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Presumptions, Assumptions, and Presuppositions of Ordinary Arguments

Research paper by Gilbert Plumer

Indexed on: 19 Jan '17Published on: 28 Dec '16Published in: Argumentation



Abstract

Abstract 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.AbstractAlthough 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.eee