Reasoning Under Uncertainty: The Role of Two Informal Fallacies in an Emerging Scientific Inquiry

Louise Cummings


lt is now commonplace in fallacy inquiry for many of the traditional informal fallacies to be viewed as reasonable or nonfallacious modes of argument. Central to this evaluative shift has been the attempt to examine traditional fallacies within their wider contexts of use. However, this pragmatic turn in fallacy evaluation is still in its infancy. The true potential of a contextual approach in the evaluation of the fallacies is yet to be explored. I examine how, in the context of scientific inquiry, certain traditional fallacies function by conferring epistemic gains upon inquiry. Specifically, I argue that these fallacies facilitate the progression of inquiry, particularly in the initial stages ofinquiry when the epistemic context is one of uncertainty. The conception of these fallacies that emerges is that of heuristics of reasoning in
contexts of epistemic uncertainty.


argument from analogy, argument from ignorance, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, context, Douglas Walton, epistemic uncertainty, fallaciousness/nonfallaciousness and scientific inquiry

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ISSN: 0824-2577