Individual Reasoning within a Reasoning Community

Individual Reasoning within a Reasoning Community

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1818-3.ch003
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In this chapter, the nature of the process that each participant engages in individually in order to contribute to collective reasoning is discussed. The design of technological systems that will best support reasoning in its communal context requires the specification of schemes for representing knowledge and for the inference of new knowledge. Further, it is also necessary to articulate a model for the process that individuals engage in when reasoning in groups. The assertion we make is that the process iteratively includes phases of engagement, individual reasoning, group coalescing, until decision making. Representations, including the classical syllogism, first order logic, default reasoning, deontic reasoning, and argumentation schemes, are surveyed to illustrate their strengths and limitations to represent individual reasoning.
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It is not really difficult to construct a series of inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor and each simple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the central inferences and presents one's audience with the starting-point and the conclusion, one may produce a startling, though perhaps a meretricious, effect.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 - 1930), Sherlock Holmes in “The Dancing Men”



A participant in a community of reasoning is involved in reasoning individually and independently from others though constantly communicates with others to exchange knowledge and insights. A reasoning community iterates through the phases of engagement, individual reasoning, and group coalescing until the issue and all views are sufficiently well canvassed that the group moves to the decision phase to reach an ultimate decision.

Within the individual reasoning phase an individual performs two main tasks:

  • Individual coalescing: The coalescing, by an individual participant, of relevant background knowledge, facts, claims and reasons asserted by others.

  • Individual judgment: The determination of assertions that an individual holds as their own.

Before launching into ways that reasoning has been represented, it is useful to step back and identify the kind of reasoning that is the focus of our attention. Broadly, reasoning types can be discerned based on the tasks to be achieved:

  • Spatial Reasoning: High speed reasoning used in movement and balance.

  • Social Reasoning: The type of reasoning which allows an agent to reason about other agents. In particular it involves the calculation of dependence relations and dependence situations.

  • Verbal Reasoning: Being able to reason about future events and actions that might cause these is an important abstraction from the social reasoning mentioned above. Verbal reasoning can be the process of forming ideas by assembling symbols into meaningful sequences. Verbal reasoning can then be built into quite complex chains. Such chains can go on indefinitely, provided each link makes a valid argument by using the conclusion of the previously developed link as the antecedent of its conditional premise. It allows the expansion of sentences such as, If A then B into reasoning chains which are explaining, convincing or simply the sequence of steps that need to be executed to get to the destination.

  • Narrative Reasoning: Narrative reasoning addresses situations that find difficulty in being addressed with the sequential form of verbal reasoning. The situations often involve multiple causes and multiple effects. Many social phenomena are like this and it would be fair to say that the great body of our accumulated social wisdom is expressed as narrative. Narrative reasoning could be viewed as an efficient way of dealing with complexity. Whereas verbal reasoning relies on long chains of logical steps, each small enough to be considered proven, narrative reasoning addresses situations that cannot be addressed in this way.

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