Practical Aspects of Theoretical Reasoning

Gilbert Harman

in The Oxford Handbook of Rationality

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145397
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:
 Practical Aspects of Theoretical Reasoning

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This article distinguishes between two uses of the term “logic”: as referring either to the theory of implication or to the theory of reasoning, which are quite distinct. Reasoning is a process that can modify intentions and beliefs. To a first approximation, theoretical reasoning is concerned with what to believe and practical reasoning is concerned with what to intend to do. Practical reasoning differs from theoretical reasoning in allowing arbitrary decisions and a certain sort of wishful thinking. Practical considerations are relevant to whether to engage in theoretical inquiry into a given question, the extent of time and other resources to devote to such inquiry, and whether and when to end such inquiry. Simplicity and conservatism play a role in theoretical reasoning that can be given a practical justification without allowing wishful thinking into theoretical reasoning, a justification that can also be given a nonpractical interpretation.

Keywords: logic; theory of implication; theory of reasoning; simplicity; conservatism

Article.  4767 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Epistemology

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