Presuppositional fallacies

Argumentation:1-32 (forthcoming)
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Presuppositions are at the same time a crucial and almost neglected dimension of arguments and fallacies. Arguments involve different types of presuppositions, which can be used for manipulative purposes in distinct ways. However, what are presuppositions? What is their dialectical function? Why and how can they be dangerous? This paper intends to address these questions by developing the pragmatic approaches to presupposition from a dialectical perspective. The use of presuppositions will be analyzed in terms of presumptive conclusions concerning the interlocutor’s acceptance of a proposition, which can be assessed as reasonable or unacceptable. Their dialectical function is described in terms of dark side commitments attributed to a collective "voice" representing what is commonly shared. For this reason, they count as attempts to include the presupposed contents into the hearer’s commitment store, which in some circumstances can reverse the burden of proof. The different manipulative strategies grounded on controversial presuppositions will be examined by showing the distinct roles that the latter play and the relationship between the degrees of presuppositional implicitness and the speaker’s burden of retraction.

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Fabrizio Macagno
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa


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