A Dialogical Account of Deductive Reasoning as a Case Study for how Culture Shapes Cognition

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
Catarina Dutilh Novaes * E-mail:
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen Oude Boteringestraat 52, 9712 GL Groningen The Netherlands

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In this paper, I discuss how certain social, cultural practices, namely different kinds of dialogical and argumentative practices, may influence how humans reason. I will focus particularly on deductive reasoning and address the question of whether deductive reasoning skills must be learned to be mastered, or whether they arise spontaneously in untrained reasoners. Based on a historically-informed dialogical reconceptualization of deductive reasoning, I will argue that deductive skills arise predominantly by means of specific training, schooling in particular. In a slogan, the main claim of the paper is: when it comes to deduction, we may say that ontogeny – the onset of deductive reasoning in an individual reasoner – to some extent recapitulates phylogeny – the historical emergence of the concept of deduction (in both cases, we are dealing with cultural phenomena). But I will also argue that some ‘mundane’ forms of dialogical interaction such as story-telling and adversarial betting may also cue untrained reasoners to perform closer to the deductive canons in experiments.

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