Wittgenstein’s Influence on Hamblin’s Concept of ‘Dialectical’

  • Ralph H. Johnson
Part of the Argumentation Library book series (ARGA, volume 22)


Hamblin’s Fallacies (1970) had enormous influence on both fallacy theory and argumentation theory. One crucial argument occurs in Chapter 7 where Hamblin states ‘dialectical concepts have a certain claim to be considered the fundamental ones’ (244). But Hamblin does not here explain what he means by the term ‘dialectical’. From the use he makes of it, one would infer that he means something like… “related to acceptance.” In Chapter 8, however, it seems to have a different sense. There Hamblin develops the rudiments of a system of Dialectic; the term ‘dialectical’ is the adjectival related to that noun. In Chapter 9, an important question occurs at the beginning of Chapter 9, when Hamblin asks: ‘Where do dialectical rules derive their authority?’ On p. 285, a crucial passage occurs:

If we want to lay bare the foundations of Dialectic, we should give the dialectical rules themselves a chance to determine what is a statement, what is a question. This general idea is familiar enough from Wittgenstein in Preliminary Studies… [and now he refers to The Brown Book] as having “the best examples of dialectical analysis.”

It seems that if we are to understand what Hamblin means by ‘dialectical’ in this context, we need to understand what Hamblin has in mind in this passage. In this paper, I attempt to explain what this claim means, how Hamblin derives this sense of ‘dialectical’ from his reading of Wittgenstein, and how this helps us to understand senses of the term ‘dialectical’ from Chapters 7 and 8 of Fallacies. My conclusion is that although there is some differences in these various uses, there is a fundamental coherence in his deployment of the concept ‘dialectical’.


Argumentation Theory Broad Pattern Philosophical Investigation Informal Logic Private Correspondence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thanks are due to David Hitchcock who provided the impetus and important comments; and to Jim Mackenzie for his helpful comments. Thanks as well my colleagues Tony Blair, Hans V. Hansen, Christopher Tindale, and Douglas Walton at CRRAR, and to Rongdong Jin for his comment and criticisms of earlier versions. I am especially grateful to Tony Blair for his painstaking and helpful comments on several drafts. I am grateful as well to two referees assigned by ISSA who provided constructive suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRRARUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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