Thursday, 21 October 2021

Reversing Logical Nihilism - Forthcoming in Synthese

Final draft available on PhilPapers.

Abstract: Gillian Russell has recently proposed counterexamples to such elementary argument forms as Conjunction Introduction (e.g. ‘Snow is white. Grass is green. Therefore, snow is white and grass is green’) and Identity (e.g. ‘Snow is white. Therefore, snow is white’). These purported counterexamples involve expressions that are sensitive to linguistic context—for example, a sentence which is true when it appears alone but false when embedded in a larger sentence. If they are genuine counterexamples, it looks as though logical nihilism—the view that there are no valid argument forms—might be true. In this paper, I argue that the purported counterexamples are not genuine, on the grounds that they equivocate. Having defused the threat of logical nihilism, I argue that the kind of linguistic context sensitivity at work in Russell’s purported counterexamples, if taken seriously, far from leading to logical nihilism, reveals new, previously undreamt-of valid forms. By way of proof of concept I present a simple logic, Solo-Only Propositional Logic (SOPL), designed to capture some of them. Along the way, some interesting subtleties about the fallacy of equivocation are revealed.