Argument From Silence

An argument from silence (also called argumentum e silentio in Latin) is generally a conclusion drawn based on the absence of evidence, rather than the existence of evidence. In the field of classical studies, it often refers to the deduction from the lack of references to a subject in the available writings of an author to the conclusion that he was ignorant of it.

Thus in historical analysis with an argument from silence, the absence of a reference to an event or a document is used to cast doubt on the event not mentioned. While most historical approaches rely on what an author's works contain, an argument from silence relies on what the book or document does not contain. This approach thus uses what an author "should have said" rather what is available in the author's extant writings.

Some scholars such as Errietta Bissa flatly state that arguments from silence are not valid. Other scholars such as David Henige state that, although risky, such arguments can at times shed light on historical events. Yifa has pointed out the perils of arguments from silence, in that although no references appear to the "Rules of purity" codes of monastic conduct of 1103 in the Transmission of the Lamp, or any of the Pure Land documents, a copy of the code in which the author identifies himself exists.

Read more about Argument From Silence:  Historical Analysis, Legal Aspects

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Famous quotes containing the words silence and/or argument:

    The holiest of all holidays are those
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    “English! they are barbarians; they don’t believe in the great God.” I told him, “Excuse me, Sir. We do believe in God, and in Jesus Christ too.” “Um,” says he, “and in the Pope?” “No.” “And why?” This was a puzzling question in these circumstances.... I thought I would try a method of my own, and very gravely replied, “Because we are too far off.” A very new argument against the universal infallibility of the Pope.
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