Cognitive Science Lunchtime Talk - Brett Karlan

Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Peretsman Scully Hall - Room 101

Abstract: The study of reasoning is a central feature of both epistemology and cognitive psychology, but the amount of overlap between discussions in these two disciplines is minimal. Epistemologists tend to conceive of reasoning as an active, rationally ideal way of transitioning between mental states using deductive or probabilistic rules. Cognitive psychological work on reasoning, on the other hand, tends to consider reasoning to be a mostly passive phenomenon where subjects use heuristical rules to maximize the cost-efficiency of their thinking. Often explicit in discussion sections of these latter papers is the charge that the traditional picture of reasoning, so favored by epistemologists, is both descriptively inadequate and normatively implausible. In this talk, I (an epistemologist by training) aim to take the psychological challenge to epistemic theories of reasoning seriously. I will consider (a) whether the two fields are merely talking past each other, (b) whether there are good arguments for jettisoning the traditional picture of reasoning wholesale, and (c) whether some kind of compromise is possible. I will argue, contra many epistemologists, that the cognitive psychology of reasoning does present a genuine challenge to our theories of reasoning. I will also argue, contra some psychologists of reasoning, that these empirical results are best thought of as offering modifications to, rather than reasons to complete reject, a suitably modest epistemology of reasoning.