Reasoning, Normativity, and Experimental Philosophy

American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (2):151 - 163 (2012)
The development of modern science, as everybody knows, has come largely through naturalizing domains of inquiry that were historically parts of philosophy. Theories based on mere speculation about matters empirical, such as Aristotle‟s view about teleology in nature, were replaced with law-based, predictive explanatory theories that invoked empirical data as supporting evidence. Although philosophers have, by and large, applauded such developments, inquiry into normative domains presents a different set of problems, and there is no consensus about whether such an inquiry can be naturalized. Since the early twentieth century, attempts at naturalizing ethics have been at the center of heated debates, and later attempts at naturalizing epistemology triggered similarly contentious disputes. In ethics, of course, it was not only the Humean and Moorean arguments of early nonnaturalists and noncognitivists that raised doubts about naturalism, but also the arguments of nihilists, who later joined the chorus of criticism, rejecting any ontology that would countenance moral properties and facts. In epistemology, Quinean eliminativism brought reactions that questioned the consistency of naturalism and asked whether it could accommodate the normativity of fundamental epistemic notions such as belief and knowledge. There have so far been no similarly substantial reactions to attempts at naturalizing inquiry into another normative domain, that of reasoning. We hope to remedy that by offering 1 here a response to some recent efforts by experimental philosophers. Experimentalism about reasoning is a radical naturalistic program that rejects reflective-equilibrium accounts of the epistemic grounds for the rules of inference. If we ignore other attempts at justifying those rules a priori by, for instance, appeal to self-evidence, then those invoking Goodmanian reflective equilibrium can be considered the standard analytic accounts (hereafter, „SAA‟). Of concern here is an objection to SAA, the cognitive-diversity argument,1 that is part of a broader experimentalist critique of analytic epistemology..
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