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burden of proof

douglas n. walton

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


The strength or weight of argument required by one side to convince the other side. The concept of burden of proof marks a balance between the competing points of view in a critical discussion, or in other adversarial types of dialogue. As more weight is gained by the argumentation of one side, its point of view is justified more strongly, and the burden of proof passes to the other side. As one side rises, the other falls, and the burden of proof passes accordingly. Recognition and use of burden of proof can be a powerful factor in reasoned persuasion. There are two main uses for the notion. The first is when, having gained a temporary advantage, we announce that the burden of proof now lies with the other side, and simply wait to see what, if anything, they produce; if nothing emerges we claim the victory, even though our own reasoning may have been far from conclusive. The second is where we attempt to claim that our own view enjoys some antecedent presumption in its favour, so that the burden of proof lies initially with our opponents. The dictates of common sense are often held to enjoy this privileged position. See also circular reasoning ; informal fallacies . : ‘ The burden of proof’ , American Philosophical Quarterly 7 ( 1970 ), 74 – 82 . : ‘ The psychological burden of proof’ , Communication Monographs 43 ( 1976 ), 115 – 29 . : Burden of proof' , Argumentation ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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