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Inferential Soundness

Cniversity of Windsor
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  • Logic


Informal Logic X.2, Spring 1988 Inferential Soundness DEREK ALLEN University of Toronto In this paper I register a complaint against what I call the standard view of in- ferential soundness. The complaint invokes the idea of an inference claim, with which I begin. An argument claims that its premise(s) support its conclusions. I call a claim to this effect an inference claim. Thus an argument makes an inference claim. (I shall allow myself this harmless anthropomorphism; strictly speaking it is arguers who make in- ference claims, not arguments.) Of course an argument does not assert in so many words that its premise(s) sup- port its conclusion. But it makes a claim to this effect if it employs a logical indicator. For example: (A) John looks tired. So he must have been partying. By means of the logical indicators 'so' and 'must' this argument claims that its premise (John looks tired) supports its con- clusion (John was partying). The logical in- dicators make this claim elliptically. The claim expresses part of what they mean. The inference claim made by (A) is ex- plicit because the logical indicators are ex- plicit. But an argument without an explicit logical indicator still makes an inference claim. The claim is implicit. For even such an argument claims-implicitly-that its premise(s) support its conclusion. Other- wise it would not be an argument. Inference claims differ in strength. For example the inference claim made by (A) is stronger than the inference claim made by (B) John looks tired. So he was pro- bably partying. Argument (A) claims that its premise shows that its conclusion must be true, while argument (B) makes the weaker claim that its premise shows that its conclusion is pro- bably true. (Here I am of course assuming that 'probably' in (B) is a logical indicator connecting the premise to the conclusion. But suppose that 'probably' is treated as part of the conclusion. Then (B)'s inference claim is the same as (A

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