Continuing the subject from the last post, we will take a look at Chapter 6 from (Eemeren & Grootendorst’s, 1992) entitled “Unexpressed premises in argumentative discourse.” (pp. 60-72)
In the process of reconstructing unexpressed premises, the two authors distinguish at first between the logical and the pragmatic level. They note however that the two intertwine: “the logical analysis is instrumental for the pragmatic analysis” and the decision to logically reconstruct in the first place is based on pragmatic considerations. Although a criterion of validity is used, the two authors do not want this to be regarded as a commitment to a deductivist point of view. The two basic deductive system they opt for (propositional and first-order predicate logic) are only chosen for the sake of simplicity. This could of course be a way of implying that using different logical systems in what they call the “logical level” is possible, though no reason is offered as to why this may be thus.
The way in which pragma-dialecticians pick out unexpressed premises from other implicit elements is similar to the “gap-filler criterion” proposed by Govier. The logical validity criterion states that “analyzed as conveying an indirect speech act, the missing premise can be added to the argument so that the invalidity is corrected”. On what basis does one begin to make such reconstructions? Here, Eemeren & Grootendorst offer a more precise justification. First, the responsibility condition for the complex speech act of argumentation states that the speaker is committed to seeing the argumentation as an acceptable defense of his standpoint. (According to the pragma-dialectical approach, arguing for something is a way of committing yourself to the acceptability of the standpoint and, a fortiori, of the argumentation, see speech-act conditions for argumentation here). Second, the listener (and, of course, the analyst), to the extent that argumentation is advanced sincerely, “will be inclined to apply the same criteria of acceptability as himself [the speaker]. These criteria will include criterion of logical validity” (p. 62). If the argument is not already fully explicit, i.e. if the literal interpretation produces an invalid argument, and if the two conditions are met, the listener can supply the unexpressed premises. In simple cases this could be of the form: “Angie is a real woman, therefore Angie is nosy”, with the missing premise “All real women are nosy”. Since the unexpressed premise is a “special sort of indirect speech act”, reconstructing it has something from Searle’s treatment of indirect speech acts (check that here).
But at this point the analysis is incomplete because there are many other candidates that would render “Angie is a real woman, therefore Angie is nosy” valid. The pragmatic criterion, and with this one moves toward the pragmatic level, is that the reconstructed version of the argument must conform “to all the rules of communication” (63). To make things clear, the two authors introduce the difference between what they call the logical minimum and the pragmatic optimum. The former – which is the “if CON, then C” from Govier’s text – is superfluous. All it does is state explicitly what both the speaker and the listener assume: that the conclusion follows from the premises. The latter is “the premise that makes the argument valid and also prevents a violation of … any rule of communication” (p. 64). At this point, the two authors arrive at a principle with some degree of generality. They say: “Predominantly, this is a matter of generalizing the logical minimum, making it as informative as possible without ascribing unwarranted commitments to the speaker and formulating it in a colloquial way that it fits in with the rest of the argumentative discourse” (idem). In our case, such a pragmatic optimum would be “Real women are nosy”. To assert the argument and to deny this would amount to a pragmatic inconsistency.
When different, equally validating premises are available, the context should be taken into account. In fact, it is almost impossible to assess the adequacy of the missing premise if little is known about the context. The procedure is, then: (1) determine argument and conclusion, (2) det. relevant contextual information, (3) det. logical minimum, (4) det. most informative, (5) det. least commitment attributing. In the last part of the chapter, the two authors scrutinize briefly the reasoning patterns one can use to begin reconstructing the logical minimum. In general, this is based on simple syllogistic or propositional logic.
Let’s take their example (pp. 67-68).
Father, mother and daughter are finishing supper. The daughter is looking rather depressed.
Mother: “There’s no sense in waiting for Mr. Right to come along, dear: I never did”
Standpoint: It makes no sense for you to wait for Mr. Right
Argumentation: I never waited for Mr. Right
Logical minimum: If I never waited for Mr. Right, then it makes no sense for you to do it
Pragmatic optimum(1): As far as your love life is concerned, you should always behave like me
Pragmatic optimum(2): You should always behave like me
Pragmatic optimum(3): I always do what makes sense
Pragmatic optimum(4): One should always do what makes sense.
(2) Mother may consider herself an expert only in love affairs
(3) Mother may know that she herself makes mistakes
(4) Mother may find that other people than her daughter are free to do foolish things
Given the restricted contextual information (1) is more informative than the logical minimum and is less attributing than (2)-(4).
 This is a surprising choice from the authors’ part. So at one end we have the logical minimum. At the other we have the outdone, over the top, over-attributing generalization. In the middle, we have the pragmatic optimum. Now, of all the statements that can possibly fit this role, the one chosen is, I think, the most semantically ambiguous. I think the only difference between “All real women are nosy” and “Real women are nosy” is that the latter is more ambiguous. Could it be that this is what is meant by “fit in with the rest of the argumentative discourse”?