Deontic norms, deontic reasoning, and deontic conditionals

Thinking and Reasoning 14 (4):305 – 341 (2008)
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Deontic reasoning is thinking about whether actions are forbidden or allowed, obligatory or not obligatory. It is proposed that social norms, imposing constraints on individual actions, constitute the fundamental concept for the system of these four deontic modalities, and that people reason from such norms flexibly according to deontic core principles. Two experiments are presented, one on deontic conditional reasoning, the other on “pure” deontic reasoning. Both experiments demonstrate people's high deontic competence and confirm the proposed representational and inferential principles. Experiment 1 additionally shows small effects of the conditional formulations. These findings support the dual source approach (Beller & Spada, 2003) that distinguishes between domain-specific and domain-general inferences. Implications for other theories of deontic reasoning are discussed



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