Advertisement

Synthese

pp 1–18 | Cite as

How and why we reason from is to ought

  • Jonathan St. B. T. Evans
  • Shira Elqayam
S.I.: LogPerSciCog

Abstract

Originally identified by Hume, the validity of is–ought inference is much debated in the meta-ethics literature. Our work shows that inference from is to ought typically proceeds from contextualised, value-laden causal utility conditional, bridging into a deontic conclusion. Such conditional statements tell us what actions are needed to achieve or avoid consequences that are good or bad. Psychological research has established that people generally reason fluently and easily with utility conditionals. Our own research also has shown that people’s reasoning from is to ought (deontic introduction) is pragmatically sensitive and adapted to achieving the individual’s goals. But how do we acquire the necessary deontic rules? In this paper, we provide a rationale for this facility linked to Evans’s (Thinking twice: two minds in one brain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010) framework of dual mind rationality. People have an old mind (in evolutionary terms) which derives its rationality by repeating what has worked in the past, mostly by experiential learning. New mind rationality, in contrast, is evolutionarily recent, uniquely developed in humans, and draws on our ability to mentally simulate hypothetical events removed in time and place. We contend that the new mind achieves its goals by inducing and applying deontic rules and that a mechanism of deontic introduction evolved for this purpose.

Keywords

Is–ought inference Evolution Deontic thinking Rationality 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank the editors of this special issue as well as two anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript. SE thanks Gerhard Schurz for many interesting conversations and inspirational ideas over the years.

References

  1. Asch, S. E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41, 258–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. (2007). Working memory, thought and action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baron, J. (1994). Nonconsequentialist decisions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 1–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baron, J. (2008). Thinking and deciding (4th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Beller, S., Bender, A., & Song, J. (2009). Conditional promises and threats in Germany, China, and Tonga: Cognition and emotion. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 9, 115–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berry, D. C., & Dienes, Z. (1993). Implicit learning. Hove, UK: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Bonnefon, J.-F. (2009). A theory of utility conditionals: Paralogical reasoning from decision-theoretic leakage. Psychological Review, 116, 888–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bonnefon, J. F., Shariff, A., & Rahwan, I. (2016). The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles. Science, 352, 1573–1576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carruthers, P. (2006). The architecture of the mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cheng, P. W., & Holyoak, K. J. (1985). Pragmatic reasoning schemas. Cognitive Psychology, 17, 391–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cleeremans, A. (2015). Implicit learning and consciousness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Cohen, L. J. (1981). Can human irrationality be experimentally demonstrated? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 317–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Corner, A., Hahn, U., & Oaksford, M. (2011). The psychological mechanism of the slippery slope argument. Journal of Memory and Language, 64, 133–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cosmides, L. (1989). The logic of social exchange: Has natural selection shaped how humans reason? Cognition, 31, 187–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (1994). Beyond intuition and instinct blindness: Toward an evolutionary rigorous cognitive science. Cognition, 50, 41–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Crupi, V., Nelson, J. D., Meder, B., Cevolani, G., & Tentori, K. (2018). Generalized information theory meets human cognition: Introducing a unified framework to model uncertainty and information search. Cognitive Science, 42, 1410–1456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Djulbegovic, B., & Elqayam, S. (2017). Many faces of rationality: Implications of the great rationality debate for clinical decision-making. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 23(5), 915–922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eichenbaum, N. J., & Cohen, N. J. (2001). From conditioning to conscious reflection: Memory systems of the brain. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Elqayam, S., & Evans, J St B T. (2011). Subtracting ‘ought’ from ‘is’: Descriptivism versus normativism in the study of human thinking. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 233–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Elqayam, S., & Over, D. E. (2013). New paradigm psychology of reasoning: An introduction to the special issue. Thinking & Reasoning, 19, 249–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elqayam, S., Thompson, V. A., Wilkinson, M. R., Evans, J. S. B. T., & Over, D. E. (2015). Deontic introduction: A theory of inference from is to ought. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41, 1516–1532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Elqayam, S., Wilkinson, M. R., Thompson, V. A., Over, D. E., & Evans, J. S. B. T. (2017). Utilitarian moral judgment exclusively coheres with inference from is to ought. Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science, 8, 1042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Epstein, S. (1994). Integration of the cognitive and psychodynamic unconscious. American Psychologist, 49, 709–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Evans, J St B T. (2002). Logic and human reasoning: An assessment of the deduction paradigm. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 978–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Evans, J St B T. (2003). In two minds: Dual process accounts of reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7, 454–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Evans, J St B T. (2007). Hypothetical thinking: Dual processes in reasoning and judgement. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  27. Evans, J St B T. (2010). Thinking twice: Two minds in one brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Evans, J St B T. (2013). Two minds rationality. Thinking & Reasoning, 20, 129–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Evans, J St B T. (2017). Thinking and reasoning: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Evans, J St B T., & Elqayam, S. (2011). Towards a descriptivist psychology of reasoning and decision making. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 275–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Evans, N., & Levinson, S. C. (2009). The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 429–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Evans, J St B T., Neilens, H., Handley, S. J., & Over, D. E. (2008). When can we say ‘if’? Cognition, 108, 100–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Evans, J St B T., & Over, D. E. (2004). If. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Evans, J St B T., & Stanovich, K. E. (2013). Dual process theories of higher cognition: Advancing the debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 223–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fitelson, B., & Hawthorne, J. (2010). The Wason task(s) and the paradox of confirmation. Philosophical Perspectives, 24(1), 207–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Fodor, J. (1983). The modularity of mind. Scranton, PA: Crowell.Google Scholar
  37. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., & Kahneman, D. (2002). Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Greene, J. D., Sommerville, R. B., Nystrom, L. E., Darley, J. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science, 293, 2105–2108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Griggs, R. A., & Cox, J. R. (1983). The effects of problem content and negation on Wason’s selection task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 35A, 519–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hahn, U., & Oaksford, M. (2007). The rationality of informal argumentation: A Bayesian approach to reasoning fallacies. Psychological Review, 114, 704–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hudson, W. D. (Ed.). (1969). The is–ought question: A collection of papers on the central problem in moral philosophy. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  42. Hume, D. (2000). A treatise on human nature (Original publication date 1739–1740). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  43. Manktelow, K. I., & Over, D. E. (1991). Social roles and utilities in reasoning with deontic conditionals. Cognition, 39, 85–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mithen, S. (1996). The prehistory of the mind. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  45. Nelson, J. D. (2005). Finding useful questions: On Bayesian diagnosticity, probability, impact, and information gain. Psychological Review, 112, 979–999.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nute, D. (1997). Defeasible deontic logic (263rd ed.). Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oaksford, M., & Chater, N. (1994). A rational analysis of the selection task as optimal data selection. Psychological Review, 101, 608–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Oaksford, M., & Chater, N. (2007). Bayesian rationality: The probabilistic approach to human reasoning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Over, D. E., & Evans, J St B T. (1994). Hits and misses: Kirby on the selection task. Cognition, 52, 235–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pigden, C. R. (2010). Hume on is and ought. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Price, D. D., Finniss, D. G., & Benedetti, F. (2008). A comprehensive review of the placebo effect: Recent advances and current thought. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 565–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Quintelier, K. J. P., & Zijlstra, L. (2014). How (not) to argue about is/ought inferences in the cognitive sciences. Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science, 5, 503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Reber, A. S. (1993). Implicit learning and tacit knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Ryle, G. (1949). The concept of mind. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  55. Schurz, G. (1997). The is–ought problem: An investigation in philosophical logic. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schurz, G. (2011a). Evolution in Natur und Kultur: eine Einführung in die verallgemeinerte Evolutionstheorie. Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schurz, G. (2011b). Truth-conduciveness as the primary epistemic justification of normative systems of reasoning. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 266–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schurz, G. (2014). Cognitive success: Instrumental justifications of normative systems of reasoning. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 625.  https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Searle, J. R. (2005). What is an institution? Journal of Institutional Economics, 1, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sherry, D. F., & Schacter, D. L. (1987). The evolution of multiple memory systems. Psychological Review, 94, 439–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sripada, C. S. & Stich, S. (2007). A framework for the psychology of norms. In: P. Carruthers, S. Laurence, S. P. Stich (Eds.), The innate mind: Culture and cognition (Vol. 2, pp. 280–301). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stanovich, K. E. (1999). Who is rational? Studies of individual differences in reasoning. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Elrbaum Associates.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Stanovich, K. E. (2004). The robot’s rebellion: Finding meaning the age of Darwin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stanovich, K. E. (2011). Rationality and the reflective mind. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  65. Stanovich, K. E., West, C., & Toplak, M. E. (2016). The rationality quotient: Towards a test of ratiional thinking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  66. Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Thompson, V. A., Evans, J St B T, & Handley, S. H. (2005). Persuading and dissuading by conditional argument. Journal of Memory and Language, 53(2), 238–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Thomson, J. J. (1985). Double effect, triple effect and the trolley problem: Squaring the circle in looping cases. Yale Law Journal, 94, 1395–1415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Toates, F. (2006). A model of the hierarchy of behaviour, cognition and consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition, 15, 75–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wason, P. C. (1966). Reasoning. In B. M. Foss (Ed.), New horizons in psychology I (pp. 106–137). Harmandsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  71. Wason, P. C., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1972). Psychology of reasoning: Structure and content. London: Batsford.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  2. 2.De Montfort UniversityLeicesterUK

Personalised recommendations