Arguments from Popularity: Their Merits and Defects in Argumentative Discussion

Topoi 42 (2):609-623 (2023)
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Abstract

How to understand and assess arguments in which the popularity of an opinion is put forward as a reason to accept that opinion? There exist widely diverging views on how to analyse and evaluate such arguments from popularity. First, I define the concept of an argument from popularity, and show that typical appeals to the popularity of a policy are not genuine arguments from popularity. Second, I acknowledge the importance of some recent probability-based accounts according to which some arguments from popularity are epistemically strong arguments, but also contend that despite these strengths such arguments have at most limited value in argumentative discussions. Finally, I show that there are at least five different ways that arguments from popularity can be fallacious, and examine what this means for an account of the Fallacy of Popularity.

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Jan Albert Van Laar
University of Groningen

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