Pragmatic Inconsistency and Credibility

Argumentation 21 (3):317-334 (2007)
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Abstract

A critic may attack an arguer personally by pointing out that the arguer’s position is pragmatically inconsistent: the arguer does not practice what he preaches. A number of authors hold that such attacks can be part of a good argumentative discussion. However, there is a difficulty in accepting this kind of contribution as potentially legitimate, for the reason that there is nothing wrong for a protagonist to have an inconsistent position, in the sense of committing himself to mutually inconsistent propositions. If so, any such charge seems to be irrelevant. The questions to be answered in this essay are: what, if any, is the dialectical rationale for this type of criticism, and in what situations, if any, is this kind of charge dialectically legitimate? It will be shown that these attacks can be dialectically legitimate, in special circumstances, and that they can be seen as strategic␣manoeuvres where a party attempts to reconcile his dialectical and his rhetorical objectives

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