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Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is always on the assertion. That is, to the degree that an argument rests on some premise, to complete the argument requires establishing the premise. Failing to take on the burden of proof will mean convincing only those who already agree.

One can assume a premise as obvious, and the relative importance of that premise to the argument is the degree to which the argument employs the fallacy of Begging the Question or circular reasoning.

In most cases, we use informal logic (in essays or scientific writing) to convince the reader of some case we are building. To convince all readers, we must be sure that all readers accept all of our premises, or we dismiss those readers who do not accept our premises.

Some assumed premises are left unstated: if the world continues to revolve, if the area of a circle really does equal πr2, and so on. Depending on audience, subject matter, skill of the arguer, and how important a premise is to an argument, it may be left unstated or it may require extensive proof, or anything in between.

In political or theological debates, it is quite common for an argument to be built on an entire unstated framework of belief. Here again, to complete the argument requires establishing the premises.

See also Shifting the Burden