Must Good Reasoning Satisfy Cumulative Transitivity?

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Abstract
There is consensus among computer scientists, logicians, and philosophers that good reasoning with qualitative beliefs must have the structural property of cumulative transitivity or, for short, cut. This consensus is typically explicitly argued for partially on the basis of practical and mathematical considerations. But the consensus is also implicit in the approach philosophers take to almost every puzzle about reasoning that involves multiple steps: philosophers typically assume that if each step in reasoning is acceptable considered on its own, the whole chain of reasoning must also acceptable. In this paper I focus on whether there are good philosophical reasons for thinking that the consensus that good reasoning must satisfy cut is true. My central claim is that we should not accept the consensus—good reasoning might not satisfy cut. In particular, I consider four arguments for the consensus and explain why they are unpersuasive. (§2-5). I then show that the issue of whether good reasoning is cut turns on a substantive yet until now unnoticed question in epistemology (§6).
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Archival date: 2021-03-02
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2017-06-30

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