Douglas Walton and the COVID-19 crisis

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

As we reflect on the work of Douglas Walton, I want to encourage readers of this journal to look beyond the usual applications of logic and consider the domains of medicine and health. It is testimony to the intellectual breadth of Walton’s ideas in argumentation theory and fallacies that his work should find a home in medical and health disciplines, particularly epidemiology and public health. In this paper, I examine three areas of Walton’s theoretical approach to argument and fallacies that I have found most beneficial to my work on reasoning in public health. First, Walton’s collaboration with John Woods resulted in a new, rigorous program of fallacy research. Integral to this new approach to the fallacies was the characterization of non-fallacious variants of most of the major informal fallacies. Second, Walton advocated for a third category of presumptive argument to sit alongside deduction and induction, with plausibility as the standard of rational evaluation. Many so-called informal fallacies, he contended, are rationally warranted presumptive arguments in the practically oriented contexts in which they are advanced. Third, Walton argued that presumptive arguments like the argument from expert opinion can be scrutinized using critical questions during systematic reasoning. They may also bypass critical questions and facilitate a quick leap to a conclusion based on one or two explicit premises during heuristic reasoning. Each of these three areas in Walton’s work is discussed in the context of medicine and health, with illustration provided by the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-51
JournalJournal of Applied Logics
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • informal logic
  • pandemic
  • reasoning

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