Naturalizing Logic: a case study of the ad hominem and implicit bias

In Dov Gabbay, Lorenzo Magnani, Woosuk Park & Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen (eds.), Natural Arguments: A Tribute to John Woods. College Publications. pp. 575-589 (2019)
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Abstract

The fallacies, as traditionally conceived, are wrong ways of reasoning that nevertheless appear attractive to us. Recently, however, Woods (2013) has argued that they don’t merit such a title, and that what we take to be fallacies are instead largely virtuous forms of reasoning. This reformation of the fallacies forms part of Woods’ larger project to naturalize logic. In this paper I will look to his analysis of the argumentum ad hominem as a case study for the prospects of this project. I will argue that the empirical literature on implicit bias presents a difficulty for the reformation of the ad hominem as cognitively virtuous. Cases where implicit bias influences our assessment of the truth or claim or argument are instances of ad hominem reasoning, and these qualify as fallacious on Woods’ own definition.

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Madeleine Ransom
University of British Columbia, Okanagan

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