Probabilistic Arguments in the Epistemological Approach to Argumentation

In Frans H. Van Eemeren, Bart Garssen, David Godden & Gordon Mitchell (eds.), Proceedings of the 7th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rozenberg; Sic Sat. pp. 1141-1154 (2011)
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The aim of the paper is to develop general criteria of argumentative validity and adequacy for probabilistic arguments on the basis of the epistemological approach to argumentation. In this approach, as in most other approaches to argumentation, proabilistic arguments have been neglected somewhat. Nonetheless, criteria for several special types of probabilistic arguments have been developed, in particular by Richard Feldman and Christoph Lumer. In the first part (sects. 2-5) the epistemological basis of probabilistic arguments is discussed. With regard to the philosophical interpretation of probabilities a new subjectivist, epistemic interpretation is proposed, which identifies probabilities with tendencies of evidence (sect. 2). After drawing the conclusions of this interpretation with respect to the syntactic features of the probability concept, e.g. one variable referring to the data base (sect. 3), the justification of basic probabilities (priors) by judgements of relative frequency (sect. 4) and the justification of derivative probabilities by means of the probability calculus are explained (sect. 5). The core of the paper is the definition of '(argumentatively) valid derivative probabilistic arguments', which provides exact conditions for epistemically good probabilistic arguments, together with conditions for the adequate use of such arguments for the aim of rationally convincing an addressee (sect. 6). Finally, some measures for improving the applicability of probabilistic reasoning are proposed (sect. 7).

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Christoph Lumer
University Of Siena


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