Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind

Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind

Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind

Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind


Gilbert Harman presents a selection of fifteen interconnected essays on fundamental issues at the centre of analytic philosophy. The book opens with a group of four essays discussing basic principles of reasoning and rationality. The next three essays argue against the idea that certain claims are true by virtue of meaning and knowable by virtue of meaning. In the third group of essays Harman sets out his own view of meaning, arguing that it depends upon the functioning of concepts in reasoning, perception, and action, by which these concepts are related to the world. He also examines the relation between language and thought. The final three essays investigate the nature of mind, developing further the themes already set out. Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind offers an integrated presentation of this rich and influential body of work.


These essays have all been previously published. I have edited them substantially, putting them into a uniform format, reducing repetition, removing some errors, and tinkering with wording.

In general, many themes are negative. There is no a priori knowledge or analytic truth. Logic is not a theory of reasoning. a theory of truth conditions is not a theory of meaning. a purely objective account of meaning or mind cannot say what words mean or what it is like to see things in colour.

Other themes are positive. Theoretical reasoning has important practical aspects. Meaning depends on how words are used to think with, that is, on how concepts function in reasoning, perception, and action. the relevant uses or functions relate concepts to aspects of the environment and other things in the world. Translation plays a central role in any adequate account of mind or meaning.

Although the essays are highly interrelated, I have somewhat arbitrarily divided them into four groups, on (1) reasoning and rationality, (2) analyticity, (3) meaning, and (4) mind. Here are brief summaries of the essays.

The first four are concerned with basic principles of reasoning and rationality.

In Essay 1, 'Rationality' I sharply distinguish logic from the theory of reasoning, reject special foundationalism in favour of general epistemological conservatism, and discuss the role in reasoning of coherence and simplicity. (Simplicity is the main topic of Essay 3.) Throughout Essay 1 I am concerned with the difference between theoretical and practical reasoning and with the role that practical considerations play in theoretical reasoning, an issue addressed further in Essay 4.

In Essay 2, 'Practical Reasoning', I argue for several conclusions. Intentions are distinct real psychological states, not mere constructs out of beliefs and desires. One intends to do something only if one believes one will do it. the various things one intends to do should be consistent with each other and with one's beliefs in the same way that one's beliefs should be consistent with each other. There is no similar consistency requirement on desires. Practical reasoning can lead one to the intention to do something only if one is justified in thinking that one's intention will lead to one's doing it. This is so for positive intentions, anyway, which are to be . . .

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