Reflective Naturalism

Synthese 203 (13):1-21 (2023)
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Here I will develop a naturalistic account of epistemic reflection and its significance for epistemology. I will first argue that thought, as opposed to mere information processing, requires a capacity for cognitive self-regulation. After discussing the basic capacities necessary for cognitive self-regulation of any kind, I will consider qualitatively different kinds of thought that can emerge when the basic capacities enable the creature to interiorize a form of social cooperation. First, I will discuss second-personal cooperation and the kind of thought that emerges from its interiorization. Then, I will discuss third-personal cooperation and the kind of thought that emerges from its interiorization. We will see that epistemic reflection is the interiorized version of interpersonal argumentation, which is the epistemic component of third-personal cooperation. In developing this account, I will draw heavily on the work of Michael Tomasello and other cognitive scientists advocating the “social intentionality hypothesis”. However, I will show how work done in the defeasible reasoning tradition can provide us with a deeper explanation of some claims made by advocates of the social intentionality hypothesis. Additionally, we will see that work done on social intentionality can help us better understand the significance of knowledge and justification as understood by the defeasible reasoning tradition. We will see that the social intentionality hypothesis and the defeasible reasoning tradition are mutually illuminating. By drawing equally on both, I will provide a novel account of the foundations of knowledge.

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Spencer Paulson
Northwestern University

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