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Challenging the privileged status of logic

"Our aim is to strengthen the academic environment for philosophical logic in Norway."

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Hjortland og Antonsen
LOGIC AND RHETORIC: "Logic is a skill that is crucial for participation in social debate. The more you learn, the better you become at reasoning and at seeing through poor argumentation.” Ole Hjortland (right) and Pål Antonsen will be researching the standards of logic."
Photo:
Ingrid Endal

Associate Professor of philosophy, Ole Hjortland, has been given NOK 7 million in support from the Research Council of Norway for the four year project 'Anti-Exceptionalism About Logic'. Together with his research colleague Pål Antonsen and a PhD student, he will be challenging the privilege of logic.

"Logic is about reasoning and argumentation Good or bad, or valid and invalid, as we say in logic. Good argumentation has certain standards, and these standards apply ideally in all contexts, from crosswords and chess to economic models and political discourse," says project manager Hjortland.

There is however some disagreement among philosophers about exactly what standards apply.

Rejecting the traditional view of logic

"Traditionally, logical standards have been viewed as universal. Logic is perceived as a basic discipline that precedes the other sciences. Whether an argument is valid or not is justified independently of our experiences. In technical terms: logic is a priori."

"Our view is however that the logic is not special, but a science like all other sciences. This means that logic is not infallible, that logic can be revised," says Hjortland.

According to Hjortland and Antonsen, the methods for finding reasoning and argumentation become more diverse when you view logic in this manner. The question of what is good logic is then dependent on the theme, or what the discussion is about. Logical theories are therefore not established prior to other theories, but rather as an answer to practical tasks in the sciences.

"The big question in our project will be: When you reject the thought that logic is predetermined, how are you then able to arrive at the correct reasoning; how do you then know if an argument is valid or invalid?"

The role of logic in society

The three researchers will work to develop a new method for identifying argumentative standards during the project period, and this is the method called Anti-Exceptionalism. Among other things this means that work on logical theories should use the same methods as most scientific theories.

"We are of the opinion that, for example, logical theories must be in agreement to a greater extent with what psychological experiments can tell us about logic. The project has therefore set up an interdisciplinary collaboration with psychologists who have reasoning as a field of work."

The project aims to strengthen the academic environment for philosophical logic in Norway. The hope is that the results of the project can also be used to strengthen the tuition of logic, for example Ex. Phil.

"Logic is a skill that is crucial for participation in social debate. The more you learn, the better you become at reasoning and at seeing through poor argumentation."