The Reasonableness of Reason


I’ve just splashed out a fiver on a hardcore philosophy book ‘The Reasonableness of Reason’. Second hand mind you, austerity reigns. But absolute austerity is probably slightly unreasonable.

It is, by all accounts, an exhaustive investigation of whether following reason is better than scepticism or belief. My current bedtime read Philosophy Now carries an admirable review by Professor Raymond S. Pfeiffer of what I’ve bought, which I précis here:

Naturalists argue that there are some general goals that almost all humans in all societies have in common, such as obtaining safety, food, love, meaning, and an understanding of the world. In fact, no one has suggested possible alternatives.

Naturalists further argue that human goals are best achieved by a group of standards, rules and methods referred to as ‘the theory of middle-sized physical objects’. This theory is the idea that there is a world inhabited by everyday objects that behave in the kind of way they seem to behave in our experience of them.

The naturalistic claim is simply that a preponderance of evidence reveals that using the claims, methods, standards and rules of the theory of middle-sized physical objects (a.k.a. using reason) is the best way to fulfil human goals.

This process – which is the use of reason and the scientific method – has produced the best confirmed and most useful thinking about reality, and continues to do so.

Others may choose a different process to understand the world, such as basing some of their beliefs on faith. But history has shown that such an approach often goes wrong in some way, and that, when corrected, it is usually corrected by the use of reason and the scientific method.

Furthermore, sceptics, who suspend belief in reason and seek to follow the customs of the culture in which they live, use the very same theses, methods and rules of thought as the theory of middle-sized physical objects, and so use the tools of reason anyway.

Hauptli (the Author) concludes that “If we seek optimum goal-fulfillment, the use of reason will promote this best in the long run.” So although there is no certain proof of the advantage of using reason, it provides a better option than any known alternative.

How very reasonable. I have a feeling I could have saved myself that fiver.

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