The Logic of Ordinary Language

Gilbert Harman

in Common Sense, Reasoning, and Rationality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195147667
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785865 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science (formerly Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science)

 The Logic of Ordinary Language

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This chapter considers whether there is a naive or folk logic of ordinary language, a set of principles that plays the same role in our understanding and use of language as, say, the principles naive physics play in our understanding of the everyday world. A distinction is made between true logical and nonlogical principles: the truth of the former is a matter of their form, while the truth of the latter is a matter of their content. It is argued that logical principles can inform a reasoner about the acceptability of an argument's structure but not how the argument is to be assembled or even whether the argument's conclusion should warrant a change in belief state. It is also argued that a (loose) logic of ordinary language embodies our commonsense knowledge about language and how we use it to reason and speak fluidly about what is known in the world and what is said about the world.

Keywords: inference; change in view; knowledge rule; truth; form grammar

Chapter.  5209 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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