Article published in:Certainty-uncertainty – and the Attitudinal Space in Between
Edited by Sibilla Cantarini, Werner Abraham and Elisabeth Leiss
[Studies in Language Companion Series 165] 2014
► pp. 83–95
Explanation as a certainty marker in persuasive dialogue
When an explanation can be seen as an answer to a why-question it can be formally mistaken for an argument. Hence, a pragmatic criterion based on the certainty of its conclusion is often used to distinguish them. But, as shown by Hempel’s influential theory of scientific explanation, this distinction works poorly in the case of uncertain explanations, for instance some kinds of statistical explanations. In this case, it is possible to take advantage of the prestige of explanation over argument to introduce probable arguments as unquestionable explanations. This rhetorical device is illustrated by two examples from French political life.
Published online: 14 November 2014