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Meaning, reasoning, and common knowledge

  • Richard Warner

    Richard Warner is Professor and Norman and Edna Freehling Scholar at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he is also the Faculty Director of Chicago-Kent’s Center for Law and Computers. From 1994 to 1996, he was president of InterActive Computer Tutorials, a software company. From 1998 to 2000, he was director of Building Businesses on the Web, an Illinois Institute of Technology executive education program. He was the principal investigator for "Using Education to Combat White Collar Crime," a U.S. State Department grant devoted to combating money laundering in Ukraine from 2000 to 2006. He is currently a member of the U.S. Secret Service’s Electronic and Financial Crimes Taskforce. He is the co-founder and Director of the School of American Law, and the Co-Director of the Center for National Security and Human Rights. He holds a B. A. (English literature) from Stanford, a Ph. D. (Philosophy) from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J. D. from the University of Southern California. His most recent books are Unauthorized Access: The Crisis in Online Privacy and Security, and Data Breaches: Why Don’t We Defend Better?, both co-authored with Robert Sloan, Professor and Head, Computer Science Department, University of Illinois, Chicago.

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From the journal Intercultural Pragmatics

Abstract

“Pragmatics involves perception augmented by some species of ‘ampliative‘ inference—induction, inference to the best explanation, Bayesian reasoning, or perhaps some special application of general principles special to communication, as conceived by Grice … —but in any case a sort of reasoning” (Korta, Kepa & John Perry. 2015. Pragmatics. In The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Metaphysics research lab, Stanford, CA: Stanford University:1). Pragmatics assumes that one’s competence as speaker is sufficient to allow one to construct, in range of significant cases, plausible accounts of how speakers and audiences reason. The question is that are those who attribute reasoning to speakers and audiences suffering a “curious mental derangement” that prevents them from seeing that reasoning is rare?

I consider four responses. (1) Speakers and audiences do reason to the extent pragmatic explanations require; they just typically do not do so consciously. (2) The second reply concedes that speakers and audiences often do not reason even unconsciously in any relevant detail, but it insists that attributions of reasoning can nonetheless be, and often are, explanatory. (3) The third reply is a response to objections to the second. It identifies reasoning with information processing steps. (4) The fourth view is that a speaker’s utterance provides an audience evidence for what the speaker means, but the audience typically does not reason to a conclusion about what the speaker means.

I reject the first three replies and embrace the fourth, but I argue that attributions of reasoning in pragmatics can still play a significant explanatory role.

About the author

Richard Warner

Richard Warner is Professor and Norman and Edna Freehling Scholar at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, where he is also the Faculty Director of Chicago-Kent’s Center for Law and Computers. From 1994 to 1996, he was president of InterActive Computer Tutorials, a software company. From 1998 to 2000, he was director of Building Businesses on the Web, an Illinois Institute of Technology executive education program. He was the principal investigator for "Using Education to Combat White Collar Crime," a U.S. State Department grant devoted to combating money laundering in Ukraine from 2000 to 2006. He is currently a member of the U.S. Secret Service’s Electronic and Financial Crimes Taskforce. He is the co-founder and Director of the School of American Law, and the Co-Director of the Center for National Security and Human Rights. He holds a B. A. (English literature) from Stanford, a Ph. D. (Philosophy) from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J. D. from the University of Southern California. His most recent books are Unauthorized Access: The Crisis in Online Privacy and Security, and Data Breaches: Why Don’t We Defend Better?, both co-authored with Robert Sloan, Professor and Head, Computer Science Department, University of Illinois, Chicago.

Acknowledgements

I am gratefully indebted to Stephen Schiffer for his comments and encouragement.

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Published Online: 2019-05-29
Published in Print: 2019-05-27

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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