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What Is Inference? Or the Force of Reasoning

Hlobil, Ulf (2016) What Is Inference? Or the Force of Reasoning. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Abstract What are we doing when we make inferences? I argue that to make an inference is to attach inferential force to an argument. Inferential force must be understood in analogy to assertoric force, and an argument is a structure of contents. I call this the “Force Account of inference.” I develop this account by first establishing two criteria of adequacy for accounts of inference. First, such accounts must explain why it is absurd to make an inference one believes to be bad. The upshot is that if someone makes an inference, she must take her inference to be good. Second, accounts of inference must explain why we cannot take our inferences to be good---in the sense that matters for inference---by merely accepting testimony to the effect that they are good. Next, I spell out the Force Account in detail, and I show that it meets these two criteria of adequacy. According to the Force Account, we make an inference by reflectively endorsing the inference as good. That allows us to understand in what sense inference is a self-conscious and active manifestation of reason. I then demonstrate that the account can be fruitfully applied to debates in epistemology and practical philosophy. In particular, I show that the Force Account gives us the resources to settle debates about inferential internalism and pure moral testimony.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hlobil, Ulfulh1@pitt.eduULH1
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBrandom, Robert
Committee MemberMcDowell, John
Committee MemberShaw, James
Committee MemberSetiya, Kieran
Date: 29 September 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 31 May 2016
Approval Date: 29 September 2016
Submission Date: 7 June 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 248
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: inference, reasoning, mental action, self-consciousness, moral testimony, Moorean absurdity
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2016 02:11
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:33


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