A Pragmatic Theory of Fallacy

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University of Alabama Press, 1995 - Philosophy - 324 pages
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Although many individual fallacies have now been studied and analyzed in the growing literature on argumentation, the concept of fallacy itself has lacked a sufficiently clear meaning to make it as useful as it could be for evaluating arguments. Walton looks at how an argument is used in the context of conversation. He defines a fallacy as a conversational move, or sequence of moves, that is supposed to be an argument that contributes to the purpose of the conversation but in reality interferes with it. The view is a pragmatic one, based on the assumption that when people argue, they do so in a context of dialogue, a conventionalized normative framework that is goal-directed. Such a contextual framework is shown to be crucial in determining whether an argument has been used correctly. Three problems are those of fallacy identification, fallacy analysis, and fallacy evaluation. Walton presents solutions for all three problems by developing new pragmatic structures to display the form of an argument (the so-called argumentation scheme). The fallacy is revealed when it is shown, in a given case, how its form fits into an enveloping normative structure of dialogue. In this book Walton shows how the 25 or so major informal fallacies standardly treated in textbooks are basically reasonable presumptive types of arguments that have been used inappropriately in such a normative model. Another key feature of the book is its demonstration that a fallacy is typically an argument that seems correct when it is not. Walton shows that such an argument is used in a way that disguises a covert, illicit shift from one type of dialogue to another. This novel approach to solving the analysis problemprovides a pragmatic way of analyzing a fallacy as a deceptive type of argumentation with an appearance of correctness. Walton suggests that different contexts of dialogue are involved and that fallacies are often associated with a partially concealed illicit shift from one type of dialogue to another.

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The Concept of Fallacy
Informal Logic as Dialectical
State of the Art of Dialogue Logic

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About the author (1995)

Douglas N. Walton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Winnipeg. He has published two books with Penn State Press, The Place of Emotion in Argument (1992) and Arguments from Ignorance (1995). Other recent books of his include Slippery Slope Arguments (1992) and Plausible Arguments in Everyday Conversation (1992).

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