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Argumentum ad Verecundiam: New Gender-based Criteria for Appeals to Authority


In his influential work on critical argumentation, Douglas Walton explains how to judge whether an argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to authority) is fallacious or legitimate. He provides six critical questions and a number of ancillary sub-questions to guide the identification of reasonable appeals to authority. While it is common for informal logicians to acknowledge the role of bias in sampling procedures (which are supposed to select statistically random samples) and hypothesis confirmation (which tends to be self-serving), there is a conspicuous lack of discourse on the effect of identity prejudice on judgments of authority, even though this is a well-documented factor in attributing credibility, expertise, trustworthiness, and professional competence to oppressed groups. This could result in faulty judgments of ad verecundiam fallacy. Focusing on gender bias, I review recent works in feminist epistemology—particularly those of Miranda Fricker (2007) and Helen Longino (2002)—to develop three gender-based critical questions to supplement Walton’s original list of six. This addition will help us to identify erroneous dismissals of appeals to authority based on epistemic injustice and epistemic irresponsibility on the part of the speaker or knowledge community. This project promotes the overlapping aims of feminist epistemology and informal logic.

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Correspondence to Michelle Ciurria.

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Ciurria, M., Altamimi, K. Argumentum ad Verecundiam: New Gender-based Criteria for Appeals to Authority. Argumentation 28, 437–452 (2014).

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  • Ad verecundiam
  • Authority
  • Expertise
  • Epistemic injustice
  • Epistemic responsibility