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Reasoning, rationality, and representation

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Recently, a cottage industry has formed with the goal of analyzing reasoning. The relevant notion of reasoning in which philosophers are expressly interested is fixed through an epistemic functional description: reasoning—whatever it is—is our personal-level, rationally evaluable means of meeting our rational requirements through managing and updating our attitudes. Roughly, the dominant view in the extant literature as developed by Paul Boghossian, John Broome, and others is that reasoning (in the relevant sense) is a rule-governed operation over propositional attitudes (or their contents) that results in a change in attitude (e.g., the adoption of a new belief). In this paper, I argue that our personal-level operations over mental models and visuospatial imagery, which are representations in a non-propositional/analogue format, can be rationally evaluable processes of managing our attitudes and, thus, should be considered reasoning in the relevant sense. Furthermore, I show that if reasoning can occur through operations over mental models and imagery, then the dominant rule-following account mischaracterizes (a) the cognitive operations and representational states assumed to be constitutive of reasoning and (b) what grounds the rational status of a line of reasoning.
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Synthese (2021) 198:8323–8345
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-020-02575-6
Reasoning, rationality, and representation
Wade Munroe1
Received: 27 March 2019 / Accepted: 9 February 2020 / Published online: 22 February 2020
© Springer Nature B.V. 2020
Abstract
Recently, a cottage industry has formed with the goal of analyzing reasoning. The rele-
vant notion of reasoning in which philosophers are expressly interested is fixed through
an epistemic functional description: reasoning—whatever it is—is our personal-level,
rationally evaluable means of meeting our rational requirements through managing
and updating our attitudes. Roughly, the dominant view in the extant literature as
developed by Paul Boghossian, John Broome, and others is that reasoning (in the rele-
vant sense) is a rule-governed operation over propositional attitudes (or their contents)
that results in a change in attitude (e.g., the adoption of a new belief). In this paper, I
argue that our personal-level operations over mental models and visuospatial imagery,
which are representations in a non-propositional/analogue format, can be rationally
evaluable processes of managing our attitudes and, thus, should be considered rea-
soning in the relevant sense. Furthermore, I show that if reasoning can occur through
operations over mental models and imagery, then the dominant rule-following account
mischaracterizes (a) the cognitive operations and representational states assumed to be
constitutive of reasoning and (b) what grounds the rational status of a line of reasoning.
Keywords Rationality ·Inference ·Reasoning ·Rule-following ·Representation
1 Introduction
Recently, a cottage industry has formed with the goal of analyzing reasoning, where
the relevant notion of reasoning in which philosophers are expressly interested is
fixed through an epistemic functional description: reasoning—whatever it is—is
our personal-level, rationally evaluable means of meeting our rational requirements
BWade Munroe
wemunroe@umich.edu
1Department of Philosophy and the Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science, University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor, USA
123
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... 2. Working memory is "a mental workspace that is involved in controlling, regulating, and actively maintaining relevant information" (Raghubar et al., 2010, p. 110). 3. See, my (Munroe, 2021a) for further discussion. 4. I explicitly talk of "conscious reasoning" as opposed to "System 2" or "Type 2" reasoning because, as Jonathan St B. T. Evans (2018) notes, it may not be the case that System 2 or Type 2 reasoning is always conscious. 5. Very roughly, speech planning occurs through the following tiers: The first tier -the semantic level -involves a preverbal representation of the content that is to be encoded into language. ...
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