view that formal logic is as adequate as it is reasonable to expect, the real issue is whether it is inadequate for the reasons that, as a matter of historical fact, were used to motivate its rejection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-525
Number of pages25
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Formal logic
  • Informal logic
  • Ralph Johnson
  • Soundness doctrine


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