University of St Andrews AHCR web site CSMN web site

The Epistemology of Logic



  Time: 29 October, 2011 - 30 October, 2011
  Location: Parliament Hall, St Andrews

Artwork by Julian Spiller

This FLC Workshop is designed to explore fundamental questions concerning the epistemology of inference, such as the following:

  • how should we explain our apparent knowledge of the validity of simple principles of inference, e.g., Modus Ponens?
  • if some basic inference patterns are concept-constituting or analytic, how can anyone rejecting such a pattern (e.g., Modus Ponens) have the very concept?
  • can we explain the phenomenon of ‘blind inference’—inference uninformed by explicit beliefs about validity, with which we regularly credit children, and perhaps intelligent animals?
  • indeed, what is inference itself?—what it is for a thinker to have inferred a particular conclusion from other beliefs, whether rightly or wrongly?

We must also ask whether the explanations needed to answer these questions are compatible with the ontological question of the validity of inference: is there an overall account which meets Peacocke’s “integration challenge” for logic?

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Derek Ball (Arche)
  • Matti Eklund (Cornell)
  • Walter Pedriali (Arche)
  • Sonia Roca-Royes (Stirling)
  • Joshua Schechter (Brown)
  • Tim Williamson (Oxford)

Workshop Programme

    Saturday 29th October

    09:00 - 09:30 Registration
    09:30 - 11:00 Convention, Logic, and the Future (abstract), Derek Ball (St Andrews)

    Convention, Logic, and the Future

    Quine famously claimed that change of logic is change of subject. Many contemporary philosophers of logic have followed him in something like this view, holding that (e.g.) the concepts implicated in various paradoxes should be abandoned and replaced. This paper advances an account of meaning according to which future use can bear on present meaning. On this view, for example, the outcome of ongoing debates about the paradoxes is in part constitutive of the meaning of "true" as presently used. Thus change of logic need result neither in change of meaning nor in change of subject. I discuss the consequences of this account of meaning for the epistemology of logic; notably, I show how logic can be both empirically revisable and in an important sense conventional and stipulative.

    11:00 - 11:30 Coffee
    11:30 - 13:00 The Justification of Basic Deductive Rules (abstract), Josh Schechter

    The Justification of Basic Deductive Rules

    13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
    14:00 - 15:30 On meeting the Integration Challenge for Logic (abstract), Sonia Roca-Royes

    On meeting the Integration Challenge for Logic

    It is increasingly common to formulate and address epistemological challenges in terms of the integration challenge. Roughly, this is the challenge of, for a given domain, providing an epistemology of how we know truths in that domain such that it is adequate for the metaphysics of that domain. The paper has two parts. In the first one I identify the elements that are putatively involved, as requirements to be satisfied, in the integration challenge. In the second part, I explore two concept-based epistemologies in different domains—Peacocke’s epistemology of modality, and Boghossian’s epistemology of logic—vis-à-vis the four elements identified in the first part. Although those cases are different, they are sufficiently similar for the exploration of one of them to inform the exploration of the other; and, more ambitiously, for those explorations to shed light on the prospects of concept-based accounts in general.

    15:30 - 16:00 Coffee
    16:00 - 17:30 On the Epistemology of Basic Belief-Forming Methods (abstract), Matti Eklund

    On the Epistemology of Basic Belief-Forming Methods

    Recently there has been an important debate over our justification in employing the basic belief-forming methods we employ, prominently the basic logical rules of inference. Here I try to get clear on what the problem is supposed to be, and along the way I criticize prominent ways in which the dialectic is set up. One of the specific suggestions I will discuss is the idea that appeal to meaning and competence can be of help in dealing with the problem. I agree with the conclusions of discussions by Enoch & Schechter and by Williamson that one cannot explain our justification by appeal to what competence involves; but for all their discussions show, there can still in principle be relevant role for appeal to competence to play, and I investigate how."

    19:00 Dinner at Playfairs Restaurant (cost tbc)

    Sunday 30th October

    09:30 -11:00 Solvitur Ambulando. Logic's Arrow and the Entry-Moves of Rationality (abstract), Walter Pedriali

    Solvitur Ambulando. Logic's Arrow and the Entry-Moves of Rationality

    Lewis Carroll's Tortoise Regress has long been the chronic Achilles' Heel of internalist accounts of justification for our claims to reflective knowledge of basic logical truths. Very roughly, the problem is that of securing warrant for a privileged class of beliefs in the absence of anything that could count as evidence for beliefs in that class, given that the demand for inferentially-grounded justification would trigger off the dreaded regress, while on the other hand reliance on non-inferential grounding would raise the issue of how to specify in sufficiently precise terms the putative phenomenon of rational insight into the basic laws of logic and inference. I explore three internalist strategies that might yield the beginning of a solution to the difficulty. They involve, respectively, i) appeal to the Tractarian conception of inference that locates the hardness of the logical `must' in the internal relations holding between the logical forms of the premises and of the conclusion (as opposed to recognition of a particular inference as an instance of a general inferential pattern deemed to be valid); ii) appeal to Sellars' regress-breaking notion of entry-move as applied to the logic language-game; and iii) appeal to the constitutive role of valid inference in the emergence of the cognate notions of reasoning, agency and rationality.

    11:00 - 11:30 Coffee
    11:30 - 13:00 Logics as Scientific Theories (abstract), Timothy Williamson

    Logics as Scientific Theories

    Logic has far more in common with other branches of science than is usually recognized. One major aim of science is to develop theories that are true, highly general, and maximally informative subject to those constraints. When the generality requirement is made precise in some natural ways, related to Tarski’s account of logical consequence, the resultant theories meet central requirements for logical systems. An appropriate methodology for choosing between different candidate theories has many similarities to the methodology for theory choice in other branches of science. This involves no reduction of logic to psychology, linguistics, or specifically natural science. The talk will be illustrated with examples from modal logic.

    13:00 - 14:00 Lunch

    Registration is free. If you wish to attend, please register your interest here and the workshop organisers will contact you in due course

    Artwork by Julian Spiller