Theses Doctoral

That Seems Right: Reasoning, Inference, and the Feeling of Correctness

Wolos, Jeremy David

In my dissertation, I advance and defend a broad account of reasoning, including both the nature of inference and the structure of our reasoning systems. With respect to inference, I argue that we have good reason to consider a unified account of the cognitive transitions through which we attempt to figure things out. This view turns out to be highly inflationary relative to previous philosophical accounts of inference, which, I argue, fail to accommodate many instances of everyday reasoning. I argue that a cognitive transition’s status as an inference, in this broad sense, depends on the subject’s taking the conclusion of the inference— a new, revised, or supposed belief— to be the output of a rational thought process. Furthermore, taking such a belief to be the output of a rational thought process consists in its accompaniment by the feeling of correctness to the subject, which I call the assent affect. With respect to the structure of our reasoning systems, I defend a dual process model of reasoning by addressing certain alleged deficiencies with such accounts. I argue that the assent affect— or more precisely its absence— is a strong candidate to serve as the triggering condition of our more deliberate type 2 reasoning processes. That is, a subject’s more effortful reasoning processes engage with a problem when the output of a type 1 intuition is not accompanied by the assent affect. A subject will think harder about a problem, in other words, when they do not feel confident that they have gotten to the bottom of it. This account, I argue, fits well with both empirical and theoretical claims about the interaction of dual reasoning processes. In this dissertation, I use the assent affect to solve puzzles about both the nature of inferences and the structure of our reasoning systems. Puzzles in rationality become easier to solve when our intellectual feelings are not excluded from the picture.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Morrison, John
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 14, 2016