IP Lunchtime Seminar: Mariam Thalos on the Gulf between Practical and Theoretical reason, 17 Sept

Friday 12 September 2014

IP Lunchtime Seminar: The gulf between practical and theoretical reason

Mariam Thalos (Utah)
1.00-2.30pm, Room 243
Wed 17 September 2014

I shall argue that it’s a profound mistake to blur the line between practical and theoreticalforms of reasoning, as done in the pragmatistic traditions of epistemology prominently exemplified todayin Subjective Bayesianism, not least because the diagnosis of bias in science becomes misshapen if theline is blurred. In this paper the distinction between practical and theoretical reasoning is articulated interms of differences in the norms themselves, with the most important being asymmetries in theirpreemption patterns. Elements of this account have roots in lines of argument found in Aristotle andKant. The differences between practical and theoretical adduced here explain a certain puzzle: why is itthat we (correctly) judge Buridan’s ass to be completely above reproach when he picks (randomly, ifnecessary) between two identical and equally convenient bales of hay, but that a detective or judge facedwith identical evidence for the guilt of two different suspects is decidedly at fault if she should simply“pick” one as the guilty party. The answer is—as it must be—that the standards of reasoning to which wehold the principals accountable in these contrasting cases are categorically different.