PHIL581A2 – The Logic of Reasons

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Semesters Offered:
Dustin Tucker

Classical logic is good for lots of things, but it doesn’t provide a very realistic picture of reasoning. In particular, we are frequently faced with conflicting reasons of varying strengths, and classical logic simply cannot represent this at all. This class will focus on a variety of logical systems–so-called non-monotonic logics–that attempt to capture this more realistic reasoning. We’ll look at some specific applications, probably including epistemic reasoning, deontic reasoning, and legal reasoning–information, morality, and the law are three domains where we very often have conflicting reasons of varying levels of authority. Beyond these specific applications, non-monotonic logics may be able to give us an analysis of two important but elusive concepts: what it is to be a reason and what it is for reasons to conflict. In addition to being interesting in its own right, such an analysis has been proposed as a response to moral particularism (, probably most notably defended by Jonathan Dancy.

 The class will involve a number of problem sets, plus most likely a final paper or oral report (probably your choice) on a topic we’ve discussed or a related paper from the literature on non-monotonic logic. If we can find a way to make it work, you might also lead some of the class sessions.