Fallacies as Cognitive Virtues

  • Dov M. Gabbay
  • John Woods
Part of the Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science book series (LEUS, volume 15)


In its recent attention to reasoning that is agent-based and target-driven, logic has re-taken the practical turn and recovered something of its historic mission. In so doing, it has taken on in a quite general way a game-theoretic character, precisely as it was with the theory of syllogistic refutation in the Topics and On Sophistical Refutations, where Aristotle develops winning strategies for disputations. The approach that the present authors take toward the logic of practical reasoning is one in which cognitive agency is inherently strategic in its orientation. In particular, as is typically the case, individual agents set cognitive targets for themselves opportunistically, that is, in such ways that the attainment of those targets can be met with resources currently or forseeably at their disposal. This not to say that human reasoning is so game-like as to be utterly tendentious. But it does make the point that the human player of the cognitive game has no general stake in accepting undertakings that he has no chance of making good on.

Throughout its long history, the traditional fallacies have been characterized as mistakes that are attractive, universal and incorrigible. In the present essay, we want to begin developing an alternative understanding of the fallacies. We will suggest that, when they are actually employed by beings like us, they are defensible strategies in game-theoretically describable pursuit of cognitive (and other) ends.


Cognitive Agent Inductive Logic Deductive Logic Modern Logic Validity Standard 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dov M. Gabbay
    • 1
  • John Woods
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceKing's College LondonThe Strand LondonEngland
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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