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Hinges, Disagreements, and Arguments: (Rationally) Believing Hinge Propositions and Arguing across Deep Disagreements

  • Harvey SiegelEmail author


Wittgenstein famously introduced the notion of ‘hinge propositions’: propositions that are assumptions or presuppositions of our languages, conceptual schemes, and language games, presuppositions that cannot themselves be rationally established, defended, or challenged. This idea has given rise to an epistemological approach, ‘hinge epistemology’, which itself has important (negative) implications for argumentation. In particular, it develops and provides support for Robert Fogelin’s case for deep disagreements: disagreements that cannot be rationally resolved by processes of rational argumentation. In this paper, I first examine hinge epistemology in its own right, and then explore its implications for arguments and the theory of argumentation. I argue that (1) the Wittgensteinian approach to hinge propositions is problematic, and that, suitably understood, they can be rationally challenged, defended, and evaluated; (2) there are no well-formed, coherent propositions, ‘hinge’ or otherwise, that are beyond epistemic evaluation, critical scrutiny, and argumentative support/critique; and (3) good arguments concerning hinge propositions are not only possible but common. My arguments will rely on a thoroughgoing fallibilism, a rejection of ‘privileged’ frameworks, and an insistence on the challengeability of all frameworks, both from within and from without.


Deep disagreements Hinge propositions Justification Pritchard Wittgenstein 



An earlier version was presented at the 9th ISSA conference, Amsterdam, July 2018. I am grateful to the audience members on that occasion for their critical reactions, and to John Biro, Al Neiman, the editors of this special issue, two anonymous reviewers, and especially Adam Carter for their challenging comments and helpful suggestions on an earlier draft.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Harvey Siegel declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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