PHIL 551 - Topics in Philosophy of Linguistics
Section: 001 Language and Natural Reasoning
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

In this seminar, we will explore the relation between language and higher-cognition through the lens of one of its most fascinating and increasingly well-understood interfaces: that between language and ‘natural logic’, i.e., the component of the mind that governs reason and inference. Recently, some linguists have argued that key properties of natural languages--e.g., the distributions of determiners, quantificational phrases (Fox 2000, Fox & Hackl 2006, Gajewski 2002, 2009, Chierchia 2006, 2013) and verbs expressing mental attitudes (Abrusan 2015, Fox 2016), certain kinds of ‘pragmatic’ inferences (Fox 2006, Chierchia 2013), and the intuitive truth-conditions of generic sentences (Leslie 2007, 2008)--can only or best be explained if we hold that the language system has access to an automatic, unconscious system of reasoning. In this seminar, we will examine this work as a gateway to explore foundational issues about the interface between language and reasoning. We will also explore the consequences of the view that language includes a system of unconscious reasoning for the psychology of bias, judgment and decision-making.

The questions we will discuss include:

  1. Is there such a thing as a `natural logic’?
  2. Is this system domain general or does it consist of modular subsystems?
  3. Does the inferential system of language have access to general beliefs/information?
  4. What, if any, components of this system are innate?
  5. Is the view that language includes a system of natural reasoning a conservative development of Chomsky’s Minimalist Program?
  6. Is the natural logic used by language normatively acceptable, or does it generate some systematic patterns of biased or incorrect reasoning?
  7. Does this view of language shed new light on alleged biases of reasoning such as the Conjunction Fallacy and the various biases manifested in the use of generic sentences?

PHIL 551 - Topics in Philosophy of Linguistics
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
M 1:00PM - 3:30PM
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