We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

In Praise of Reason

Michael P. Lynch

Publication Year: 2012

A spirited defense of the relevance of reason for an era of popular skepticism over such matters as climate change, vaccines, and evolution.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (43.9 KB)
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (39.7 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (66.8 KB)
pp. ix-xii

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, ...

read more

1. Hope and Reason

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.3 KB)
pp. 1-10

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...

read more

2. Neither Slave nor Master: Reason and Emotion

pdf iconDownload PDF (122.6 KB)
pp. 11-40

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...

read more

3. “Nothing but Dreams and Smoke”

pdf iconDownload PDF (99.8 KB)
pp. 41-60

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...

read more

4. Reasons End: Tradition and Common Sense

pdf iconDownload PDF (97.9 KB)
pp. 61-78

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...

read more

5. The “Sacred Tradition of Humanity”

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.3 KB)
pp. 79-118

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...

read more

6. Truth and the Pathos of Distance

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.9 KB)
pp. 119-136

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (44.5 KB)
pp. 137-140

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...


pdf iconDownload PDF (112.2 KB)
pp. 141-162


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.1 KB)
pp. 163-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780262301138
E-ISBN-10: 026230113X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262017220
Print-ISBN-10: 0262017229

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2012