Logic and Reasoning: do the facts matter?

Had a read of Logic and reasoning: do the facts matter? by Johan van Benthem. Covers much ground in a short space but I found it thought provoking. Here’s a quick sketch of the bits I liked.

Van Benthem mentions the anti-psychologism stance, briefly the idea that human practice cannot tell us what correct reasoning is. He contrasts Frege’s view with that of Wundt; the latter, he argues, was too close to practice; Frege was too far. He argues that if logics were totally inconsistent with real practice then they’d be useless.

Much logic is about going beyond what classical logic has to offer and is driven by real language use. Van Bentham cites Prior’s work on temporal structure, Lewis and Stalnaker’s work on comparative orderings of worlds, work on generalised quantifiers which was driven by the mess of real language and for instance produced formalisations of quantifiers like most and few. Generally, van Bentham argues, “one needs to move closer to the goal of providing more direct and faithful mathematical renderings of what seem to be stable reasoning practices.” You want your logic to be more natural, closer to the phenomena. Conceptions of mathematical logic were driven by the terms that appeared in rigorous proofs, so the linguistic stuff is just widening the set of practices that are modelled.

Correctability in a logic is more important than correctness, he argues. This is consistent with the goals of the non-monotonic logic crowd I know and love. I find this most interesting when looking at individual differences in reasoning processes: perhaps a correctability dimension is out there somewhere, if only we could measure it and its correlates. I have some ideas—stay tuned.

Divergences from competence criteria, he argues, suggest new practices. I still see many papers in which people are scored against classical logic. Failure should cause an attempt to work out what practice is being followed by a person rather than the more common concern of what went wrong and how we could bring people back.

Much more in this little paper…


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