Grounding Inferential Norms
I’m preparing my talk for the exciting-looking Brown Shapiro Conference on the Epistemology of Inference.
It’s going to pull together two strands in my thinking about epistemology, which I hadn’t until now attempted to amalgamate but which (I’m relieved to find) will hopefully mesh neatly.
The first is that I suspect that epistemically normative claims are made true by natural facts. (I wrote a bit about this idea a few years ago, in Epistemic Norms and Natural Facts.) The second is newer: I suspect that there’s an interesting story to be told about the epistemology of basic norms of inference, according to which it is reliance on our empirically grounded concepts (in the sense of Grounding Concepts) that guides us to trust in and apply the right inferential rules.
This story is in some respects different from the one I outlined in Grounding Concepts about how reliance on empirically grounded concepts could guide us to true and knowledgeable beliefs: trust in, and use of, inferential norms is (plausibly) not best thought of as a matter of believing certain propositions. However, I’m going to try and suggest that concepts could do the same kind of work in making trust in an inference rational as they can do in making belief in a proposition rational.
If that’s right, things align tidily. Empirically grounded concepts are sensitive to empirical input. Empirical input, presumably, is sensitive to the natural world. And it is aspects of the natural world it is that make true epistemically normative claims. So the right concepts can serve as reliable guides to which inferential rules we ought to trust and use.