OSSA Day 3: Reasoning about counterconsiderations

Trudy Govier, University of Lethbridge

Arguments are often with sequential reasons, each not individually sufficient for the conclusion.  They often include counter-considerations.  These are balance of consideration arguments

The conclusion is supposed to be supported in an inductive form. The commitment is supposed to be that the supporting considerations outweigh the counter-considerations.  Counter-considerations are part of an arguer's case, but objections are not.  Often overtly considering the counter-considerations signals that the reasoner is not rigid or dogmatic.

Pro-con argumentaton is usually dialectical, the model is often a stand in for adversarial argumentation.

Some pragmatics of how counter-considerations are introduced and aknowledged:

"Even though" introduces a less emphasized clause.  E.g., He is a good teacher even though he has a speech impediment.  The first one gets the emphasis. Others: "although" "despite"

"But" introduces a more emphasized clause.  E.g., She is a good teacher but she has a speech impediment.  The second one gets the emphasis. Others: "However" "Nevertheless"

Model 1 (from Hansen):

P1, P2, P3…Pn.(with addition of on-balance-premise OBP)

K even though CC1, CC2. . . CCn

The trouble is that the OBP is effectively the model used as a premise

Model 3 (Hansen, breaking the stages)

P1, P2,….

Even though CC1, CC2, …. CCn, K


Figure 4 (From Govier's Practical Study of Argument)


P1      P2    P3   P4        CC1    CC2

supports (line)                does not support (squiggle line)


Figure 5 (with shunting form)


Figure 6 (Govier's 2011 model)


Q1: Do we need to revise our notion of arguments constituting the collection of two sets of claims – premises and conclusions?  Including counter-considerations seems to be a third set.  Perhaps one set can be put forward as the supporting set, but individual members of the set may themselves not be supporting the conclusion.

Q2: Do on-balance arguments need to use a suppressed on-balance premise?  Ceteris paribus arguments work like this.

Q3: How does one weigh these reasons?

Q4: Don't we often give reasons for why we don't get the counter-considerations to move us?