40 (4):660–686 (2006
What exactly is reasoning? Like many other philosophers, I shall endorse a broadly causal conception of reasoning. Reasoning is a causal process, in which one mental event (say, one’s accepting the conclusion of a certain argument) is caused by an antecedent mental event (say, one’s considering the premises of the argument).
Just like causal accounts of action and causal accounts of perception, causal accounts of reasoning have to confront a version of what has come to be known as the problem of deviant causal chains. In this paper, I shall propose an account of the nature of reasoning, incorporating a solution to the specific version of the deviant causal chains problem that arises for accounts of reasoning. One striking feature of my solution is that it requires that certain normative facts are causally efficacious. It might be thought that this feature will make my account incompatible with any plausibly naturalistic approach to understanding the mind. I shall argue that this is not so: my account of the nature of reasoning is quite compatible with plausible versions of naturalism.