The Sense of Natural Meaning in Conscious Inference

In T. Breyer & C. Gutland (eds.), Phenomenology of Thinking. Routledge. pp. 97-115 (2016)
The paper addresses the phenomenology of inference. It proposes that the conscious character of conscious inferences is partly constituted by a sense of meaning; specifically, a sense of what Grice called ‘natural meaning’. In consciously drawing the (outright, categorical) conclusion that Q from a presumed fact that P, one senses the presumed fact that P as meaning that Q, where ‘meaning that’ expresses natural meaning. This sense of natural meaning is phenomenologically analogous, I suggest, to our sense of what is said in fluently comprehending everyday utterances in our first language. The proposal that conscious inference involves a sense of natural meaning is compared with views according to which conscious inference involves taking the premises (i) to be good reasons for the conclusion (as defended by Thomson and Grice), (ii) to support it (as argued by Audi and, recently, Boghossian), or (iii) to imply it (as lately contended by Broome). I argue our proposal can explain certain phenomena handled by alternatives (i) and (ii), but that some further phenomena is handled by our account but not these alternatives. In relation to alternative (iii), I argue that, in so far as implicational and natural-meaning relations come apart, the latter are a better fit for what we sense or take to be so in conscious inference.
Keywords Inference  Conscious thought  Cognitive phenomenology  Natural meaning
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