Can Cogency Vanish?

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This paper considers whether universally—for all (known) rational beings—an argument scheme or pattern can go from being cogent (well-reasoned) to fallacious. This question has previously received little attention, despite the centrality of the concepts of cogency, scheme, and fallaciousness. I argue that cogency has vanished in this way for the following scheme, a common type of impersonal means-end reasoning: X is needed as a basic necessity or protection of human lives, therefore, X ought to be secured if possible. As it stands (with no further elaboration), this scheme is committed to the assumption that the greater the number of human lives, the better. Although this assumption may have been indisputable previously, it is clearly disputable now. It is a fallacy or non sequitur to make a clearly disputable assumption without providing any justification. Although this topic raises critical issues for practically every discipline, my primary focus is on logical (as opposed to empirical or ethical) aspects of the case, and on implications for practical and theoretical logic. I conclude that the profile of vanishing cogency of the scheme may be unique and is determined by a peculiar combination of contingent universality and changing conditions.
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First archival date: 2016-12-02
Latest version: 2 (2018-08-11)
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Necessary Assumptions.Plumer, Gilbert

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