Late scholastic probable arguments and their contrast with rhetorical and demonstrative arguments

Philosophical Inquiries 10 (2) (2022)
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Abstract

Aristotle divided arguments that persuade into the rhetorical (which happen to persuade), the dialectical (which are strong so ought to persuade to some degree) and the demonstrative (which must persuade if rightly understood). Dialectical arguments were long neglected, partly because Aristotle did not write a book about them. But in the sixteenth and seventeenth century late scholastic authors such as Medina, Cano and Soto developed a sound theory of probable arguments, those that have logical and not merely psychological force but fall short of demonstration. Informed by late medieval treatments of the law of evidence and problems in moral theology and aleatory contracts, they considered the reasons that could render legal, moral, theological, commercial and historical arguments strong though not demonstrative. At the same time, demonstrative arguments became better understood as Galileo and other figures of the Scientific Revolution used mathematical proof in arguments in physics. Galileo moved both dialectical and demonstrative arguments into mathematical territory.

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James Franklin
University of New South Wales

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