Kettle Argumentation

A co-orientation condition does not suffice to characterize a well articulated convergent argumentation; co-oriented arguments must be consistent. This is the thrust of Freud’s point in The Interpretation of Dreams [1900], in which he uses kettle argumentation as an analogue in order to interpret the content of his dream about “the injection made to Irma”. Both his dream and the following argument are incoherent defense systems putting forward good but incompatible justifications:

I noticed, it is true, that these explanations of Irma’s pains (which agreed in exculpating me) were not entirely consistent with one another, and indeed that they were mutually exclusive. The whole plea — for the dream was nothing else — reminded one vividly of the defense put forward by the man who was charged by one of his neighbors with having given him back a borrowed kettle in a damaged condition. The defendant asserted first, that he had given it back undamaged; secondly, that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it; and thirdly, that he had never borrowed a kettle from his neighbor at all. So much the better: if only a single one of these three lines of defense were to be accepted as valid, the man would have to be acquitted. (Freud [1900], p. 143-144)

The neighbor collates all the possible defensive replicas, as laid down by stasis theory. More justifications could be added, “I am not the one who holed the kettle”; “it’s really a tiny hole”, “very easy to fix” etc.