Semantics, natural logic, and common sense reasoning
Lecturer: Guillermo del Pinal, University of Michigan
In this class, we will explore the relation between language and ‘natural logic’, i.e., the component of the mind that governs reason and inference. Recently, some linguists have argued that key properties of natural languages—e.g., the distributions of determiners, quantificational phrases (Fox 2000, Fox \& Hackl 2006, Gajewski 2002, 2009, Chierchia 2006, 2013), verbs expressing mental attitudes (Abrusan 2015, Fox 2016), certain kinds of pragmatic inferences (Fox 2006, Chierchia 2013), and the intuitive truth-conditions of generic sentences (Leslie 2007, 2008)—can only or best be explained if we hold that the language system has access to an automatic, unconscious system of reasoning. In this seminar, we will examine this work as a gateway to explore foundational issues about the interface between language and reasoning. We will also explore the consequences of the view that language includes a system of unconscious reasoning for the psychology of bias, judgment and decision-making. The questions we will discuss include: (i) Is there such a thing as a ‘natural logic’? (ii) Is this system domain general or does it consist of modular subsystems? (iii) Does the inferential system of language have access to general beliefs/information? (iv) What, if any, components of this system are innate? (v) Is the view that language includes a system of natural reasoning a conservative development of Chomsky’s Minimalist Program? (vi) Is the natural logic used by language normatively acceptable? (vii) Does this view of language shed new light on alleged biases of reasoning such as the Conjunction Fallacy and the various biases manifested in the use of generic sentences?