On the Differences Between Practical and Cognitive Presumptions

Bodlovic, P., 9-Aug-2020, In : Argumentation. 34 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

The study of presumptions has intensified in argumentation theory over the last years. Although scholars put forward different accounts, they mostly agree that presumptions can be studied in deliberative and epistemic contexts, have distinct contextual functions (guiding decisions vs. acquiring information), and promote different kinds of goals (non-epistemic vs. epistemic). Accordingly, there are "practical" and "cognitive" presumptions. In this paper, I show that the differences between practical and cognitive presumptions go far beyond contextual considerations. The central aim is to explore Nicholas Rescher's contention that both types of presumptions have a closely analogous pragmatic function, i.e., that practical and cognitive presumptions are made to avoid greater harm in circumstances of epistemic uncertainty. By comparing schemes of practical and cognitive reasoning, I show that Rescher's contention requires qualifications. Moreover, not only do practical and cognitive presumptions have distinct pragmatic functions, but they also perform different dialogical functions (enabling progress vs. preventing regress) and, in some circumstances, cannot be defeated by the same kinds of evidence. Hence, I conclude that the two classes of presumptions merit distinct treatment in argumentation theory.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages34
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9-Aug-2020


  • Avoiding harm, Cognitive presumption, Dialectical regress, Nicholas Rescher, Practical presumption, Presumptive reasoning, Scepticism, Uncertainty, Undercutting defeater, BURDEN, PROOF, ARGUMENTATION, PLACE, VS.

ID: 132290477