Inference has long been the concern of assorted disciplines that vary in focus, rationale, apparatus, terminology, and achievement. There would appear an inverse proportion between the range and the orderliness of the knowledge accumulated by the various disciplines. Literary study tends to the first extreme, logic and its heritage in modern pragmatics to the second, either imbalance precluding a viable account of the field or even a comprehensive research program. To have the best of the two worlds, I argue, discourse inference (hence its study) at large must be reconceived as an integrative activity: out of the wide repertoire of sense-making resources available to humans, the inferrer opts for the mechanism(s) that will best integrate the given text in or with the context. Among inference types,presupposition figures here as exemplary because it is the most encoded and determinate (vis-à-vis, say, implicature) yet also the most controversial and the most resistant on inspection to the idea of formal systematizing, whether the logico-semantic or the so-called“pragmatic” way. After fifty years of formalist sound and fury,therefore, resystematizing presupposition by appeal to the inferrer's quest for integration should also adjudicate between the respective analytic paradigms in general. Among presuppositional triggers, in turn,factivity (e.g., the verb “know”) recommends itself for paradigmatic analysis by its centrality within this inference type, as well as within language, and by its intersection with various other disciplines, from epistemology to narrative theory.
The argument starts by exposing the “dead end fallacy” that vitiates traditional approaches: they would rule out a priori, as“unacceptable/unreadable,” instances of factivity that apparently contradict themselves. Actually, such clashes abound throughout discourse, and multiple resources for integrating them emerge. Far from disabling or defeating inference, contradiction and lesser incongruities rather powerfully activate and channel it. Of the available integrative resources, again, the perspectival mechanism turns out definitionally attached to factivity as a branch of nondirect (e.g., “knew that...”) quotation. Like all discourse about discourse, it necessarily joins together the viewpoints of quoter and quotee (e.g., attributor cum presupposer and subject of“knowledge”) for us to unpack. So all disharmonies there may cohere via our distribution of the givens (epistemic attitudes included)between the partners within some quoting mold. In extreme, traditionally“dead end” cases, the inconsistent-looking factive presupposition just gets shifted to a more oblique, free indirect quotee—with appropriate changes in the quoter's epistemic bond, narrative setup, and communicative (e.g., ironic) design. By way of ultimate test, the analysis then extends to negated factivity and to nonfactive triggers. Presupposition is accordingly rede.ned as an uncancelable yet shiftable inference type. By a further extension, it typifies the shuttle among language, world, and perspective whereby we make sense of discourse, always with an eye to the best fit. As literary discourse enacts this universal quest at its most artful,pragmatics would be wise to abandon the strange gods inherited from logic and align with poetics.