Reasoning with heuristics

Ratio 34 (2):100-108 (2021)
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Which rules should guide our reasoning? Human reasoners often use reasoning shortcuts, called heuristics, which function well in some contexts but lack the universality of reasoning rules like deductive implication or inference to the best explanation. Does it follow that human reasoning is hopelessly irrational? I argue: no. Heuristic reasoning often represents human reasoners reaching a local rational maximum, reasoning more accurately than if they try to implement more “ideal” rules of reasoning. I argue this is a genuine rational achievement. Our ideal rational advisors would advise us to reason with heuristic rules, not more complicated ideal rules. I argue we do not need a radical new account of epistemic norms to make sense of the success of heuristic reasoning.

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Brett Karlan
Purdue University


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