Abstract

The assessment of an argument as valid appears to have normative import in relation to how we should reason. Suppose we reject or question the standard definition of validity as necessary preservation of truth. Can we illuminate or characterise what it is for an argument to be valid by appealing to the distinctive normative role of valid arguments? And might such considerations help us in choosing between alternative logics, or at least in understanding what should guide such choices? I will ask how to characterise the normative role of validity, in particular when we consider that many of our beliefs are merely partial (in the sense we have some level of uncertainty in them). I will focus
in particular on two principles that Hartry Field advocates and ask whether they can be used in characterisation of validity and/or to help illuminate choices between different logics that people might advocate or employ. I will argue that Field’s principles are not fit for this job and no alternative principles can retain the required neutrality either. The normative situation is derivative, complex and can vary with context; it cannot provide the key to understanding validity.