Beyond Deep Disagreement: Paralysis as a Kind of Argument Failure in Medicine

  • Erin Taylor
Keywords: Deep disagreement, argument failure, medicine, bioethics, paralysis


Deep disagreements are disagreements arising from incommensurable foundational premises. In ethics, moral values or principles constitute the foundational premises, and disagreements about them are a recognized cause of argument failure. This article proposes an additional cause of argument failure that I call paralysis. Paralysis takes place in decision-making contexts when interlocutors may agree about foundational moral values and principles, but cannot formulate arguments for decisions that are satisfactory even by their own lights. Thus, paralysis is a cause of argument failure distinct from deep disagreement. I first describe a biomedical case manifesting paralysis, where interlocutors attempted to construct arguments for the use of genetically-modified mosquitoes to address the problem of malaria in Africa. Using this scenario as an example, I identify the phenomenon of paralysis, articulate some of the causes of paralysis, and suggest the possibility of making rational progress when confronted with paralysis.


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How to Cite
Taylor, E. (1) “Beyond Deep Disagreement: Paralysis as a Kind of Argument Failure in Medicine”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 12(1). Available at: (Accessed: 20May2024).