Reasoning, Rules and the Normativity of Logic

May 25, 2020 - May 26, 2020
Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University

Dalarnas Hus, Vasagatan 46
Stockholm 11120

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  • Riksbankens Jubileumsfond


University of Sussex
Utrecht University
Stockholm University
Stockholm University
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Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
CUNY Graduate Center
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University of Stirling


University of Sussex
Stockholm University

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It is natural to think that logic is normative for reasoning, that logic comprises rules that guide reasoning, and that reasoning consists in following logical and other epistemic rules. However, these hypotheses give rise to a host of issues. One issue concerns what rule following and hence reasoning consists in. In his influential discussion of Wittgenstein’s rule following considerations, Saul Kripke presented a dilemma for the rule following conception of reasoning: on the one hand, being disposed to act in accordance with a rule is neither necessary nor sufficient for following it. On the other hand, any account of rule following that requires acceptance of a rule gives rise to an infinite regress, since acting on the basis of one’s acceptance of a rule necessarily involves rule following. Another issue concerns whether it is possible to know a general rule of reasoning such as Modus Ponens (MP). One lesson that is frequently drawn from Lewis Carroll’s parable of Achilles and the Tortoise is that it is difficult to see how one might justify MP without making circular reference to it in one’s justification. Yet, if MP cannot be non-circularly justified, it seems it cannot be known. A third issue is the ‘adoption problem’, originally articulated by Kripke in an unpublished lecture, which concerns whether it is possible to adopt a general rule such as Universal Instantiation (UI), since one cannot so much as understand what it is to adopt such a rule without already having adopted it. These issues call into question the status of the hypotheses with which we began: is logic normative for reasoning after all? Or is the relation of logic to the norms of reasoning less direct, inherited from broader epistemic norms, goals, or values? Is reasoning essentially a matter of rule following or is it to be understood in some other way? And should knowledge of logic be understood as knowledge of rules?

Registration is free, but spaces are limited. Please register by emailing Anna Petronella Foultier ([email protected]) by the 22nd of May. Please indicate if you will attend on the 25th, 26th or both days. There will be a social event for all registered participants on the evening of the 26th of May (details TBC).

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May 22, 2020, 1:00pm CET

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Jaakko Reinikainen

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