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date: 26 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores, defends and develops the implications of the view that rhetorical questions are often used to make assertions, albeit indirectly. After introducing the phenomenon through a variety of examples, reflecting on the philosophical significance of that phenomenon and defining several key terms, the author explains why she regards rhetorical questions as models of indirect assertion. She then presents and informally analyzes a lengthy passage from the neuroethics literature involving a series indirect assertions made by way of rhetorical questions. This is followed by a trio of arguments in defense of that analysis. These arguments involve appeals to: punctuation, “asserogatives” (questions asked indirectly by making assertions), the lying/misleading distinction, ontological parsimony, and Gricean methodology. In the conclusion section, she draws attention to, and briefly remarks on, a host of questions raised by the proposed view—questions which would need to be addressed in a more fully developed and defended account of rhetorical questions as indirect assertions.

Keywords: rhetorical questions, indirection, assertions, claims, queclaratives, asserogatives, indirect speech acts, punctuation, lying versus misleading

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