, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 485–511 | Cite as

Presumption as a Modal Qualifier: Presumption, Inference, and Managing Epistemic Risk



Standards and norms for reasoning function, in part, to manage epistemic risk. Properly used, modal qualifiers like presumably have a role in systematically managing epistemic risk by flagging and tracking type-specific epistemic merits and risks of the claims they modify. Yet, argumentation-theoretic accounts of presumption often define it in terms of modalities of other kinds, thereby failing to recognize the unique risk profile of each. This paper offers a stipulative account of presumption, inspired by Ullmann-Margalit (J Philos 80:143–163, 1983), as an inferentially generated modal qualifier, “presumably, p,” distinguishing it from other, particularly epistemic modalities, e.g., standing commitments, assumptions, assertions, suppositions, hypotheses, and defeasible claims. By avoiding the tranching of inferential instruments of qualitatively different bona fides and risk profiles, this account provides a more accurate risk-rating system that better manages epistemic risk in inference, as well as contributing to the normative theory of the operation of presumption in reasoning and argument.


Assumption Epistemic modality Epistemic norms Hypothesis Inferential norms Modal qualifier Presumption Presumptive inference Qualifier 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the international workshop, Presumptions, Presumptive Inferences, and Burdens of Proof, on April 27, 2016, at the Carmen de la Victoria, University of Granada in Granada, Spain, under the title “Towards an informal logic of presumptive inference.” Travel for that presentation was supported by Michigan State University’s College of Arts and Letters, and International Studies and Programs. I thank the workshop participants for their comments and discussion, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticisms. For all its remaining faults, the paper was markedly improved as a result of these welcome engagements. Most importantly, I offer my sincere thanks to Cristina Corredor and Lilian Bermejo-Luque, for organizing and hosting the workshop and for guest-editing this special issue of Argumentation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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