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Unformatted text preview: Inference and Meaning Passages 1. Twenty or so years ago it was received dogma among the great majority of empirically-minded philosophers that the inference which finds its expression in “It is raining, therefore the streets will be wet” is an enthymeme. Explicitly formulated, it was claimed, the argument thus presented would read, “Whenever it rains the streets will be wet, it is raining; therefore the streets will be wet”. As the validity of this reasoning rests on purely formal principles, it was concluded that the same is true of the briefer argument above, it being in all respects save formulation, identically the same [I-3] 2. The claim seems to be that even if it made sense to speak of non-logical principles of inference, there would be no need for them [I-4] 3. Kant was on the right track when be insisted that just as concepts are essentially (and not accidentally) items which can occur in judgments, so judgments (and, therefore, indirectly concepts) are essentially (and not accidentally) items which can occur in reasonings or arguments. [I-4] 4. Those who take this line claim that “It is raining, therefore the streets will be wet”, when it isn’t an enthymematic abridgment of a formally valid argument, is merely the manifestation of a tendency to expect to see wet streets when one finds it raining, a tendency which has been hammered into the speaker by past experience. In this latter case it is the manifestation of a process which at best can only simulate inference, since it is a habitual transition of the imagination, and as such is not governed by a principle or rule by reference to which it can be characterized as valid or invalid. That Hume dignified the activation of an association with the phrase “causal inference ” is but a minor flaw, they continue, in an. otherwise brilliant analysis. It should, however, be immediately pointed out that before one has a right to say that what Hume calls “causal inference” really isn’t inference at all, but a mere habitual transition from one thought to another, one must pay the price of showing just how logical inference is something more than a mere habitual transition of the imagination. Empiricists in the Humean tradition have rarely paid this price, a fact which has proved most unfortunate for the following reason. An examination of the history of the subject shows that those who have held that “causal inference” only simulates inference proper have been led to do so as a result of the conviction that if it were genuine inference, the laws of nature would be discovered to us by pure reason . [I-5] 5. But might it not be possible for an empiricist to hold that material rules of inference are as essential to meaning as formal rules? That the specific nature of a factual concept is determined by the material rules of inference governing it, as its generic nature is determined by formal rules of inference? That the meaning of a term lies in the materially and formally valid rules of inference?...
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This note was uploaded on 02/15/2012 for the course PHIL 2245 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '11 term at Pittsburgh.
- Fall '11