, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 41-53,
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Date: 11 Feb 2011

A Contentious Trinity: Levels of Entailment in Brandom’s Pragmatist Inferentialism


We investigate the relations among Brandom’s three dimensions of semantic inferential articulation, namely, incompatibility entailments, committive consequences, and permissive consequences. In his unpublished manuscript “Conceptual Content and Discursive Practice” Brandom argues that (1) incompatibility entailment implies committive consequence, and that (2) committive consequence in turn implies permissive consequence. We criticize this hierarchy both on internal and external grounds. Firstly, we prove that, using Brandom’s own definitions, the reverse of (1) also holds, and that the reverse of (2) may hold (but the proof relies on substantive assumptions). This suggests that there are no three different notions of inference emerging from Brandom’s definitions, but at most two, and perhaps even just one. Secondly, this result puts into question the connections between the three inferential relations and the familiar notions of deduction and induction.