Normativity in social accounts of reasoning: a Rylean approach.

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In recent years, the philosophy and psychology of reasoning have made a ‘social turn’: in both disciplines it is now common to reject the traditional picture of reasoning as a solitary intellectual exercise in favour of the idea that reasoning is a social activity driven by social aims. According to the most prominent social account, Mercier and Sperber’s interactionist theory, this implies that reasoning is not a normative activity. As they argue, in producing reasons we are not trying to ‘get things right’; instead our aims are to justify ourselves and persuade others to accept our views. I will argue that even if interactionism has played a crucial role in bringing about the ‘social turn’ in our thinking about reasoning, it does not convince in its claim that reasoning is not a normative activity. Moreover, I argue that it is in fact perfectly possible to understand reasoning as a social tool that is also aimed at getting things right. I will propose that Gilbert Ryle’s conceptualization of reasoning as ‘didactic discourse’ offers one possible way to understand reasoning as both social and normative activity, and that as such his ideas could be of great value for the social turn in our thinking about reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number339
Pages (from-to)1-18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2022


  • Epistemic
  • Gilbert Ryle
  • Interactionism
  • Normativity
  • Reasoning
  • Vigilance


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