, Volume 190, Issue 18, pp 4041–4063 | Cite as

Interpreting enthymematic arguments using belief revision

  • Georg BrunEmail author
  • Hans Rott


This paper is about the situation in which an author (writer or speaker) presents a deductively invalid argument, but the addressee aims at a charitable interpretation and has reason to assume that the author intends to present a valid argument. How can he go about interpreting the author’s reasoning as enthymematically valid? We suggest replacing the usual find-the-missing-premise approaches by an approach based on systematic efforts to ascribe a belief state to the author against the background of which the argument has to be evaluated. The suggested procedure includes rules for recording whether the author in fact accepts or denies the premises and the conclusion, as well as tests for enthymematic validity and strategies for revising belief state ascriptions. Different degrees of interpretive charity can be exercised. This is one reason why the interpretation or reconstruction of an enthymematic argument typically does not result in a unique outcome.


Enthymeme Argument Interpretation Charity  Belief revision 



We would like to thank audiences in Constance, Lund, Prague, Regensburg, Salzburg and Stockholm, and in particular Gregor Betz, Ralf Busse, John Cantwell, Eduardo Fermé, Sven Ove Hansson, Eva-Maria Konrad, Christoph Lumer, Jaroslav Peregrin, Friedrich Reinmuth, Vladimir Svoboda as well as two anonymous referees of this journal for numerous critical comments on earlier versions of this paper. They have been very helpful.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ETH ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversität RegensburgRegensburgGermany

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