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Research Article

Against Logical Form


P N Johnson-Laird

Department of Psychology, Princeton University, US
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An old view in logic going back to Aristotle is that an inference is valid in virtue of its logical form. Many psychologists have adopted the same point of view about human reasoning: the first step is to recover the logical form of an inference, and the second step is to apply rules of inference that match these forms in order to prove that the conclusion follows from the premises. The present paper argues against this idea. The logical form of an inference transcends the grammatical forms of the sentences used to express it, because logical form also depends on context. Context is not readily expressed in additional premises. And the recovery of logical form leads ineluctably to the need for infinitely many axioms to capture the logical properties of relations. An alternative theory is that reasoning depends on mental models, and this theory obviates the need to recover logical form.
How to Cite: Johnson-Laird, P.N., 2010. Against Logical Form. Psychologica Belgica, 50(3-4), pp.193–221. DOI:
Published on 01 Oct 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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