Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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The Normativity of Logic (5-6 October 2022)

Idea & Motivation

The normative role of logic has been one of the main topics of discussion in the philosophy of logic of the last decades. Many authors claim that logic is not normative in any substantive sense. On the other hand, even among those who defend the normativity of logic, there is a broad range of positions regarding in which way(s) logic can be normative.

In this workshop we will discuss these issues and related ones. We invite authors to submit abstracts on the following topics (although the list is not exhaustive):

  • Is logic normative?
  • Is the normativity of logic best captured via so-called bridge principles?
  • What is the relation between logic and reasoning? Is reasoning guided by logical rules?
  • Do logical norms commit us to certain theories of rationality?
  • Does logic have a special normative role in social, argumentative practices?
  • Is logical pluralism compatible with logic being normative?
  • Is logical anti-exceptionalism compatible with logic being normative?



October 5
10:00-11:00 Claire Field: Being Wrong about Logic Ludwigstr. 33, room 144
11:00-11:20 Coffee Break
11:20-12:05 Sofia Arbeiter: Validity as a Thick Concept
12:05-12:15 Short Break
12:15-13:00 Dustin Gooßens: Can Relativism save Logical Pluralism from the Normativity Objection?
13:00-14:30 Lunch
14.30-15:15 Rachel Boddy: The role of bridge principles Schellingstr. 3 (rear building), R203
15:15-15.25 Short Break
15:25-16:10 Matteo De Benedetto and Alessandra Marra: Sound and Feasible Reasoning: A multi-factor approach to the normativity of logic
16:30-17:15 Nader Shoaibi: Coherence, Conflict, and Epistemic Tragedies (Zoom)
19:00 Conference Dinner
October 6 Ludwigstr. 33, room 144
10:00-11:00 Filippo Ferrari: Logic is minimally intrinsically normative
11:00-11:20 Coffee Break
11:20-12:05 Diego Tajer: A dual theory of logical normativity
12:05-12:15 Short Break
12:15-13:00 Miriam Bowen: Indeterminacy and Rational Belief
13:00-14:30 Lunch
14:30-15:30 Anandi Hattiagandi: Deductive Reasoning without Rule Following
15:30-15:50 Coffee Break
15:50-16:50 Ben Martin: The normative force of invalidity

Invited Abstracts

Being Wrong about Logic (Claire Field, University of Stirling)
Is it possible to be rationally mistaken about logic? Defenders of the Fixed Point Thesis (e.g. Titelbaum 2015) have thought not, and argued that it is always irrational to have false beliefs about what is rationally required. If there is a logic that encodes the laws of rational thought, does this imply that mistakes about logic cannot be rational? I distinguish this question from a structurally similar one about non-logical requirements of rationality, and show how answering it depends on how we individuate normative domains. I argue for a distinctive form of anti-exceptionalism, normative anti-exceptionalism, according to which theorizing about logic is continuous with other normative theorizing. One upshot of this is that rational theorizing about logic sometimes demands a degree of level-incoherence.

Logic is minimally intrinsically normative (Filippo Ferrari, University of Bologna)
Three are the aims of this talk. The first is taxonomical: by relying on some work done by MacFarlane (2004), Steiberger (2018), and Ferrari (2021), I will distinguish between several questions we may ask about the normativity of logic in relation to reasoning. I will then focus primarily on what I call the source question, namely the question about what's the ultimate source of the normative function that logic is taken to exert on reasoning. With this in hand, I'll turn to my second aim which will be to discuss and critically assess some extrinsicist replies to the source question according to which the source of the normative function that logic exerts on reasoning is wholly external to the nature of logic (and the relation of logical consequence). Last, as my third aim, I will briefly and tentatively advance an intrinsicst reply to the source question. I will argue that there is a distinctive albeit minimal kind of logical normativity which is ultimately sourced in the relation of logical consequence itself.

Deductive Reasoning without Rule Following (Corine Besson [University of Sussex] and Anandi Hattiagandi [University of Stockholm])
According to a widely held view, deductive reasoning necessarily involves rule-following. In this paper, we present an objection to this view that is inspired by the ‘adoption problem’ that Kripke puts forward in ‘The Question of Logic’. Though Kripke’s official target in this paper is the anti-exceptionalism about logic associated with Putnam and Quine, we argue that it has a broader significance, and that one of the lessons that can be drawn from this problem is that it must be possible to reason deductively without rule following. Finally, we sketch a picture of how to reason without following rules.

The normative force of invalidity (Ben Martin, University of Padua and University of Bergen)
It has recently been proposed in the literature that logical invalidity places normative constraints upon our reasoning. While logical validity provides us with guidance for how we can or should reason, logical invalidity in contrast places negative normative constraints upon our reasoning, informing us how we ought not to reason. In this talk we highlight significant problems with the proposal based on important disanalogies between logical validity and invalidity. It’s concluded that, at most, logical invalidity communicates a lack of positive reasons to infer based upon logical considerations. Further, this lack of positive reasons only constitutes a negative reason against inferring when combined with the lack of positive reasons from other inferential sources. At best, then, logical invalidity communicates to reasoners a message of “buyer beware”.

Contributed Abstracts

Validity as a Thick Concept (Sofia Arbeiter, University of Pittsburgh)
This paper presents a novel position in the philosophy of logic: I argue that validity is a thick concept. Hence I propose to consider validity in analogy to other thick concepts, such as honesty, selfishness or justice. This proposal is motivated by the debate on the normativity of logic: while logic textbooks seem simply descriptive in their presentation of logical truths, many have argued that logic has consequences for how we ought to reason, for what we ought to believe, or for what we ought to infer. How can logic be normative, if it appears to be descriptive? According to the proposal of this paper, the normativity of logic can be explained because a thick concept is in play: validity. Thus I argue that the debate on how to best characterize validity and the debate on logic’s normativity are more connected than we think, because validity is a thick concept.

Can Relativism save Logical Pluralism from the Normativity Objection? (Dustin Gooßens, University of Bochum)
The normativity objection (collapse problem) is one of the strongest arguments against logical pluralism. It shows that the connection between logic and normative principles obliges epistemic subjects to always opt for the strongest logic, thus resulting in a collapse of pluralism into monism. Some authors suggest that relativism about logic can save pluralism from this objection. In this talk, different proposals of logical relativists will be assessed in their ability to preserve a logical pluralism worth having. Only relativism that takes logic to be relative to domains of discourse turns out to avoid all relevant problems in reconciling logical pluralism and the normativity of logic.

The role of bridge principles (Rachel Boddy, University of Utrecht)
Logic has traditionally been viewed as a normative discipline, in the sense that it tells us how we ought to think. Recently, however, this view has been resisted in the literature, based on the observation that logical laws express descriptive claims about logical validity and are, as such, not about reasoning. Following the discussion of Harman (1986) and MacFarlane (2004), this point is usually taken to show that to support the view that there are logical norms for reasoning, what is needed is an adequate bridge principle connecting facts about logical validity to such norms. As such, a bridge principle is intended to explain how truths of logic translate to norms for reasoning.
On this approach, bridge principles are stated in terms of the semantic consequence relation “⊨”, rather than in terms of inference rules. What is neglected in this discussion, however, is a consideration of rules of inference. Prima facie, this is surprising, since the inference rules of logic tell us what we are permitted to infer and are, as such, logical norms. So why not look at inference rules for an account of the normativity of logic? This question is the starting point of this talk.
The answer given in the literature is that derivation is not the same as reasoning and, as MacFarlane observes, while it is uncontroversial that rules of inference are norms, it is unclear that (and if so, how) these rules apply outside of the context of derivation in a formal system. Similarly, Harman claims that “rules of argument are not by themselves rules for revising one's view”. The problem, then, is not that logical principles cannot be interpreted as norms, but that when we do so, these norms do not apply to the relevant activity, viz. reasoning. Thus, the gap to-be-closed is between two notions of inference: between the notion of inference at play in logic (i.e., derivation of logical consequences) and the agentive notion of inference as a type of reasoning. After reviewing the main reasons for disregarding rules, I argue that closing this gap does not ask for a bridge principle, but for a reconsideration of the notion of inference. While a bridge principle can make the view that logic is normative plausible by showing what are acceptable logical norms, it presupposes that there is a connection between logic and reasoning.
Next, I argue that if there are logical norms for reasoning, it is because principles of logic are such norms. This requires a different notion of inference. Building on this, I explore how a bridge principle can be used to support a different notion of inference, thereby following MacFarlane's strategy of appealing to our intuitions about logical norms for reasoning to help settle problems in the philosophy of logic.

Sound and Feasible Reasoning: A multi-factor approach to the normativity of logic (Matteo De Benedetto, Ruhr University Bochum, and Alessandra Marra, MCMP)
In this talk, we will develop a novel perspective on the question of the normativity of logic for everyday reasoning. We will reinterpret this question as a clash between an “intuitive connection” (i.e., that there is a direct, normative connection between logic and reasoning) and a “feasibility
problem” (i.e., that it may be beyond one’s cognitive capacities to detect a logical inconsistency or draw a certain logical inference). The feasibility problem appears to challenge the intuitive connection. Within the recent contributions to the debate, the standard response has been to abandon the intuitive connection. Starting from the seminal
MacFarlane (2004), the literature has indeed focused on answering the feasibility problem by connecting logic and reasoning via “bridge principles” of increasing complexity. We aim to show that the standard response is unwarranted. We argue that there is a way in which the feasibility problem can be addressed without sacrificing the intuitive connection. The key component of our proposal will be to rethink the question of the normativity of logic within a fine-grained theory of rational agency where logical soundness is only one of the many normative factors that guide our reasoning.

Coherence, Conflict, and Epistemic Tragedies (Nader Shoaibi, Gonzaga University, ONLINE)
This paper argues, contra a growing trend in the literature on the norms of rationality, that the so-called "conflict cases" do not justify modification or skepticism about norms of rationality. Conflict cases are supposed to be examples in which the norms of coherence, on the one hand, and the norms of responsiveness to evidence, on the other, come into conflict. The paper argues that the illusion that these cases force us to choose between the norms of rationality can be traced to a deprived model of what it is for norms of rationality to generate "requirements". Once this is realized and a suitable alternative model is adopted, it becomes possible to accept conflict cases without the pressure to modify or reject the norms.

A dual theory of logical normativity (Diego Tajer, MCMP)
The aim of this paper is finding a common ground between two different views on the normativity of logic. The first one (I will call it “deontic”) describes the normativity of logic using bridge principles, such as “if you believe the premises, then you ought to believe the conclusion”. The second one (I will call it “constitutive”) takes logic as a constitutive feature of thinking. I will argue that both the deontic and the constitutive approaches are correct in some respect. The key for their coexistence is that they presuppose a different kind of logical system. The constitutive aspect of logic corresponds to a restricted and imprecise set of inferences that we take as particularly evident or fundamental; some authors have labeled this theory “protologic” or “minimal logical toolkit”. Complying with this “protologic” in logically unproblematic contexts is necessary for counting as a rational thinker. On the other hand, the deontic aspect of logic corresponds to the role of logic as a theory for reasoning in the most general way. I will argue that this dual approach can overcome the problems that both theories have by separate.

Indeterminacy and Rational Belief (Miriam Bowen, University of St. Andrews)
There are a variety of norms that purport to govern what attitude an agent ought to adopt. It is unclear, however, what attitude a rational agent ought to have towards an indeterminate proposition or whether there is a norm that prescribes an attitude. It is also unclear what falls under the term ‘indeterminate’ and the range of phenomena that the term might refer to. It seems like there are different categories of indeterminacy, such as, metaphysical, epistemic and semantic indeterminacy. This paper addresses the normative question of what attitude a rational agent ought to adopt towards cases of indeterminacy. To do so I defend the view that indeterminacy should be understood as an umbrella term that encompasses a range of related phenomena. In light of this I argue we should adopt a position I call modest pluralism to the normative question. Modest pluralism holds that there is no unique attitude an agent ought to adopt to cases of indeterminacy, but rather a range of permissible attitudes to adopt. However, I also argue that logical norms do underlie what attitudes it is rational for an agent to have in general and this provides a general constraint on the types of attitudes it is permissible for a rational agent to adopt towards cases of indeterminacy.

Call for Papers

We invite submissions of abstracts of 500-1000 words, prepared for blind refereeing, via Easychair.

Deadline: 15 August 2022.

Notification of acceptance: 1 September 2022.

We aim for an inclusive workshop. We encourage members of under-represented groups in academia and members at various career-stages to apply.


Please register via our online tool which is open until October 4. The event will also be streamed. The Zoom link will be sent after registration.



Wednesday, October 5, 10:00-13:00: Ludwigstr. 33, Room 144, 14:30-17:15: Schellingstr. 3 (rear building), Room R203

Thursday, October 6: Ludwigstr. 33, Room 144

How to get there: