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Reasoning from Paradigms and Negative Evidence

Pragmatics & Cognition, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 92–116, 2011

21 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2011  

Fabrizio Macagno

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Douglas Walton


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Date Written: August 11, 2011


Reasoning from negative evidence takes place where an expected outcome is tested for, and when it is not found, a conclusion is drawn based on the significance of the failure to find it. By using Gricean maxims and implicatures, we show how a set of alternatives, which we call a paradigm, provides the deep inferential structure on which reasoning from lack of evidence is based. We show that the strength of reasoning from negative evidence depends on how the arguer defines his conclusion and what he considers to be in the paradigm of negated alternatives. If we negate only two of the several possible alternatives, even if they are the most probable, the conclusion will be weak. However, if we deny all possible alternatives, the reasoning will be strong, and even in some cases deductively valid.

Keywords: argumentation, argument from ignorance, burden of proof, classification under lack of knowledge, defeasible reasoning, Gricean maxims, lack of evidence, negation, scalar predicates

Suggested Citation

Macagno, Fabrizio and Walton, Douglas, Reasoning from Paradigms and Negative Evidence (August 11, 2011). Pragmatics & Cognition, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 92–116, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Fabrizio Macagno (Contact Author)

Universidade Nova de Lisboa ( email )

Av. Berna 26 I&D Building, office 4.02
Lisbon, 1069-061


Douglas Walton

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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