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The Problem Of Retraction In Critical Discussion

Abstract

In many contexts a retraction of commitment isfrowned upon. For instance, it is not appreciated,generally, if one withdraws a promise or denies anearlier statement. Critical discussion, too, caneasily be disrupted by retractions, if these occur toofrequently and at critical points. But on the otherhand, the very goal of critical discussion –resolution of a dispute – involves a retraction,either of doubt, or of some expressed point of view.A person who never retracts, not even under pressureof cogent arguments, would hardly qualify as areasonable discussant. Also, inconsistencies in one'sposition, once they have been pointed out, must bedealt with by some kind of retraction. The problem ofretraction is to find a suitable model of dialoguethat allows retractions where they seem reasonable, oreven required, and rules them out (or puts sanctionsupon them) whenever they would become disruptive of awell-organized process of dialogue.The present paper tries to point to a solution basedon the following principles: (1) Retraction rulesdetermine what retractions are permissible, and (2) ifpermissible what the consequences of retraction are.(3) Retraction rules vary according to the type ofdialogue and (4) according to the type of commitmentretracted. For instance, assertions and mereconcessions need to be distinguished, as well aslight-side and dark-side commitments. (5) To accountfor our contradictory intuitions on the issue ofretractions, one may best resort to a complex type ofdialogue in which different retraction rules hold fordifferent parts.The paper explains, summarizes, and expands upon thediscussion of retraction in Commitment inDialogue by Douglas Walton and the present author(cf. Walton and Krabbe 1995).

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Krabbe, E.C.W. The Problem Of Retraction In Critical Discussion. Synthese 127, 141–159 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010318403544

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Keywords

  • Present Author
  • Suitable Model
  • Critical Discussion
  • Complex Type
  • Cogent Argument