The Case for Psychologism in Default and Inheritance Reasoning

Synthese 146 (1-2):7-35 (2005)
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Abstract

Default reasoning occurs whenever the truth of the evidence available to the reasoner does not guarantee the truth of the conclusion being drawn. Despite this, one is entitled to draw the conclusion “by default” on the grounds that we have no information which would make us doubt that the inference should be drawn. It is the type of conclusion we draw in the ordinary world and ordinary situations in which we find ourselves. Formally speaking, ‘nonmonotonic reasoning’ refers to argumentation in which one uses certain information to reach a conclusion, but where it is possible that adding some further information to those very same premises could make one want to retract the original conclusion. It is easily seen that the informal notion of default reasoning manifests a type of nonmonotonic reasoning. Generally speaking, default statements are said to be true about the class of objects they describe, despite the acknowledged existence of “exceptional instances” of the class. In the absence of explicit information that an object is one of the exceptions we are enjoined to apply the default statement to the object. But further information may later tell us that the object is in fact one of the exceptions. So this is one of the points where nonmonotonicity resides in default reasoning.

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