Following up my previous post I came across another interesting discussion of the argument from silence. Since I am among those who have compared the argument from silence to the Sherlock Holmes’s famous inference from the dog that did not bark and even spoken of such a nonauditory argument as deafening, after reading Mike Duncan’s discussion I feel as if my presentation of such an argument in the past has lacked finesse. Mike Duncan has made his article publicly available on Academia.edu:
The Curious Silence of the Dog and Paul of Tarsus: Revisiting The Argument from Silence
The following is from Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. The Case for a Mythical Jesus by Earl Doherty.
What conclusions can be drawn from silence? Is the “argument from silence” valid? It depends on certain factors. We need to ask: how compelling to the writer would the subject have been? Does what he is saying invite a natural, even inevitable reference to the subject, whether in passing or as an integral part of his argument? If, for example, a Christian writer is urging a certain course of action upon his readers, and the founder of the movement was known to have taught that very thing, this should almost guarantee that the writer would quote the founder, or mention that he had so taught, to lend weight and persuasion to his argument. In other words, the more we have reason to expect that something would be mentioned and yet it is not, the more we are entitled to conclude from the silence that the subject is not known to the writer.
If that strange and unexpected silence extends to many different writers and many documents, indeed to all writers and documents available from that period, if it extends to a multitude of elements on the subject, the greater becomes the evidential force of that silence. If the silence covers every single element, the conclusions to be drawn become compelling. Continue reading “The Argument from Silence”