Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science

By Edward Stein | Go to book overview

2
Competence

INChapter 1, I described the rationality thesis as the view that human reasoning competence matches the normative principle of reasoning. This way of characterizing the rationality thesis draws the idea of competence from linguistic theory. In Section 1 of this chapter, I will discuss the notion of linguistic competence with an eye towards whether an analogous notion of competence can be developed in the realm of reasoning. Along the way, I will discuss related theses in contemporary linguistic theory; these details will be useful to the rest of this inquiry. In Section 2, I discuss the nature of human reasoning competence.


1. Language

1.1. Linguistic Knowledge

A language is an abstract system that relates signals (for example, in particular contexts, certain-shaped collections of ink, certain sounds, or certain hand gestures) to meanings. Linguistics is the study of human languages. As characterized by contemporary linguists working in the paradigm of cognitive science, the central project of linguistics is to develop an account of the linguistic knowledge of humans. 1 By linguistic knowledge, I do not mean knowledge in the sense that I know how much an electron weighs and I do not mean knowledge in the sense of having conscious beliefs. Further, by knowledge of language, I mean something more than the capacity to speak a language. My

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1
See Noam Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax ( Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1965); Reflections on Language ( New York: Random House, 1975); Rules and Representations ( New York: Columbia University Press, 1980); Language and Problems of Knowledge ( Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980); and Knowledge of Language ( New York: Praeger, 1986). By focusing on Chomskian linguistics, I am painting a skewed picture of the discipline of linguistics. Many practising linguists do not concern themselves with the questions that Chomsky focuses on (for example, some of them do much less abstract work) and some of those who do disagree with Chomsky. To be more precise, instead of using just the term 'linguistics', I should say 'Chomskian linguistics' or 'generative linguistics' throughout.

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Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • I- Introduction 1
  • 2- Competence 37
  • 3- Psychological Evidence 79
  • 4- Charity 111
  • 5- Reflective Equilibrium 137
  • 6- Evolution 172
  • 7- The Standard Picture 214
  • 8- Conclusion 266
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 291
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