A probabilistic analysis of argument cogency

David Godden, Frank Zenker

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9 Citations (SciVal)


This paper offers a probabilistic treatment of the conditions for argument cogency as endorsed in informal logic: acceptability, relevance, and sufficiency (RSA). Treating a natural language argument as a reason-claim-complex, our analysis identifies content features of defeasible argument on which the RSA conditions depend, namely: (1) change in the commitment to the reason, (2) the reason’s sensitivity and selectivity to the claim, (3) one’s prior commitment to the claim, and (4) the contextually determined thresholds of acceptability for reasons and for claims. Results contrast with, and may indeed serve to correct, the informal understanding and applications of the RSA criteria concerning their conceptual (in)dependence, their function as update-thresholds, and their status as obligatory rather than permissive norms, but also show how these formal and informal normative approachs can in fact align.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1715-1740
Issue number4
Early online date2016 Dec 30
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy


  • Acceptability
  • Argument appraisal
  • Bayes theorem
  • Informal logic
  • Jeffrey conditionalization
  • Relevance
  • Sufficiency


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