This article appeared in a journal published by Elsevier. The attached
copy is furnished to the author for internal non-commercial research
and education use, including for instruction at the authors institution
and sharing with colleagues.
Other uses, including reproduction and distribution, or selling or
licensing copies, or posting to personal, institutional or third party
websites are prohibited.
In most cases authors are permitted to post their version of the
article (e.g. in Word or Tex form) to their personal website or
institutional repository. Authors requiring further information
regarding Elsevier’s archiving and manuscript policies are
encouraged to visit:
Author's personal copy
Presumptive arguments turned into a fallacy of presumptuousness:
Pre-election debates in a democracy of promises
Institute of English Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pe
´cs, H-7624 Pe
´tja 6, Hungary
Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pe
´cs, H-7624 Pe
´tja 6, Hungary
Received 27 July 2009; accepted 12 August 2009
This paper deals with pre-election discourse in Hungary identifying complex argumentative moves that call for modiﬁcations in
traditional research methodologies. Based on theoretical studies and real-life public debates a ﬁne-grained analysis is offered to
discern substantive arguments from presumptive arguments. The assessment of politicians’ argumentative practices takes into
account both the critical-rationalist and the pragma-dialectical perspectives on reasoned discussion.
The results show that presumptions function as special kinds of inferences grounded in considerations related to the context or
circumstances in which the inferences are to be drawn. Presumptive reasoning is shown to be a paradigm case of rational activity in
assessing the expectations of others. In the analysis of political discourse the aim is to ﬁnd out what beliefs electors entertain and
how their positions on certain issues get inﬂuenced by politicians’ arguments. Thus, the paper offers a new look at the notion of
rational discussion. The early bed-rock certainty of the pragma-dialectical approach to argumentation as a prime example of
normative pragmatics seems to be losing its primacy: at best we can try to adhere to a mixture of a critical-rationalistic view of
reasonableness and the dialectical notion of reasonableness in real-life debates and public argumentations.
#2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Pre-election debates; Meta-argumentative moves; Presumptive reasoning; Presumptive arguments; Critical-rationalist argumentation;
Pragma-dialectical argumentation; Fallacious dialogue shifts; Moves of strategic maneuvering
1. The backgrounds
This paper provides an account of the ﬁrst comprehensive results of a medium-range analysis of pre-election
discourse in Hungary involving the pre-election candidate debates of the years 1998, 2002 and 2006. In our research
we focus on the persuasive power of the candidates’ rhetoric measured against immediate voters’ responses and
candidates’ subsequent meta-argumentative moves. We indicate to what extent such complex argumentative moves
may call for modiﬁcations in traditional research methodologies. However, the cross-fertilization of the relevant
vailable online at www.sciencedirect.com
Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972
Part of the research carried out for this paper was supported by the Research Grant of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA 2006TKI65)
under the name ‘‘The Problem of Evidence in Theoretical Linguistics’’ within the Inter-University Research Group for Theoretical Linguistics of the
Hungarian Academy of Sciences operative at the Universities of Debrecen, Pe
´cs and Szeged. The ﬁnal version of the paper was made possible by a
generous research grant [KI 2007/2] for the study of ‘‘European multicultural argumentation practices and inferential pragmatics’’ provided by the
‘‘In Memory of Kuno Klebelsberg - Pro Renovanda Cultura Hungariae Public Foundation’’ in Budapest, Hungary.
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (L.I. Komlo
´si), email@example.com (I. Tarro
0378-2166/$ – see front matter #2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Author's personal copy
claims of theoretical studies in argumentation and rhetoric and the results of the evaluation of real world public debates
has narrowed down our interest. Such considerations have yielded a better understanding of the relation between
politicians’rhetoric acts of presuming and voters’presumptions, crucial in shaping electors’ decisions. We are
proposing a ﬁne-grained method of analysis to discern substantive arguments (ones that are subject to the assessment
of problem validity and relevance of premises and standpoints) from presumptive arguments (ones that are subject to
intersubjective acceptance of standpoints) in order to understand corresponding types of voters’ involvement that
reﬂect characteristic features of both the critical-rationalist perspective and the pragma-dialectical perspective on
Studies in argumentation and rhetoric agree (cf. Rescher, 1977; Willard, 1983; Walton, 1987, 1996; Kauffeld, 2003;
Van Eemeren and Grootendorst, 2004; Komlo
´si, 2006a) that presumptions ﬁgure importantly in thinking and in a wide
range of verbal interactions.‘‘Presumptions are a special kind of inference, based only in part on evidence related to
the truth of the inferred proposition and grounded to a great extent on considerations related to the context or
circumstances in which the inferences are to be drawn.’’ (Kauffeld, 2003:603).
Presumptive inferences are distinguished not by the truth of their conclusions to be warranted by relevant
substantive facts (cf. substantive inference as output), but by the unique strength or force of the inferred conclusion (cf.
presumptive inference as process). It has been suggested that presumptive inferences be treated as a particular subset
of assumptions (cf. Walton, 1996). In our analysis we take it that when a person presumes something they may also (at
the same time) assume that the presumption is – under the current circumstances – a practically sufﬁcient basis for
proceeding without further inquiry. Here the function of a presumption is to warrant an assumption. In our research we
also compare the nature of presumptive inference with the Neo-Gricean notion of presumptive meanings decisive in
mechanisms generating and licensing generalized conversational implicatures (cf. Levinson, 2000).
Presumptions and presumptive inferences also relate to rationality: instead of being warrants, presumptions are
based on the standards of objectivity and justiﬁcation of the community’s traditions (political culture included) and
function as rhetorical constructs which interlocutors believe in and strive to live up to. Presumptive reasoning is a
paradigm case of rational activity in developing a line of action in order to assess the expectations of others (cf.
A presumption, i.e. a conclusion drawn in an inferential act of presuming, stands good until rebutted by parties
undertaking an obligation to provide substantiated objections to its acceptance. Thus, presumptions are closely related
to the distribution of responsibilities, rights and obligations (see, e.g. the discussion of the burden of proof in Kauffeld,
2003) in conversations, dialogues, debates and other types of social interaction.
In our analysis of political discourse, we aim at ﬁnding out what beliefs people entertain and how their positions on
certain issues get inﬂuenced by political arguments. In our research we test the hypothesis according to which
advocates who overtly and unduly utilize the support of presumptive arguments, feel that they are by no means under
obligation to provide support for the content of their presumptions. We also hypothesize that such persons tend to be
immune to substantive arguments, partly because they are biased for and, therefore, susceptible to presumptive
arguments. On the other hand, persons who might challenge a presumptive position seem to be assuming an obligation
upon themselves to take up the burden of substantiating the counter-position they advance. It is the latter ones, not the
former ones, who can be called upon to justify their views. Due to this unique attitude, reasons in the way of evidence
may be demanded from the challenger. Such a ‘‘division of labor’’ rests on an asymmetry caused by an uneven
distribution of substantive arguments and presumptive arguments. We will go further in our analysis and draw up a
possible genesis of the fallacy of presumptuousness – a type of informal fallacy – in the context of misusing
presumptive arguments. It will be noted that a presumptuous attitude might conceal traits of overconﬁdence, excessive
demands from partners, audaciousness and/or arrogance.
We set out to show that the plain pragmatic fact of observing and identifying presumptions in politically decisive
rhetorical situations – whose employment receives support from cultural and epistemic contexts as well – can explain
a lot about the dynamics of public debate and argumentation. With the help of the analysis of presumptive reasoning
we are in a position to show how political actors may easily violate the obligations they take upon themselves as a
consequence of their presumptive argumentative behavior. In cases of such violations presumptive argumentation may
turn into presumptuous public behavior.
We have observed that the dual function of presumptions in argumentation can give rise to strategic maneuvering in
the argumentation process. On the one hand, presumptions are used precisely because participants take them for
granted and thus they feel justiﬁed in not arguing for them openly. Presumptions are in fact very much like
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972958
Author's personal copy
conventionalized or coded implicatures with a highly default character. On the other hand, presumptions heavily rely
on inferential mechanisms for their interpretation, the result of which is likely to be that participants draw very
different inferences on the basis of the very same presumptive assertions. We believe to have captured in our analysis
an emerging mechanism inherent in presumptive arguments applied in a debate. In the analysis we identify some types
of fallacious dialogue shifts as dramatic turning points or rhetorical shifts in the argumentative structure of the debate.
Such rhetorical moves are based on re-contextualization and re-introduction of presumptive arguments advanced
earlier by the opponent, the outcome of which qualiﬁes as moves of strategic maneuvering. The observation is also
remarkable that due to the dual function of presumptions, there is room for a fairly wide distribution in electors’
conceptualization of the types of relations to be established between premises and standpoints. We are convinced that
the observation of presumptive arguments and the identiﬁcation of fallacious dialogue shifts functioning as dramatic
turning points in the argumentation structure together are an important achievement of major theoretical importance,
yielding a novel insight for the study of presumptive argumentation.
Further, an unexpected outcome of our analysis is a new look at the notion of rational discussion. The early bed-
rock certainty of the pragma-dialectical approach to argumentation as a prime example of normative pragmatics seems
to be losing its strong regulatory bite. We agree with Van Eemeren and Grootendorst (2004) about the status of any
code of conduct for reasonable discussants: at best we can try to adhere to a mixture of a critical-rationalistic view of
reasonableness and the dialectical notion of reasonableness in real-life debates and public argumentations. The type of
strategic maneuvering we analyze in our sample text shows, however, that illicit or fallacious dialogue shifts (or
rhetorical shifts) can be effective in the persuasion process, even if they risk the fallacy of presumptuousness.
2. Raison d’e
ˆtre for presumptive arguments in political debates
After substantial experience in the dynamics of changes in political culture has accumulated in the course of
ﬁve subsequent parliamentary elections and government formations in Hungary between 1990 and 2006 (1990,
1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006), the study of political discourse has gained in importance and has become a legitimate
ﬁeld of application for the theory of argumentation and rhetoric. Our research project is based on a medium-range
analysis of pre-election discourse in Hungary involving the pre-election candidate debates of the years 1998,
The present paper is an account of the ﬁrst comprehensive results of our research. We have had to realize that taking
into consideration the relevant claims of theoretical studies in argumentation and rhetoric and the results of the critical
analyses of real world public argumentation, we need to limit our interest to the study of presumptive argumentation in
political discourse. We expect that in this segment of public discourse we may obtain a better understanding of the
relation between politicians’rhetorical acts of presuming and voters’acquired and shared presumptions, crucial in
shaping electors’ decisions. We observe the well-known assertion that candidates in pre-election debates are not
responding to their debate partners directly, rather they make meta-argumentative moves according to audience or
public responses to the debate.
In the overall research project, the actual analyses of pre-election debates focus on the persuasive power of the
argumentative and rhetorical practices of the candidates measured against immediate voters’ responses and
subsequent meta-argumentative moves made by the debating partners. We have realized that such complexity calls for
some modiﬁcations in the traditional research methodologies. We have surveyed proposals provided by theoretical
studies in argumentation and rhetoric that would facilitate the mapping of argumentative practices onto argument
schemes. While making promising progress in this direction, we realized too that a certain, persistent element in the
argumentative practices of public argumentation could probably serve as a reference argument scheme to lay solid
foundations for further analysis. Thus, we arrived at the conclusion that presumptive arguments should deserve a more
thorough analysis. The model we have developed for analyzing political argumentation has beneﬁted from the ideas
formulated in Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969),Walton (1995, 1996),Rescher (1977),Willard (1983),Va n
Eemeren (2001),Garssen (2001, 2002) and Kauffeld (2003), and has partly been presented so far in Komlo
In what follows, we will give a brief description of the model we use in order to justify the ways in which we
propose to carry out a textual analysis of the Hungarian pre-election debate between the current prime minister (CPM),
´ny and the former prime minister (FPM), Viktor Orba
´n in their public debate of April 2006. Mr.
´ny (CPM) was heading the coalition government (ruling between 2002 and 2006) of the Socialist Party
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 959
Author's personal copy
(MSZP) and the Free Democrats (SZDSZ), while Mr. Orba
´n (FPM) was government head (ruling between 1998 and
2002) of the Young Democrats (FIDESZ).
3. Argument schemes and presumptive arguments
3.1. Argument schemes in argumentation practices
The different analyses of argument schemes (e.g. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969; Walton, 1996; Garssen,
2001, 2002; Van Eemeren and Grootendorst, 2004) agree that argument schemes are conventionalized ways of
displaying a logical or pragmatic relation between the claims in the premise and the assumed propositions in the
standpoint. Such a reasoning mechanism requires that some interpretative effort be exploited. The type of the
interpretation mechanism helps identify the argument scheme that is being employed. In this endeavor, pragmatic and
contextual knowledge must be brought to bear for successful interpretation. Consequently, we start from the
consideration that a crucial feature, namely the pragmatic function of argument schemes, resides in the very fact that
argument schemes are more or less ready-made argumentative sequences with a high degree of conventionalization. In
our view, conventionalization is a special type of information coding which facilitates the interpretation of implicitness
so often used in reasoning processes.
However different the approaches to argument schemes over times have been, they do agree that argument schemes
reﬂect the internal organization of individual single arguments by specifying the principles on which the constituent
arguments rely for defending the standpoint. Constituent arguments in an argumentation scheme are often implicit, the
interpretation of which involves different degrees of inferential mechanisms.
For our model we adopt the pragma-dialectical view on argument schemes, as, e.g. deﬁned in Garssen (2002):
Argument schemes, which are also called argumentation schemes or argumentation schemata, are principles or
rules underlying arguments that legitimate the inferential step from premises to standpoints. They characterize
the way in which the acceptability of the premises that is explicit in argumentation is transferred to the
standpoint. The argument scheme that has been used by an arguer determines the speciﬁc relation that is
established between the explicit premise and the standpoint being justiﬁed. (Garssen, 2002:93)
The pragma-dialectical literature has also established a threefold typology of argument schemes: symptomatic
argumentation (with a relation of concomitance between the premise and the standpoint), comparison argumentation
(with a relation of resemblance or similarity between premise and standpoint) and consequence argumentation (with a
causal relation between premise and standpoint). According to Garssen (2002:94):
In symptomatic argumentation the argument is presented as if it were an expression, a phenomenon, a sign or
other kind of symptom of what is stated in the standpoint.
In comparison argumentation the argument is presented as if there were a resemblance, an agreement, a likeness,
a parallel, a correspondence or some other kind of similarity between that what is stated in the argument and that
what is stated in the standpoint.
In causal argumentation the argument is presented as if what is stated in the argumentation were a means to, a
way to, an instrument for or some other kind of causative factor for the standpoint.
Therefore, argument schemes ought to be seen as complex mental constructs whose validity domains are
systematically and reliably enlarged by a set of potential propositions that are projected, inferred, assumed or
presumed by the interlocutors. It is due to these implicational and inferential mechanisms that argument assessment
strategies are bound to take into consideration both formal validity between premises and conclusions and plausible
inferences and the transmission of acceptance from premises to conclusions.
In reasoned arguments and critical discussions we are challenged by the dilemma of accepting or rejecting the
compatibility claim for formal validity and inferential reasonableness. Our model is conceived in such a way that it
actually advocates the compatibility of the two ways of reasoning in everyday argumentative discourse. In other words,
on the basis of our ﬁndings we claim that we need both a logical analysis and a pragmatic analysis to identify
underlying implicit arguments, which constitute the gist of and the clue to some types of argument schemes.
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972960
Author's personal copy
3.2. Argument schemes for presumptive arguments
As it was indicated above, studies in the ﬁelds of argumentation and rhetoric strongly suggest that presumptions
ﬁgure and play a decisive role in a wide range of verbal interactions. As a starting point, we should observe that
presumption is a special kind of inference that is based only in part on evidence related to the truth of the conclusion.
To a substantial degree a presumption gets grounded on contextual and conversational considerations.
Douglas Walton has provided an illuminating analysis of presumptive inferences in (Walton, 1996), in which he
emphasizes the signiﬁcance of presumptive reasoning in argumentation. In his analysis he treats presuming as a type of
speech act. He establishes a relation between speech acts and argument schemes by assuming that a speech act of
presuming contributes in speciﬁc ways to certain kinds of argumentation schemes. In our model we have integrated
Walton’s speech-act-oriented approach to presumptive inferencing since we acknowledge the similarity between
indirect speech acts and the verbal act of presuming: the challenge in both cases is the way we arrive at the
identiﬁcation of the illocutionary force of the utterance. The illocutionary force is closely related to intended speaker
meaning, which, in the case of argument schemes, can be based on the recognition of symptomatic or resemblance or
causal relations securing the argumentative efﬁcacy of the argument scheme in question. This is how the identiﬁcation
of illocutionary acts in the case of indirect speech acts shows a striking resemblance with the identiﬁcation of the
different types of argument schemes.
The speech-act-oriented approach to presumptive inferencing is also highly instrumental from another point of
view. The felicity conditions are relevant both for performing speech acts and for employing argument schemes. The
illicit rhetorical shift of re-contextualization of presumptions advanced by an opponent is nothing but a change in the
felicity conditions for such utterance acts.
The linguistic act of presuming is clearly interactive as it calls for inference drawing by all participants and,
maybe, also for relevant responses in the form of speech acts. Unlike the relatively straightforward treatment of
direct versus indirect speech acts in linguistic pragmatics, in the pragmatics of argumentation (or normative
pragmatics) we need to identify mechanisms that produce speech act-like moves which have the effect of a
‘‘dramatic turning point’’ or a ‘‘rhetorical shift’’. In our empirical material we can point out conspicuous elements
of strategic maneuvering in which discussants make fallacious dialogue shifts by rejecting the burden of proof
required by presumptions advanced by them. (For a detailed analysis of strategic maneuvering see Van Eemeren
and Houtlosser, 2003.) We can also point out illicit dialogue shifts in which protagonists and antagonists skillfully
re-contextualize presumptions by modifying or altering constitutive pieces of background knowledge. The beauty
in such dialogue shifts is the skillful subtleness of how discussants try to make their opponents’ presumptive
arguments irrelevant by re-contextualizing and re-introducing the presumptions in question for their own
argumentative beneﬁt. Although such strategies are based on the violation of the rules of rational discussion (on this
see more details below), they succeed in establishing a new context in which presumptions are to be re-validated in
a new constellation of intersubjective acceptance.
The identiﬁcation of fallacious dialogue shifts functioning as dramatic turning points in the argumentation structure
seems to be a major discovery, yielding a novel insight in the study of presumptive argumentation. Originally, Walton
(1987) associates fallacies with ‘‘illicit dialectical shifts’’ that occur as a rhetorical move from one type of dialogue to
another. Van Eemeren (2001) conﬁrms this when he talks about ‘‘fallacious dialogue shifts’’ and admits: ‘‘An argument
that appears correct may actually be incorrect when it is used after a shift in a type of dialogue where it is no longer
appropriate or even obstructive in view of the type of dialogue the participants were originally engaged in.’’ (Van
Eemeren, 2001:159). In Walton’s view many textbook fallacies should be seen as reasonable presumptive types of
arguments that have been used inappropriately in a particular normative structure of dialogue, committing a shift from
one type of a dialogue to another, e.g. a shift from a negotiation dialogue to a persuasion dialogue (cf. Van Eemeren,
Our empirical investigation and analysis suggest that such shifts occur within the conﬁnes of one and the same
stretch of discourse. This is the case with our sample text under scrutiny below. Protagonists and their opponents make
moves that count as re-contextualizations of presumptions advanced earlier by the other discussants rather than
responding in a sensible and responsible way to challenges created by the opponent’s presumptive arguments. In other
words, instead of following the 10 commandments for reasonable discussants (see Van Eemeren and Grootendorst,
2004:190–196) and rebutting presumptive arguments, discussants sometimes make moves that divert from the main
line of argument and are illicit and fallacious, arbitrarily changing the context of presumption for their own beneﬁt.
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 961
Author's personal copy
Other analysts, especially Kauffeld (2003), observe in presumptive inferencing the pragmatic force interacting with
normative elements that is constitutive of verbal interaction. In Kauffeld’s view, presumptive inferences are
characterized by the unique strength or force of the inferred conclusion, which is to be accepted unless and until it is
rebutted by substantial reason and evidence, i.e. until substantiated counter-arguments are adduced against it (see
Kauffeld, 2003:603). Concerning the question of accepting or rejecting a conclusion, mainstream pragmatics also has
something to say. According to the standard view in inferential pragmatics, there are cancelable implications
(presuppositions and implicatures) and non-cancelable implications (entailments). In a similar fashion, presumptions
too can be rebuttable or non-rebuttable.
Presumptions as acts of presuming are also taken to be inferences made by interlocutors about each other’s conduct.
Ordinary presumptive inferences have a deﬁnite form, something of this form: ‘‘To presume that p is to take that p on
the grounds that someone will have made that the case rather than risk criticism, painful regret, reprobation, loss of
esteem or some kind of punishment for failing to do so.’’ (cf. Kauffeld, 2003:606). In other words, the basis of a
presumptive inference is that the conclusion is taken on the supposition that someone would guarantee or see to the
truth of the inferred proposition rather than risk resentment for failing to do so.
We need to recall an important aspect of presumptions that we mentioned by passing before. As we have seen
above, presumptive inferences are distinguished not by the truth of their conclusions to be warranted by relevant
substantive facts but by the unique strength or force of the inferred conclusion. The acknowledgment of this pragmatic
effect has lead to the suggestion that presumptive inferences ought to be treated as a particular subset of assumptions.
We ﬁnd this characteristic feature of presumptions highly relevant to our analysis of political discourse. This has a
central role in our analysis and we take it as a working principle: when a person presumes something, they may also, at
the same time, assume that the presumption is – under the current circumstances – a practically sufﬁcient basis for
proceeding without further inquiry. If this is the case, this is not due to the lack of critical qualities in reasoning
practices or slack logical skills in argumentative discourse. On the contrary, we believe that presumptive arguments
understood and used by the debate partners as assumptions show the efﬁciency of the Cooperation Principle (CP) at
work. In operative terms we may claim that in everyday discourse the function of a presumption –realized by a verbal
act of presuming –is to warrant an assumption.
The study of the nature of presumptive inference can be fruitfully linked with the study of intentions and
intended or implicated meanings in the Neo-Gricean tradition. We ﬁnd it appropriate to take the opportunity to
elaborate a bit further on the notion of presumptive meanings with support from the theory of generalized
conversational implicatures (cf. Levinson, 2000). In our view, an intriguing terrain for studying inferential practices
is implicatures. Implicatures, just aspresumptions,needtobelicensedbycontextual or situational information.
Both implicatures and presumptions can be cancelled or rebutted, and they are sustained and conﬁrmed by the
inferential mechanisms at work in communication. As types of inferences, they are supposed to warrant
assumptions. The Neo-Gricean analysis of conversational implicatures shows that conversational agents
deliberately generate coded presumptions in order to employ them as a means to generate and trigger generalized
conversational implicatures. If presumptions get challenged by additional knowledge of a particular or local type,
the pragmatic force of a presumption is utilized as a particularized conversational implicature. A challenge of a
presumption can have two pragmatic consequences: either the presumption is rebutted, therefore rejected, or
otherwise the presumption is modiﬁed by some pieces of additional, particularized or local information.
Consequently, the generalized conversational implicature is turned into a particularized conversational implicature.
In the former case the presumption is canceled, in the latter case the presumption is modiﬁed. With the help of our
analysis we are able to show that the phenomenon of ‘‘re-contextualization of advanced presumptions’’ by
antagonists may be seen as a rhetorical move to introduce additional pieces of particularized or local information to
rearrange the conditions for acceptability of inferred standpoints.
3.3. Research objectives and methodology
We have surveyed above possible aspects of the study of the act of presuming and attempted to provide an account
of the characteristic features of presumption and presumptive argumentation. The study of presumption as a special
type of inference, the analysis of the pragmatic effect based on implicit meanings functioning as assumptions, the
implicational and inferential mechanisms at work in verbal communication, the acknowledgement of the
complementary nature of the logical and pragmatic analyses and the relation between the act of presuming and
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972962
Author's personal copy
rationality—all these domains of study require an appropriate methodology for a ﬁne-grained, adaptive and ﬂexible
analysis to meet the requirements of an in-depth investigation of the complexities of political discourse.
We have, therefore, adopted a methodology that is sensitive to both the mapping between argumentative practices
and argument schemes and the distinction between substantive arguments and presumptive arguments in order to
establish a correlation with interlocutors’ responses based both on the critical-rationalistic and the dialectical-
pragmatic attitude to reasonableness.
The starting point, no doubt, is seeing argumentation as normative pragmatics which ought to draw up a code of
conduct for reasonable discussants as a guideline in regulating their reasoning practices. We adopt the view of Van
Eemeren and Grootendorst (2004), according to which a critical discussion in dialectical argumentation is a regulation
of the interaction by rules of critical discussion that license both problem-solving effectiveness and intersubjective
acceptability. The authors are, however, well aware of the fact that argumentation theorists cannot actually do much
more than propose the rules and defend with their expertise the acceptability of the rules of critical discussion. The
insights obtained from our research project correspond accurately to the reservations concerning the efﬁcacy of any
idealized code of conduct of a normative or prescriptive nature. This reservation is voiced in Van Eemeren and
Grootendorst (2004) as follows:
Viewing these matters from a practical perspective, [the question should be raised] under which circumstances
are discussants able, and can actually afford, to assume such a reasonable discussion attitude.
The attempt to draw up a code of conduct for reasonable discussants as a guideline in our reasoning practices can, of
course, be practical and realistic, as it is also suggested in Eemeren and Grootendorst (2004:188):
It should be borne in mind, however, that the primary aim of a critical discussion is not to maximize agreement
but to test contested standpoints as critically as possible by means of systematic critical discussion of whether or
not they are tenable. In accordance with the critical-rationalistic ideal, people in this case are stimulated to be
critical by confronting other people’s standpoints methodically with a maximum of doubt. Reaching an outcome
of the discussion that is optimally satisfactory to all parties concerned certainly does not automatically mean that
the protagonists and antagonists are in the end in agreement on everything.
With a practical and realistic attitude in mind, we adopt an approach to analyzing the speciﬁc type of strategic
maneuvering under examination which clearly exploits the multiple functions of presumptive arguments. We realize
that argument assessment has to take into consideration both the critical-rationalistic and the dialectical view on
This is, however, not the only concession we are to permit ourselves in our investigation within the realm of
normative pragmatics. We have other serious limitations in realizing and unfolding our research objectives. We are
content with the results of the ﬁrst phase of our research according to which we are able to scrutinize the rhetorical acts
of presuming advanced by politicians and identify their meta-argumentative moves of re-contextualizing opponents’
presumptions with which they perform fallacious dialogue shifts functioning as rhetorical turning points in the
argumentation structure. We believe that we have put our ﬁnger on a special type of strategic maneuvering that is
inherently related to presumptive argumentation.
It will constitute an objective for us in the second phase of the research to analyze voters’ responses and
provide an analysis of the relation between politicians’rhetorical acts of presuming and voters’acquired and
shared presumptions. Such a research objective aims at establishing the relevant conditions for understanding
and explaining electors’ decisions during pre-election debates. We realize the need – as a medium-term objective
– to design a methodology by which we can obtain information on how the electors’ decisions get shaped in
a. candidates’ substantive and presumptive argumentative behavior,
b. candidates’ argumentative and rhetorical acts of presuming and
c. voters’ acquired or shared presumptions.
We are convinced that the analysis of the pre-election debate of the two candidates involved in the presidential election
of 2006 in Hungary presented below is successful in setting the initial conditions for a reliable analysis of the complex
argumentative practices affecting and inﬂuencing the outcomes of such political endeavors.
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 963
Author's personal copy
4. The analysis of a pre-election public debate
4.1. ‘‘Facts and ﬁgures’’ or ‘‘Figurative formulations’’ used as arguments
The text analyzed below is based on the ofﬁcial Hungarian transcript of the 90 minute ‘‘Gyurcsa
election television debate’’ of April 5th, 2006 in Hungary. This was the last public appearance of the two statesmen before
the ‘‘pre-election communication moratorium’’ ordered by law in the country. Participants in the debate were Ferenc
´ny, the current prime minister (CPM, in power 2004–2006) and Viktor Orba
´n, the former prime minister (FPM, in
power 1998–2002). The analysis makes use of excerpts, which were translated from Hungarian into English by the
authors. Viktor Orba
´n (FPM) is often being addressed by his opponent, Ferenc Gyurcsa
´ny (CPM) as ‘‘Mr. Chairman’’
referring to Orba
´n’s parliamentary position as chairman of the parliamentary fraction of his political party FIDESZ.
4.1.1. Setting the stage: a short background to and a summary of the debate
FPM and CPM keep comparing the achievements of their own governments during a period of 4 years for each: for
FPM (1998–2002) and for CPM (2002–2006). CPM’s party won the elections in 2002, and he became the second
prime minister of that government in 2004. They survey and compare their legislative achievements in the ﬁelds of the
‘‘Home Creation Project’’ (FPM) versus the ‘‘Nesting Project’’ (CPM), taxation reform, personal tax and VAT
brackets, incentives for SMEs, economic impact of the minimal wage, child support, energy pricing, and retirement
The debate is swept between the extremes of quoting ‘‘facts and statistical ﬁgures’’ and ‘‘narratives, anecdotal
evaluations, ﬁgurative formulations’’. Constant attempts are made on both sides to create credibility by advancing
(often in an ad hoc manner) a great variety of presumptive arguments, obviously avoiding, but presumably lacking
substantive evidence for their arguments in many cases. The presumptive arguments involve credibility-creation by
exclusivity claims about the possession of true knowledge of facts and ﬁgures or, for that matter, the exclusive
possession of true moral judgements and evaluations of the situation.
Our analysis calls attention to credential vulnerability caused by the extensive use of presumptive arguments,
which can turn into presumptuousness, and consequently, to possible loss of credibility or face. Needless to say that
such practices may create a substantial rhetorical risk for politicians.
The text of the debate is full of different types of fallacies and hedgings, together with personal reproaches and
criticisms, hints, allegations, accusations, ironical or sarcastic remarks, deliberate distortions and misinterpretations of
certain states of affairs. In our analysis we keep focused on presumptive arguments by identifying presumptions. In
few cases we may additionally indicate some obvious and closely related presuppositions or implicatures, however we
will deliberately refrain from systematically dealing with conversational implicatures or other types of indirect,
implicit meanings due to the requirements of methodological clarity and the obvious conﬁnes of the present paper.
4.2. Excerpts from the Gyurcsa
´n pre-election television debate: the identiﬁcation of presumptive
Sequence A: A1 to A8
CPM – A1
I have invited you to ‘‘a duel with numbers’’. The emphasis is on numbers, on facts and statistical ﬁgures, not on duel.
Rivalry is acceptable between opposition and government in the House of Parliament, since competition is about
whose program is better. Recently in Hungarian political life, however, we witness too many ‘‘adjectives’’ instead of
facts and ﬁgures. Hungarian political life has been dominated by anecdotes, proverbs, evaluative narratives, metaphors
and the like lately. And often times, when ﬁgures were used, they were not true. I want to propose that we discuss true
facts and ﬁgures instead, that we should dare to be exact, since it is the Country that is at stake here. Numbers are not
biased by party interests, numbers have no souls, therefore, no adjectives can be attached to them, such as
‘‘deteriorating’’, ‘‘distorted’’, ‘‘full of fear’’, worsening’’, ‘‘grim’’, ‘‘suffering’’, ‘‘shrinking’’, ‘‘decreasing’’. These are
the adjectives I have collected from your recent public speeches, Mr. Chairman. Which country are you actually
referring to with these adjectives?
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972964
Author's personal copy
[Facts and ﬁgures only can be claimed to be true and objective. A duel (rivalry) is justiﬁed if it is fought with facts and
ﬁgures about government programs, but not with adjectives and evaluating narratives. It is presumed that FPM does
not dare to be exact with numbers, instead he uses negative qualiﬁcations about the Country. However, the Country
does not deserve a negative characterization.]
[Only some people have access to, and therefore, possess authentic (exact) facts and ﬁgures about a country’s
economy, while others do not. Those who do not possess facts and ﬁgures, tend to use ‘‘narratives’’ and different
‘‘evaluating adjectives’’ instead.]
FPM – A2
I am really sorry that you hear and note only the negative things in my public speeches. I strive to say a lot of hopeful
things about the country, as Hungary is a strong country. Hungary can justly be proud of a lot of outstanding
achievements, the Hungarian people are competitive in comparison with any other peoples of the EU. We are not less
then others, and obviously some countries even feel reluctant towards us. They do not fear us for a powerful army, but
because they know that Hungarians work hard and if they get jobs abroad they will certainly show their diligence,
skills and knowledge. This is why, for example, Germany and France permit no free movement of labor for
Hungarians. I do not think there is anything wrong with the self-conﬁdence, self-esteem, skills or diligence of
Hungarians. I am appealing to you to see the situation of the country I depict with my adjectives in a more positive
[FPM thinks highly of the country’s achievements, of the people’s diligence and skills. It is to be presumed that
there is a gap between the outstanding achievements of the people and the rather negative economic state of the
[FPM’s assessment of the country’s economy is accurate since the gap between the outstanding achievements
of the people and the rather poor state of the economy can only be explained by detrimental and insufﬁcient
government policies which, in itself, is justiﬁcation for FPM’s negative evaluations concerning the country’s
CPM – A3
I agree with you. Hungarians are a talented, ﬁt-for-life people. But we – who share in the leadership of this Country,
you and I – have a responsibility to keep up the faith in this nation. The fate of the Country lies in its strength. The
strength of a country depends on its skills and knowledge and hands, but also on its faith. I do not think, Mr. Chairman,
that your adjectives depicting the achievements of the Hungarian economy are true. As I see it, Hungarian economy
has been on constant and steady rise for the past ten years. It is to be admitted that this growth cannot be distributed
evenly and justly among the people at times.
From 1995 on Hungary has shown a growth rate higher than other EU countries by 2 or 2.5 per cent every year. When
you are quoting numbers, you should not tell the people that Hungary may hope to catch up with average EU living
standard in 57–60 years. From the present growth rate it should be predictable that Hungary will reach the average
EU living standard by the end of the next decade. This brings into realistic closeness the targets of the real project:
Hungary should catch up with the rest of the EU in terms of living standards. I wish you would not quote 60 years to
the people for catching up, because the facts and ﬁgures tell us differently. Let’s dare to be exact! People should have
realistic projects. /..../ I was wrong not to realize that your and your party’s deﬁnite plan was to create a bad
atmosphere and negative attitudes to Hungary’s forecast.
Your congressional speech was an address by a party and its leader who are in full e
´lan, but this force and enthusiasm were
not used to encourage people by acknowledging: Cheers, Hungarians! You can do wonders! You have great
achievements! Go ahead! – No. You told them that we are shrinking, the situation is worse then ever before! We are in
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 965
Author's personal copy
Of course, if you are conducting a debate with the government, then you do the job of the opposition. The Government
needs an opposition, the Parliament needs an opposition too. But the Country doesnot needan opposition. Nobody should
say such negative things about the Country because politicians are bound to come and go... You may still come into
[CPM presumes that hard work always brings success. It is the diligence and hard work of Hungarian people
that have resulted in success and steady growth in the Hungarian economy of the past 10 years. CPM has the
exact (true) facts and ﬁgures, therefore, he dares to be exact (true). His ﬁgures predict a realistic (fast) improvement in
living standards within a decade as opposed to the views of FPM who predicts 60 years for catching up with EU
average living standards. The Government and the Parliament need an opposition, but the country does not need an
opposition. The country needs diligence and faith as its strength. CPM also uses an act of presuming by asserting that
economic growth that is due to the diligence of the people cannot be distributed evenly and justly among the people at
FPM – A4
Let’s not hurry things. Everything has its time.
CPM – A5
You may still come into power. But the Country is much more important than that. The Country does have
a chance, since our disputes are not really about the achievements of the Country, but about the acts and deeds of
governing, especially if our debates are solidly based on ﬁgures. You should not say that the facts and ﬁgures
are not important, as we are serving public good anyway. No, in my opinion the ﬁgures are very important! If we
agree on this, we have established a common platform on which we can discuss the right direction for future
[Debates ought to be conducted about the acts and deeds of governments and thus must be solidly based on ﬁgures.
That only can create a common platform on which to discuss the right direction for the future of the country.]
FPM – A6
/.../ I had an interesting conversation with a man in the country last week. He said he had realized that there are three
kinds of truth in Hungarian politics of today: the truth of the government, the truth of the opposition and the truth of the
people. There are ﬁgures behind the truths of the government and the opposition, and there is real life behind the truth
of the people. This is why I am convinced that we, and everyone sitting behind the television now, should listen to the
truth of real life if we want to ﬁnd out who is right. I do not believe that politicians can announce how well the economy
is functioning. I think the ultimate measure is how the people feel in their everyday lives. If they are happy and
satisﬁed, economy can be claimed to function satisfactorily.
I may propose a small exercise to anyone in this Country. Please, take a look at your electricity and gas bills from 2002,
the last bill you paid before the change of government. Look at these bills today and compare. But you can do that
comparison with your retirement slips in May 2002 and now, April 2006. I cannot believe in an economy that is
announced to function well, but the people are deeply dissatisﬁed and feel in trouble. I think today’s debate will not be
decided by the truth of the government or by that of the opposition. It will be decided, at the end of the day, by the truth
of real life and the citizens.
[The truth of the government and the opposition is secured by ﬁgures, the truth of the country is secured by ‘‘real life’’
and the feelings of the citizens. The debate is to be decided by the truth of real life and the citizens.]
[FPM claims that the people are deeply dissatisﬁed and feel in trouble, which implicates that in his view the present
government will not be voted into power again.]
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972966
Author's personal copy
CPM – A7
Mr. Chairman, you embarrass me and confuse me!
FPM – A8
That’s not bad. Not bad at all.
4.2.1. Fallacious dialogue shifts functioning as dramatic turning points in Sequence A
Both parties seem to accept the premise that diligence leads to success, however they draw very different inferences
on the basis of the very same presumption.
The debate starts off by CPM’s criticism of FPM who assumes that the current situation in Hungary is
‘‘grim’’, ‘‘suffering’’, ‘‘economy is shrinking’’, etc. which he articulates in his (anti-current-government)
political narrative. CPM rejects this assumption by advancing the presumption that facts and ﬁgures only can be
objective. In his view the numbers speak favorably for Hungary’s economy. (Presumption A1: presumption
used within a causal style of argument scheme.) Here comes the ﬁrst dramatic turning point in the argumentation.
FPM introduces another presumption about a people’s diligence and skillfulness. (Presumption A2: presumption
used within a symptomatic style of argument scheme.) Obviously, the latter presumption has little to do
directly with the previous one advanced by CPM, as it depicts the diligence and skillfulness of the people in the
country, not the economic state of the country. There is an assumption (Presupposition A2) that recent
government policies have been insufﬁcient and detrimental. However, at this point, CPM seems to want to
beneﬁt from the new argumentative turn and goes on claiming that diligence always leads to economic success and
sees the past ten years of Hungarian economy as a proof that the Hungarian people are hard working.
(Presumption A3) He uses this presumption within a causal type of argument scheme: every time a nation
works hard, the economy soon starts to develop. Now comes the second dramatic turning point in the debate.
FPM tries to beneﬁt from his opponent’s move and goes on using the very same presumption to argue
against efﬁcient government policies of the very same period. FPM claims that a nation’s diligence can be wasted
in an economically unfavorable context, such as the current and recent Hungarian economic situation for which he
blames the socialist-liberal coalition in power. We can observe a move of strategic maneuvering here as FPM
discards the causal-logical force of Presumption A3 and re-contextualizes it by advancing it as a counter-
argument within a symptomatic argument scheme. There is a twist in the argumentation when FPM suggests that
deteriorating Hungarian economy is a symptom of the diligence and self-esteem of the people being misused by
untenable government policies. This indirect argument is rather unexpected in the debate, since FPM changes the
type of the argument scheme intended by his opponent and takes the reluctance of Germany and France to give
work permits to Hungarians as a symptom of Hungarian diligence and skillfulness being wasted and badly treated
in their own country. This latter argument has no bite, however, in a debate about Hungarian economy.
In Presumption A5 CPM rectiﬁes the possible consequences of such a dialogue shift and returns to the assumption
that the topic of the debate can only be acts and deeds of the government with an objective evaluation based on facts
and ﬁgures. Thus he proposes a common platform for cooperation with the opposition. Presumption A6 rejects a
discussion based on the privileged position of the government with a privileged access to facts and ﬁgures. Instead,
FPM suggests that the truth of the people with real-life problems should be the basis of any evaluation.
Sequence B: B1 to B3
CPM – B1
You are right. The opposition has promised a decrease of personal income tax, as one of the most important issues in
the election campaign. I also understand that you feel uneasy talking about your governing time. However, you keep
evaluating the past three years of our government. In one year, electors will ﬁnd themselves in a situation in which they
are required to evaluate your government’s achievements between 1998–2002.
[Unkept promises made in election campaigns are detrimental for the party involved since citizens compare the
achievements of former governments before elections.]
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 967
Author's personal copy
FPM – B2
Are you sure that electors will make their decisions based on this comparison? Isn’t it the case rather that they will vote
after considering what difﬁculties and problems they have in their own lives, and what solutions are being offered for
these problems? Don’t you think people will vote by looking at the future?
[People vote by looking at their difﬁculties and problems and weigh future prospects.]
CPM – B3
The people know us, Mr. Chairman. They know exactly that what we say and what we are able to accomplish as leaders
of this Country, do not always coincide. What do clever people do in such cases? They will look for some ﬁrm ground.
They will say: Oh, we have these politicians here again. They say all sorts of things. They make two speeches a day.
And they keep promising things to us.
[Words of leaders and their achievements do not always coincide and (clever) people take this discrepancy simply as a
fact of life.]
4.2.2. Fallacious dialogue shifts functioning as dramatic turning points in Sequence B
In the short sequence B two opposing presumptions are confronted: either the people punish governments for
unkept promises at the time of elections or they simply judge the situation by looking at the difﬁculties in their
everyday lives and look for the promise of improvement with candidates of favorable promises. Each speech act
creates a perlocutionary effect of a tacit threat towards their opponents in advancing the presumptions identiﬁed above.
A crucial dialogue shift takes place, however, when CPM casts a cynical shade on the seriousness of the above
alternative and initiates a presumption that – after all – the speeches of politicians consist in keeping promising to the
Sequence C: C1 to C15
FPM – C1
Mr. Prime Minister, how many citizens beneﬁted from the ‘‘Home Creation’’ credit loan while we were in power? Just
for clariﬁcation, once we are discussing facts and ﬁgures!
CPM – C2
I’m afraid I know the number better, so do not quote your ﬁgure of 270,000. What we know is that exactly 45,000
‘‘Home Creation’’ credit loan agreements were signed by the end of the ﬁrst half of 2002. You are known to keep
quoting 270,000, but this ﬁgure is problematic on two grounds. 270,000 is the ﬁgure by the end of 2003, and we do not
exactly know the difference between the number of the credit loan agreements signed and the number of credit loans
actually taken out. Therefore, we quote 45,000.
[Figures cannot be interpreted in an isolated manner on their own (e.g. the number of ‘‘Home Creation’’ credit loan
agreements) – they are relative to deﬁnition, time-periods, etc.]
FPM – C3
You replaced our ‘‘Home Creation Project’’ with your ‘‘Nesting Project’’. How many citizens beneﬁted from your
project up to the present day?
CPM – C4
We did not replace yours by another project. We fundamentally restructured your system of supporting home creation.
[Terminology is crucial: a home-support project of the former government was not replaced by a new one, but it was
fundamentally restructured under a new name.]
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972968
Author's personal copy
FPM – C5
If I may ask, Mr. Prime Minister, how many citizens have beneﬁted from the actual ‘‘Nesting Project’’ up to
CPM – C6
The number will go up to 10,000 by the end of the year.
[Projected ﬁgures could also be decisive pieces of argument.]
FPM – C7
What is the number now, excuse me? Please, don’t tell me what it will be ....
CPM – C8
It soon will be 5,000.
[Figures can be ﬂexible when they refer to some future state.]
FPM – C9
By the way, our system of supporting home creation was a good system. You claim that your ‘‘Nesting Project’’
is a good thing and 5,000 citizens is not a negligible number either. But it is less than 270,000 and less then
CPM – C10
I need to say this explicitly once more: 235,000 persons took out their ‘‘Home Creation’’ credit loans after mid-2002.
We made a mistake after the change of government of stopping the process you had started too late! The result is that
the richest can beneﬁt an annual net HUF 2 million just because they had taken out a credit loan of HUF 30,000,000 or
[CPM admits after all that a high number of home creation credit loans have actually been issued, but the number is
relativized and corrupted by a claim that it was many well-to-do people who beneﬁted from the loan instead of the
FPM – C11
Of course, you are referring to the members of your own government as the rich ones having beneﬁted from the credit
loans themselves. Your statement is very true.
[Well-to-do ministers of the current government beneﬁted from the loans.]
CPM – C12
Just as some members of your former government also took the opportunity and took the credit loan out.
[Ministers from the former government beneﬁted from the loans just as well.]
FPM – C13
Can those few be considered rich? Those few former ministers? Excuse me, would you consider them ‘‘people of
[Ministers from the former government were not rich at all.]
CPM – C14
Well, look. Some of them have less wealth than you do, as one can read it in the individuals’ wealth declaration.
Therefore, I think, it’s no use playing these cards. You have a wealth of HUF 100 million or more (EUR 400,000), and
some other ministers may have HUF 300 or 400 million, maybe a billion (EUR 4,000,000).
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 969
Author's personal copy
[Ministers of both governments are known to possess wealth. CPM advances a presumption that a wealth of EUR
400.000 does not signiﬁcantly differ from a wealth of EUR 4.000.000.]
FPM – C15
Excuse me, all I wanted to underline was that it would be wrong to declare people super rich who beneﬁted from the
‘‘Home Creation Project’’ by taking out the respective credit loans. It would be wrong to say that those who took out
these credit loans belong to Hungary’s wealthiest elite. They do by no means belong to the elite group.
Presumption – C15
[People who took out loans in the framework of the ‘‘Home Creation Project’’ did not belong to Hungary’s wealthiest
Presupposition – C15
[Members of the current government belong to Hungary’s wealthiest elite, but the ministers of the former government
did not belong to such an elite group.]
4.2.3. Fallacious dialogue shifts functioning as dramatic turning points in Sequence C
Sequence C can be perceived as a series of allegations resulting in nasty accusations in the course of which frequent
acts of presuming occur. However, some presumptions that are intended and used within one particular type of
argument scheme (symptomatic, comparison or causal argument schemes) will deliberately be re-contextualized and
re-introduced as a different type of argument scheme for purposes of strategic maneuvering.
Presumptions C2–C4–C6–C8–C10 advanced by CPM constitute a remarkable attempt to produce – with a lot of
controversy and concession – a series of arguments within the symptomatic type of argument scheme to validate a
kernel presumption of the debate: either ‘‘facts and ﬁgures’’ are the only true and objective means of measuring a
country’s output or there are other means of assessment justiﬁable as well. Presumption C2 makes a concession that
facts and ﬁgures are not isolated indicators, they are relative to context and interpretation. Presumption C4 admits that
terminology licensing the use of any measurement ﬁgure is also crucial. Presumption C6 claims that projected ﬁgures
can also be decisive supports in an argument and Presumption C8 asserts that ﬁgures when projected must be allowed a
certain degree of ﬂexibility as they are forecasts after all. Presumption C10 represents a major re-contextualization of
former arguments within the symptomatic type of argument scheme into the comparison type of argument scheme.
CPM (ﬁnally) admits that the total number of home-creation credit loans taken out by the end of 2002 (the beginning of
the period of his government in power) was 235,000 persons (not 270,000 claimed by FPM or 35,000 claimed by CPM
earlier), but he assumes that this high number is relativized by the fact that well-to-do people beneﬁted from the loan
instead of the needy ones, thus securing unjust economic advantage by the home-creation loan scheme to some
The introduction of the term and qualiﬁcation ‘‘well-to-do’’ or ‘‘rich’’ for members of a government in general,
and then attributed to FPM in particular, breaks the dam of accusations loose. Presumptions C11 and C12 implicate
that members of governments on both sides beneﬁted from these home-creation credit loans. Presumption C13
assumes that FPM’s ministers who took such loans out were not rich at all. Presumption C14 claims that there is no
big difference between possessing EUR 400,000 or EUR 4,000,000 when you talk about ministers. In Presumption
C15, FPM defends his cabinet members by advancing a presumption according to which members of the current
government belong to Hungary’s wealthiest elite, but the ministers of the former government did not belong to
such an elite group. We can see at this point of the debate how reasoned argumentation may really get out of
We are not interested here in the alleged accusations. We are to point out a rhetorical turning point in the structure of the
argumentation. CPM advances Presumption C14 within a comparison type of argument scheme: there are parallels
between the ﬁnancial status of the former and current ministers and their beneﬁting from the credit loans under
discussion. FPM in Presumption C15, however, rejects the validity of the ‘‘similarity force’’ of the argument by re-
contextualizing the assumption. He turns the argument into a presumption within the symptomatic type of argument
scheme with the help of which he insists on an existing difference between the ‘‘wealth’’ possessed by former cabinet
members and the ‘‘super richness’’ of the current ones. The presumption is straightforward: members of the current
government belong to Hungary’s wealthiest elite, whereas the ministers of the former government did not belong to such
an elite group.
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972970
Author's personal copy
In this article, presumptive argumentation has been investigated and analyzed as a frequently used type of
argumentative behavior in political argumentation. After the theoretical discussions concerning the nature of
presumption and the act of presuming, excerpts from a pre-election debate were analyzed from the point of view of the
status of presumptive arguments within the overall structure of the argument under scrutiny. The analysis has shown
that presumptions have a very particular status and role in political discourse. It has been observed that presumptions
and presumptive arguments are advanced with the intention and foresight that no evidence be required in support of the
intended claims or standpoints. Most of the presumptive arguments go unchallenged, however, in some discourse
situations evidence is expected. In special cases the advancement of a new presumptive argument functions as an
avoidance of response to the challenge. Presumptive arguments have also been found to create a unique pragmatic
effect that tends to lift the obligation to provide substantive evidence for a challenged presumption.
The most interesting ﬁnding of our empirical study, however, is an account of a type of strategic maneuvering
carried out with the help of presumptive arguments. In our empirical material we have pointed out conspicuous
elements of strategic maneuvering in which discussants make fallacious dialogue shifts by rejecting the burden of
proof required by presumptions advanced by them. We have also pointed out traces or acts of illicit dialogue shifts in
which protagonists and their opponents skillfully re-contextualize presumptions by modifying or altering constitutive
pieces of background knowledge. The challenge in such dialogue shifts is the skillful subtleness of how discussants try
to make their opponents’ presumptive arguments irrelevant by re-contextualizing and re-introducing the presumptions
in question with a different argumentative force for their own argumentative beneﬁt. Although such strategies are
based on the violation of the rules of rational discussion, they succeed in establishing a new context in which
presumptions are invited to be re-validated in a new constellation of intersubjective acceptance.
We have shown that the sheer pragmatic fact of observing and acknowledging presumptions in politically decisive
rhetorical situations can explain a lot of the dynamics of public debate and argumentation. With the help of the analysis
of presumptive reasoning we are in the position to show how political actors may easily violate the rhetorical
obligations they take upon themselves as a consequence of their presumptive argumentative behavior.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the critical remarks and suggestions from two anonymous referees of the
manuscript that helped substantially improve the coherence of the arguments and better understand the mechanisms of
fallacious rhetorical shifts utilizing the re-contextualization of presumptive arguments as moves in strategic
maneuvering. The authors are solely responsible for all remaining insufﬁciencies of their paper.
Garssen, Bart, 2001. Argument schemes. In: van Eemeren, F.H. (Ed.), Crucial Concepts in Argumentation Theory. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp. 81–99.
Garssen, Bart, 2002. Understanding argument schemes. In: van Eemeren, F.H. (Ed.), Advances in Pragma-Dialectics. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp. 93–
Kauffeld, Fred J., 2003. The ordinary practice of presuming and presumption with special attention to veracity and the burden of proof. In: van
Eemeren, Frans H., Anthony Blair, van J., Willard, Charles A., Francisca Snoeck Henkemans, (Eds.), Proceedings of the Fifth Conference of
the International Society for the Study of Argumentation. SicSat, Amsterdam, pp. 603–609.
´I., 2006a. Hidden effects of presumptive arguments on argument assessment strategies. In: Considering Pragma-Dialectics: A
Festschrift for Frans H. van Eemeren on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 175–183.
´I., 2006b. Rhetorical effects of entrenched argumentation and presumptive arguments: a four-handed piece for George W. Bush and
Tony Blair. In: van Eemeren, Frans H., Hazen, Michael D., Houtlosser, Peter, Williams, David Cratis (Eds.), Contemporary Perspectives on
Argumentation: Views from the Venice Argumentation Conference. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp. 239–257.
´I., 2007. Perelman’s vision: Argumentation schemes as examples of generic conceptualization in everyday reasoning practices. In:
van Eemeren, Frans H., Anthony Blair, J., Willard, Charles, Garssen, Bart (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the International
Society for the Study of Argumentation. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp. 789–796.
Levinson, Stephen C., 2000. Presumptive Meanings. The Theory of Generalized Conversational Implicature. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Perelman, Chaim, Olbrechts-Tyteca, Lucie, 1969. The New Rhetoric. A Treatise on Argumentation. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame/
Rescher, Nicholas, 1977. Dialectics: A Controversy-Oriented Approach to the Theory of Knowledge. State University of New York Press, Albany.
Walton, Douglas N., 1987. Informal Fallacies. Towards a Theory of Argument Criticism. John Bemjamins, Amsterdam.
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972 971
Author's personal copy
Walton, Douglas N., 1995. A Pragmatic Theory of Fallacy. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Walton, Douglas, 1996. Argumentation Schemes for Presumptive Reasoning. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.
Willard, Charles A., 1983. Argumentation and the Social Grounds of Knowledge. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Van Eemeren, Frans H., 2001. Fallacies. In: Van Eemeren, F.H. (Ed.),Crucial Concepts in Argumentation Theory. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp. 135–164.
Van Eemeren, Frans H., Grootendorst, Rob, 2004. A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The Pragma-Dialectical Approach. CUP, Cambridge.
Van Eemeren, Frans H., Houtlosser, Peter, 2003. Strategic manoeuvring: William the Silent’s apologie. In: Komlo
´si, L.I., Houtlosser, P., Lee-
zenberg, M. (Eds.), Communication and Culture: Argumentative, Cognitive and Linguistic Perspectives. Sic Sat, Amsterdam, pp. 177–185.
´si is professor of theoretical and English linguistics. In his research he has contributed to the ﬁelds of cognitive lexical semantics,
inferential pragmatics, argumentation theory, discursive reasoning and political argumentation. He has extended international experience in teaching
and research and is an active founding member of the doctoral schools in linguistics at the University of Pe
´cs and the University of Debrecen,
´sis an assistant professor with a PhD in Political Science, pursuing his research interestsin the study of political cultures in post-Soviet
countries and political-economic developments in African countries. He is the founder and publisher of the Hungarian periodical Afrika tanulma
[African studies] published since 2007.
´si, I. Tarro
´sy / Journal of Pragmatics 42 (2010) 957–972972