Is “conductive argument” a single argument?

Fairclough, Isabela orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6718-2636 (2019) Is “conductive argument” a single argument? In: From argument schemes to argumentative relations in the wild. A variety of contributions to argumentation theory. Springer Argumentation Library . Springer, Amsterdam, pp. 223-238. ISBN 978-3-030-28366-7

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Focusing on a particular kind of so-called “conductive argument”, i.e. a “pro/con” argument intended to support a practical conclusion, I argue that “conductive argument” is a category mistake. There is no such thing as a “conductive argument”, if the term is meant to designate a single argument, with one conclusion. What (confusingly) appears to be a “conductive argument”, as structure, is one of two main possible outcomes of deliberative activity, understood as the critical testing of alternative proposals for action. More precisely, it is a recapitulation or summary of a process of critical questioning that has unfolded in time, where a practical conclusion has withstood criticism, in the sense that no decisive objections have emerged against it, though there are counter-considerations to it, as well as reasons in favour. To say that there are no decisive objections is to say that the opposite (negative) conclusion is not supported: it does not follow conclusively that the course of action being proposed is not reasonable. The positive conclusion, together with all the reasons that have been cited in favour and all the reasons that have been cited against (the counter-considerations), will be virtually indistinguishable from a so-called “conductive argument”. Whenever the positive conclusion does not survive criticism, the potential “conductive argument” will disintegrate, collapsing into a deductive argument in favour of the negative conclusion.

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