Arguments from Ignorance
By (author) Douglas Walton
Publication date:15 September 1995
Length of book:326 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
Arguments from Ignorance explores the situations in which the argument from ignorance (also known as the lack-of-knowledge inference, negative evidence, or default reasoning) functions as a respectable form of reasoning and those in which it is indeed fallacious. Douglas Walton draws on everyday conversations on all kinds of practical matters in which the argumentum ad ignorantiam is used quite appropriately to infer conclusions. He also discusses the inappropriate use of this kind of argument, referring to various major case studies, including the Salem witchcraft trials, the McCarthy hearings, and the Alger Hiss case.
This book makes an original contribution in the areas of argumentation theory and informal logic, contending that, despite its traditional classification as a fallacy, the argument from ignorance is a genuine, very common, and legitimate type of argumentation with an identifiable structure. But the book is also interdisciplinary in scope, explaining many widely interesting and controversial subjects in artificial intelligence, medical education, philosophy of science, and philosophy of law in a clear way that makes it accessible to a broad range of readers.