Evaluative and Explanatory Reasoning

Evaluative and Explanatory Reasoning

Evaluative and Explanatory Reasoning

Evaluative and Explanatory Reasoning


This volume is a culmination of years of development, and the first to introduce the concepts of superoptimum evaluative and explanatory reasoning. Nagel's new Quorum book will help academic and practicing attorneys in two important ways. By understanding evaluative reasoning, they will gain a better grasp of the appropriate behavior to be adopted to achieve desired goals, and by understanding explanatory reasoning, they will learn why decisions are reached through the hypothesizing of goals or the causal perceptions of decision makers.


The essence of evaluative reasoning can be expressed in the form of a simple syllogism with a normative premise, an empirical premise, and a prescriptive conclusion. the normative premise takes the form, " Y is good." the empirical premise takes the form, "X causes Y." the prescriptive conclusion says, "Therefore adopt X." a definition of evaluative reasoning might therefore be reasoning that relates to drawing prescriptive conclusions about what a society, an individual, or other entity should do in light of the entity's goals and its perceptions of the relations between various alternatives and those goals.

The essence of explanatory reasoning can also be expressed in the form of a simple syllogism. the initial premise indicates what decision has been reached. One or more subsequent premises or items of information may indicate something about the goals or perceptions of the decision-maker. the conclusion offers an explanation of why the decision-maker reached the decision in light of those premises. Since the subsequent premises can relate to either goals or perceptions, one can classify explanatory syllogisms in terms of whether they draw conclusions about the decision-maker's goals or perceptions, or both.

In order to be more concrete with explanatory reasoning, one can start with an initial premise of the form, "X has been adopted," followed by "The decision-maker likes Y as a goal." the logical conclusion to be deduced is that "The decision-maker probably perceives that X will cause Y." the other form starts with "X has been adopted," followed by "The decision-maker perceives that X causes Y." It is then logical to deduce that "The decision- maker probably likes Y."

Those three syllogisms fit many situations. in reality, however, one nor-

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