The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 11/30 - Salvador Mascarenhas

Speaker: Salvador Mascarenhas (NYU)
Title: Reasoning fallacies and treating premises as questions
Date/Time: Friday November 30, 2:10pm-3:20pm
Location: 32-D831


The capacity to reason is central to all advanced human endeavors. It is fallible, yet pushed to its limits it makes science and philosophy possible. We propose a theory of human reasoning that provides a novel view of fallacies in na ̈ıve reasoning as well as our ability to reason competently. Default reasoning treats premises as questions and maximally strong answers to them, even though premises do not superficially look like questions or answers. As reasoners try to understand each new premise as an answer to the question at hand, they overestimate the relevance and appropriateness of these “answers,” producing fallacious conclusions. Yet, systematically asking a certain type of question as we interpret each new premise allows us to reason in a classically valid way, a result we prove formally.