Arguments and decisions in contexts of uncertainty

Vasco Correia



This project focuses on the impact of cognitive illusions on argumentative reasoning. Its main purpose is to develop a theory of argumentation capable of conciliating the traditional logical and dialogical standards on the one hand, and the cognitive limitations of human reasoning in real-life contexts, on the other hand (biases and heuristics).

Despite the profusion of empirical studies showing that cognitive illusions affect the rationality of people’s thinking in everyday contexts (Adler & Rips 2008, Gilovitch, Griffin & Kahneman 2002), some of the most prominent theories of argumentation fail to take this issue into account and continue to bring forward models, rules and norms meant to be applied by ideally rational agents in the best of worlds.

In contrast, this investigation seeks to elucidate the conditions under which normative theories of argumentation can effectively–rather than merely formally–promote the rationality of debates. Of particular interest are the methods and strategies developed by the theorists of “bounded rationality” in the realm of decision-making aimed at satisficing (rather than maximizing) the agent’s interest (Simon 1982, Elster 2007, Gigerenzer 2002). The methodological assumption here is that a similar overhaul of normative standards needs to be conducted in the realm of argumentation.

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Faculdade de Direito Universidade Nova de Lisboa