Testing for Acceptable Premises Within Systems of Belief

  • Jim Gough
Part of the Argumentation Library book series (ARGA, volume 14)

Many informal logic texts inform their readers to test premise acceptability in order to determine whether or not support or justification for a conclusion in an argument is cogent or warranted (for example Govier, 1985; MacKinnon, 1985). In some logic texts, premise acceptability is the first test which precedes and takes logical priority over tests of premise relevance and an adequate set of acceptably relevant premises to establish sufficient evidential grounds for a cogent argument. So, for example, Govier (1985) argues for a priority ranking of the cogency test that she calls the A acceptance, R relevance, and finally in priority order the G or grounds test for argument cogency. One of the standard tests for premise acceptability is whether a premise satisfies the common knowledge condition. However, this test is considered potentially problematic because it is believed that common knowledge varies by context and situation. Some theorists, such as Snell in The discovery of the mind (1953) and Jaynes in the Origin of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind (1976), argue for a psychological or in the latter case a psychophysical origin for historical variations in the common sense belief set. Common beliefs change over time, change by audience, and change due to varying knowledge conditions, as argued by Thomas Kuhn, in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), his ironic contribution to the Encyclopedia of the Unified Sciences. So, according to these views, there is little “common” about common knowledge.


Common Knowledge Natural World Basic Belief Expert Testimony Theoretical Challenge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Desjardins, J. (1999). Environmental Ethics: Concepts, Policy, Theory. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Press.Google Scholar
  2. Fearn, N. (2001). Zeno and the Tortoise: How to Think Like a Philosopher. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  3. Fisher, R., & Ury, W. (1981). Getting to yes: Negotiating Agreement. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  4. Freeman, J. (2005). Acceptable Premises: An Epistemic Approach to an Informal Logic Problem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Gough, J. (1985). The Psychological parameters of argumentation. Past and Present, 10, 25–29.Google Scholar
  6. Gough, J. (2002). Differences between opinions and argumentation. In H. Hansen, C. W. Tindale, J. A. Blair & R. H. Johnson (Eds.), Argumentation and Its Applications, Proceedings of the Fifth OSSA Conference [CD ROM]. Windsor, ON: OSSA.Google Scholar
  7. Gough, J. (2003). Economic Reasoning and the Environment: What is wrong with free-market environmentalism? Professional Ethics, 11 (4), 221–238.Google Scholar
  8. Gough, J. (2005). Mary Wollestonecraft’s Rhetorical Strategy: Overturning the Arguments, Post Scriptum, 2(5).Google Scholar
  9. Govier, T. (1985). A Practical Study of Argument. California: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  10. Groarke, L., Tindale, C. W., & Fisher, L. (1997). Good Reasoning Matters: A Constructive Approach to Critical Thinking. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hanson, N. R. (1958). Patterns of Discovery: An Inquiry into the Conceptual Foundations of Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Jaynes, J. (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.Google Scholar
  13. Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1st ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Lloyd, G. E. R. (2007). Cognitive variations: Reflections on the Unity and Diversity of the Human Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. MacKinnon, E. (1985). Basic Reasoning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  16. Mahowald, M. B. (1994). Philosophy of Woman: An anthology of classic to current readings (3rd ed.). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Quine, W. V., & Ullian, J. (1978). The Web of Belief. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  18. Rescher, N. (2001). Philosophical Reasoning: A Study in the Methodology of Philosophizing. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Snell, B. (1953). The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Tindale, C. W. (1999). Acts of Arguing: A Rhetorical Model of Argument. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jim Gough

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations