The Logic of Reasons

In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press. pp. 67-84 (2018)
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In this chapter, we begin by sketching in the broadest possible strokes the ideas behind two formal systems that have been introduced with to goal of explicating the ways in which reasons interact to support the actions and conclusions they do. The first of these is the theory of defeasible reasoning developed in the seminal work of Pollock; the second is a more recent theory due to Horty, which adapts and develops the default logic introduced by Reiter to provide an account of reasons. However, the implementations are complex enough, in both cases, to prevent anything more than this sketch. And we would not want to give the impression that we think that work on the logic of reasons must follow the path mapped out in either of these theories—indeed, we feel that the field is wide open. In the remainder of the chapter, therefore, will concentrate on a number of issues bearing on the logic of reasons that are either not treated in the work of Pollock and Horty, or whose treatment there is, we feel, either inadequate or incomplete. These are: first, the question of whether it is necessary to understand logical interactions among reasons themselves, rather than simply between reasons and the actions or conclusions they support, and if so, what principles might govern these interactions; second, priority relations among reasons and the notion of reason accrual; and third, some problems posed by undercutting defeat.

Author Profiles

Shyam Nair
Arizona State University
John Horty
University of Maryland, College Park


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