Thought ISSN 2161-2234
Contrastivism and Negative Reason
Texas State University
Snedegar (2013a) oers a contrastivist solution to the puzzle about negative reason existentials
(initially presented in Schroeder 2007), which he argues is preferable to Schroeder’s own pragmatic
solution. e proposed solution however raises a diculty for contrastivism, as it suggests an
alternative according to which the relevant contrast classes are determined not by the semantics of
reason ascriptions but rather by pragmatic eects of (intonational) contrastive stress. Nevertheless,
I suggest there is a contrastivist-friendly solution to the puzzle. In what follows, I explain the
problem for Snedegar’s account, and I oer an alternative solution to the problem of negative reason
existentials. I argue that the solution is well-motivated by a feature of Snedegar’s own account, and
that it is also compatible with Schroeder’s pragmatic account.
Keywords contrastivism; reasons; pragmatics; stress; reasons ascriptions
1 The puzzle and Snedegar’s contrastivist solution
Schroeder’s and Snedegar’s accounts both focus on the following pair of cases presented
in Lehrer and Paxson:
coat, cackle gleefully, and then run away.
TWIN BOOK THIEF. You see Tom Grabit run out of the library, pull a book from
belief that Tom stole the book, your friend tells you about Tom’s twin brother, Tim.
Tom and Tim are indistinguishable, even to their mother.
In TWIN BOOK THIEF, it may seem that you have no reason at all to believe that Tom
think that Tom, rather than Tim, stole it. Your visual evidence certainly doesn’t give you
a reason to think Tom, rather than Tim, stole the book, and you have no further evidence
that would warrant the belief that Tom did it. Schroeder (2007) argues however that the
judgment that you have no reason to think Tom stole it is mistaken, and he attempts to
explain it away. He presents:
Correspondence to: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thought 7 (2018) 69–78 © 2018 The Thought Trust and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 69