The Hereby-Commit Account of Inference

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (1):86-101 (2022)
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An influential way of distinguishing inferential from non-inferential processes appeals to representational states: an agent infers a conclusion from some premises only if she represents those premises as supporting that conclusion. By contrast, when some premises merely cause an agent to believe the conclusion, there is no relevant representational state. While promising, the appeal to representational states invites a regress problem, first famously articulated by Lewis Carroll. This paper develops a novel account of inference that invokes representational states without succumbing to regress. The key move is to reject the tempting idea that the relevant representational states are causally prior to inferences. I argue, instead, that an inference constitutes the relevant representational state. To infer is thus—in the very drawing of the conclusion—to represent the premises as supporting the conclusion, and thereby to commit to that support relation.

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Christopher Blake-Turner
Oklahoma State University


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