Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
Content, Context, and Logical Form
19 February 2020, 11:00
Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa
Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)
Abstract: Judgments about the validity of at least some elementary inferential patterns (say modus ponens) are a priori if anything is. Yet a number of empirical conditions must in each case be satisfied in order for a particular inference to instantiate this or that inferential pattern. We may on occasion be entitled to presuppose that such conditions are satisfied (and the entitlement may even be a priori), yet only experience could tell us whether this was indeed the case. Hence a peculiar vulnerability of our capacity to recognize logical form: whenever content is (no matter to what extent) context-dependent, logical form is apt to evade recognition. That fact has rightly been perceived as a source of incompatibility between anti-individualism (or content externalism) and first person authority. I argue that, no matter whether anti-individualism is true, empirical assumptions will often underlie judgments about the logical form of inferences, thus making it the case that such judgments are defeasible in the face of contrary empirical evidence. I argue further that such assumptions should not be construed as tacit premises in enthymematic reasoning. I round off the discussion offering a characterization, which draws on Wittgenstein’s treatment of so-called ‘hinge propositions’, of the peculiar status of such empirical assumptions.