About this blog

I’ve been meaning for years to start blogging about philosophy, mainly with the idea that it would provide me with an outlet for the kinds of small thoughts, ideas, and questions that arise on a weekly basis. So that’s what this will be. Many of the posts (like the first one) will be on issues connected to papers I’m working on (and a related book project, which I’m just beginning). But others will be on issues related to other things I’m reading, many of which aren’t closely (or at all) connected to my research.

At any rate, comments are always welcome (including comments by email, if you’d rather not post in a public forum).

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Knowing that your premises support your conclusion

My account of inference (see “Inferring as a Way of Knowing”) involves rejecting the view that, when you infer, you come to believe your conclusion in part because you take your premises to support it. In other words, it involves rejecting the second clause of the increasingly well-known “Taking Condition”:

The Taking Condition: “[i]nferring necessarily involves the thinker taking his premises to support his conclusion and drawing his conclusion because of that fact” (Boghossian 2014: 5, his emphases).

It’s a familiar fact about inference that you can come to know your conclusion by inferring it from your premises only if you already know your premises. But the same thing is arguably true of the sorts of “takings” mentioned in the Taking Condition. That is, arguably, you can come to know your conclusion by inferring it from your premises only if you already know that your premises support your conclusion. In both cases, the qualifier “already” is important. Your knowledge of your premises needs to be prior to your knowledge of your conclusion; otherwise, your knowledge of your premises wouldn’t ground your knowledge of your conclusion. And similarly for your knowledge that your premises support your conclusion.

Part of the idea behind my account of inference is that the second of these claims––that you can come to know your conclusion by inferring it from your premises only if you already know that your premises support your conclusion––is questionable. In fact, my suggestion is that, in the fundamental case, your knowledge that your premises support your conclusion is posterior to your knowledge of your conclusion. (The same is not true of your knowledge of your premises.)

So the difference between the standard view (which accepts the Taking Condition) and my view might be put like this: On the standard view, your knowledge that your premises support your conclusion is both causally and epistemically prior to your knowledge of your conclusion. On my view, by contrast, your knowledge of your conclusion is both causally and epistemically prior to your knowledge that your premises support your conclusion.

It was recently suggested to me that the following example poses a challenge to my view.

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