Reconstructing and assessing the conditions of meaningfulness. An argumentative approach to presupposition.

In H. Ribeiro (ed.), Inside Arguments: Logic And The Study of Argumentation. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 247--268 (2012)
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Abstract

Presupposition has been described in the literature as closely related to the listener’s knowledge and the speaker’s beliefs regarding the other’s mind. However, how is it possible to know or believe our interlocutor’s knowledge? The purpose of this paper is to find an answer to this question by showing the relationship between reasoning, presumption and language. Presupposition is analyzed as twofold reasoning process: on the one hand, the speaker by presupposing a proposition presumes that his interlocutor knows it; on the other hand, the listener reconstructs the propositions taken for granted and assesses them against the shared presumptions. The possibility of reconstructing a presupposition is distinguished from its assessment, where the consistency of the presupposition with the shared or common ground is evaluated, and its reasonableness established. The analysis of presuppositions from an argumentative perspective provides an instrument for evaluating the reasonableness of a presupposition and understanding its dialogical effect. On this view, the dialogical force of a presupposition lies in its presumptive nature, which sets and shifts the burden of proving its unacceptability or unreasonableness.

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Fabrizio Macagno
Universidade Nova de Lisboa

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