General Form of Recommendation Requests
Recommendation Request (RFS / RFG / RFP) is a well-framed question that asks for a solution regarding how to proceed in some given context.
Contextual Considerations differ depending on the type of request made. In the case of a Request for Solution, there’s a problem to be solved; in the case of a Request for Guidance, there are outcomes we prefer and would avoid; in a Request for Prediction, there are ordinary expectations and uncertainties that effect our considerations of what might occur.
Rival Recommendations (RR) are suggested courses of action in the given circumstances.
Supporting Resources (SR) are descriptions of the circumstances under which the extra-ordinary events are happening, or under which the recommendation is made.
Best Recommendation (BR) is the recommendation we offer as best among the possibilities.
First, let’s consider what all Recommendation Requests have in common. Then, we will consider the distinctions between the specific forms.
Recommendation Requests (RFS / RFG / RFP) are well-framed questions that ask for solutions, guidance, or predictions under some given circumstances. Recommendation requests often take the form “what should I do?” or “what might happen?”. Questions of this form are often motivated by uncertainty or lack of knowledge, and we want to carefully characterise those considerations in our structures.
The actions we suggest in answer to recommendation requests take a normative form. A “norm” is a standard against which we judge. When norms guide our statements and suggestions, we call those statements and suggestions “normative”. Normative Statements, then, refer to a standard and encourage judgement against that standard. Normative statements are often flagged by the word “should”.
When I say “you should eat your carrots”, I compare your behaviour to a standard: we should eat five servings of vegetables every day. Colloquially, we might call this a “value judgement”. A Recommendation Request, generally, is a request that you make this type of judgement.
Normative judgements are often based on patterns. Eating a goodly amount of vegetables is associated with being healthier, and we take “being healthier” to be a good outcome. So, assuming a healthy outcome is what we seek, then comparing Charlie’s disposition toward this pattern with others’ dispositions is a reasonable move: Charlie should eat his cucumber because eating vegetables is associated with good health (and we want Charlie to remain healthy).
Rival Recommendations (RR) are suggested courses of action in the given circumstances. A Best Recommendation will take the events and conditions into account. That is, a Best Recommendation will fit coherently into the story that the events and explanations tell.
For example, in the hard-starting car example (Example 1.1), we would call a recommendation to fill the fuel tank “unreliable”, because this recommendation fails to take into account the explanation of why the car doesn’t start. If the explanation is electrical, and the recommendation doesn’t suggest action on an electrical part of the car, we deem the recommendation unreliable.
Supporting Resources (SR) guide Rival Recommendations. They are general statements that will underwrite or undermine Rival Recommendations. (Compare Explanatory Resources as described in our formal system for Best Explanations.)
For example, in the hard-starting car case (Example 1.1), we might state that among the electrical problems affecting whether a car starts are: wiring, battery, and ignition control. This might be in contrast to, say, a faulty headlamp switch. This gives us reason to think certain recommendations better than others: a recommendation to replace the headlamp switch, though clearly associated with electrical problems, and clearly a part of the car, is not a best recommendation, given the resource given here. That is, the resource undermines certain suggested courses of action.