In Praise of Reason
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The MIT Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
Imagine that a mysteriously powerful scientist offers you a choice between two doors. Behind door number one is the ability to slowly convince many of your political opponents of the wisdom of your views by appeal to reason. Behind door number two is a serum that, once slipped into the water supply, ...
1. Hope and Reason
One of the best-selling books of the last decade advises its readers that “ AIDS is one of the greatest hoaxes ” ever pulled on Americans.1 Some people continue to think that the MMR vaccine causes autism. Others, including some leading American politicians and news commentators, believe that global...
2. Neither Slave nor Master: Reason and Emotion
In the fall of 2007, researchers from Princeton announced some apparently disturbing results: a split-second glance at two candidates ’ faces is often enough to predict who will win an election.1 In previous work, Alexander Todorov and his colleagues had provided convincing evidence that people judge the...
3. “Nothing but Dreams and Smoke”
It is one of the little ironies of history that skepticism is rarely more popular than with true believers. The theological disputes at the heart of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation are a case in point. People were killing each other over who had...
4. Reasons End: Tradition and Common Sense
Reasons give out. From this the ancient skeptics concluded that we should stop believing. We moderns and postmoderns have been more sanguine. We are more inclined, with Wittgenstein, to shrug it off, to accept that “ this game is played ” and just keep on trucking. This appeals to our sense of ourselves as practical...
5. The “Sacred Tradition of Humanity”
The nineteenth-century British mathematician and philosopher W. K. Clifford is often portrayed as a poster-boy for reason. That doesn’t really do the man justice; but it is true in its way. Before his death at the age of thirty-four, Clifford anticipated aspects of Einstein’s theory of relativity, invented an algebra later named...
6. Truth and the Pathos of Distance
A ubiquitous picture of the academy divides it into “ two cultures, ” to use C. P. Snow ’ s familiar phrase. One culture, the sciences, is in the business of acquiring objective knowledge, of telling us the truth about the world. The other culture, the arts and humanities, is in the business of doing, well, something...
Human beings have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. From the obvious fact that everything, including reason, has its limits, we are tempted toward skepticism about reason and its relevance to our lives. I have argued that this is...
Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2012
OCLC Number: 835886194
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