(1) This paper is about how to build an account of the normativity of logic around the claim that logic is constitutive of thinking. I take the claim that logic is constitutive of thinking to mean that representational activity must tend to conform to logic to count as thinking. (2) I develop a natural line of thought about how to develop the constitutive position into an account of logical normativity by drawing on constitutivism in metaethics. (3) I argue that, while (...) this line of thought provides some insights, it is importantly incomplete, as it is unable to explain why we should think. I consider two attempts at rescuing the line of thought. The first, unsuccessful response is that it is self-defeating to ask why we ought to think. The second response is that we need to think. But this response secures normativity only if thinking has some connection to human flourishing. (4) I argue that thinking is necessary for human flourishing. Logic is normative because it is constitutive of this good. (5) I show that the resulting account deals nicely with problems that vex other accounts of logical normativity. (shrink)
Many philosophers suppose that sometimes we think we are saying or thinking something meaningful when in fact we’re not saying or thinking anything at all: we are producing nonsense. But what is nonsense? An account of nonsense must, I argue, meet two constraints. The first constraint requires that nonsense can be rationally engaged with, not just mentioned. In particular, we can reason with nonsense and use it within that-clauses. An account which fails to meet this constraint cannot explain why nonsense (...) appears meaningful. The second constraint requires that nonsense does not express thoughts. An account which fails to meet this constraint undercuts the critical force of the concept of nonsense. I offer an account which meets both constraints. The central idea is that to be under the illusion that some nonsense makes sense is to enter a pretence that the nonsense is meaningful. (shrink)
A legal fiction is a knowingly false assumption that is given effect in a legal proceeding and that participants are not permitted to disprove. I offer a semantic pretence theory that shows how fiction-involving legal reasoning works.
I offer a new reconstruction of Hegel’s criticism of Kant’s idealism. Kant held that we impose categorial form on experience, while sensation provides its matter. Hegel argues that the matter we receive cannot guide our imposition of form on it. Contra recent interpretations, Hegel’s argument does not depend on a conceptualist account of perception or a view of the categories as empirically conditioned. His objection is that given Kant’s dualistic metaphysics, the categories cannot have material conditions for correct application. This (...) leads to subjectivism in the content of experience: the subject is given an implausibly strong role in determining what is the case. Hegel’s own absolute idealism solves this problem. (shrink)
What is the relation of logic to thinking? My dissertation offers a new argument for the claim that logic is constitutive of thinking in the following sense: representational activity counts as thinking only if it manifests sensitivity to logical rules. In short, thinking has to be minimally logical. An account of thinking has to allow for our freedom to question or revise our commitments – even seemingly obvious conceptual connections – without loss of understanding. This freedom, I argue, requires that (...) thinkers have general abilities to respond to support and tension among their thoughts. And these abilities are constituted by following logical rules. So thinkers have to follow logical rules. But there isn’t just one correct logic for thinking. I show that my view is consistent with logical pluralism: there are a range of correct logics, any one of which a thinker might follow. A logic for thinking does, however, have to contain certain minimal principles: Modus Ponens and Non-Contradiction, and perhaps others. We follow logical rules by exercising logical capacities, which display a distinctive first-person/third-person asymmetry: a subject can find the instances of a rule compelling without seeing them as instances of a rule. As a result, there are two limits on illogical thinking. First, thinkers have to tend to find instances of logical rules compelling. Second, thinkers can’t think in obviously illogical ways. So thinking has to be logical – but not perfectly so. When we try to think, but fail, we produce nonsense. But our failures to think are often subjectively indistinguishable from thinking. To explain how this occurs, I offer an account of nonsense. To be under the illusion that some nonsense makes sense is to enter a pretence that the nonsense is meaningful. Our use of nonsense within the pretence relies on the role of logical form in understanding. Finally, while the normativity of logic doesn’t fall directly out of logical constitutivism, it’s possible to build an attractive account of logical normativity which has logical constitutivism as an integral part. I argue that thinking is necessary for human flourishing, and that this is the source of logical normativity. (shrink)