SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Criticism against a Naturalistic Explanation of Logical Validity
(Logic, English)

From ``chess pieces are either black or white'', ``the piece is not black'', we infer by deductive logical reasoning that ``the piece is white''. How can we justify that a logical rule is indeed deductively valid? An elaborated attempt to justify deductive logical validity has been developed by Penelope Maddy (2007). Broadly speaking, she offers a naturalist solution to this justification problem of logic. Her hypothesis is that we are endowed with an ability to make valid deductive inferences. We, as cognitive species, have acquired mechanisms for retrieving true information about the world in a reliable way; making deductively valid inferences is a useful tool in that respect. The theory of natural selection and learning abilities provide the causal link between the general truths of the world and our cognition. The main aim of this talk is, however, to make a case against a naturalistic explanation of logic. I will draw from Thomas Nagel's The Last Word (1997), in which he, inter alia, takes up the case of logical reasoning and criticizes naturalistic explanations for it. There are several issues, but one crucial objection against naturalism of logic is that it is circular. Naturalistic explanations build on scientific evidence, but sciences in turn commit to or presuppose certain logical principles. I hold that this circularity is vicious. I will discuss possible strategies that a naturalist can take to avoid the circularity problem. One notable candidate is Bayesian epistemology. I will argue that such strategies will inevitability fail. I will offer a diagnosis of why a naturalistic account seems generally insufficient in the particular case of logic. Finally, I will raise the question, if naturalistic explanations are unsatisfactory, whether there even is a solution to the justification problem of logic or we should turn to scepticism about logic instead. I will speculate about possible stances or solutions to the problem of the justification of logical validity.

Chair: Stefan Forster
Time: 10:40-11:10, 14 September 2018 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.006

Mathieu Berteloot 
(KU Leuven, Leuven)

Mathieu Berteloot has obtained a MA in Literature and Linguistics from Ghent University (2010); a MA in Philosophy from KU Leuven (2017); and now is finishing a Research MA in Analytic Philosophy at KU Leuven. He is broadly interested in Analytic Philosophy, but he has been particularly focusing on topics in the Philosophy of Logic.

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