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Voorkant Baggini  'The edge of reason - A rational skeptic in an irrational world' Julian BAGGINI
The edge of reason - A rational skeptic in an irrational world
New Haven : Yale University Press, 2016, 450 blzn (epub);
ISBN-13: 978 03 0020 8238

(5) Introduction

"In the popular imagination, reason has ceased to be a universally admired faculty and is portrayed as the enemy of mystery and ambiguity, a cold tool of desiccating logic. It is seen as standing in opposition to emotion, denying the role of feeling and sentiment in daily life. Rationality is dismissed as a tool of hegemonic oppression, a patriarchal construct, a Western imposition or a mistaken privileging of one hemisphere of the brain over the other. The Enlightenment is no longer almost universally revered but often condemned as the birth of the age of dehumanising industrial capitalism, the start of the road that led to Auschwitz. Popular culture has absorbed bastardised versions of many of these ideas, and it is now widely believed that we are guided more by genes, manipulative corporations and unconscious psychological biases than we could ever be by reason." [mijn nadruk] (6)

"It is true that we have in the past often placed too much trust in our capacity to think rationally and that a greater recognition of the limits of reason is necessary and welcome. But it is not for nothing that ‘losing your reason’ means to go mad. Reason needs to be put in its place, and if that place is not close to the centre of human life then our minds are left rudderless to float this way and that on the waters of whim, emotion and the influences of others." [mijn nadruk] (8)

"Reason has only been knocked off its pedestal because it was raised up too high. Paradoxically, a more modest version of rationality will prove to be more powerful and valuable than the almost omnipotent mythological version which preceded it." [mijn nadruk] (17)

(17) Part 1: The judge

"One of the central myths of rationality is that if we use it properly, we can do away with the need for personal, subjective judgement."(17)

"The dream that many philosophers have had is of a form of reason in which subjective judgement is banished and everything that matters can be demonstrated with the rigour of an algorithm. Reason leads to one correct conclusion and one only."(19)

(19) Chapter one - The Eternal God argument

"In my experience, believers and non-believers do not usually differ significantly in their declared belief in the importance and value of reason. Naturalists – people who believe that the natural world is all there is and so do not believe in a theistic God – and theists alike can number among their bedrock beliefs the demands of consistency, non-contradiction and rational coherence. In that sense, both may be equally committed to rationality." [mijn nadruk] (31)

"The difference between naturalists and theists is often that they take different central premises as the bedrocks of their belief systems. For naturalists, these premises derive from evidence of the hard, objective kind that anyone can examine and assess for themselves. For the religious, however, it’s quite different."(32)

"The idea of ‘properly basic beliefs’ allows us to see more clearly why it is that people’s positions on big issues rest more on big, broad arguments and hence why ever finer reasoning cannot end the dispute between the religious and the non-religious. More and more careful reasoning is impotent unless it leads us to something that very clearly undermines something that disputants take to be properly basic." [mijn nadruk] (38)

"This means that if you believe the current evidence overwhelmingly supports the link between saturated fat and heart disease, then you have very good reasons not immediately to change your mind on the basis on one new study [die het tegendeel beweert], even if the logic of that study appears to be flawless."(42)

"So to understand why arguments rarely lead people to change their minds in many intellectual disputes we have to understand the holistic nature of reasoning. We believe what we do because of a number of overlapping and mutually reinforcing reasons and arguments, rarely because one settles the issue either way."(44)

"So the coherentist should accept that certain points in the web of belief are more important than others in keeping the network of justified beliefs intact. They are vital because they are what I call ‘critical nodes’ – beliefs to which many other beliefs in the network are connected and which are required to hold the network together. Such is their importance that they are essentially the coherentist’s first principles. Unlike the first principles of traditional foundationalists, however, these ‘critical nodes’ are not immediately and securely known, typically by sense experience or self-evidence. For instance, Descartes appealed to ‘clear and distinct ideas’, while Locke talked of ‘that evident lustre and full assurance that always accompany that which I call intuitive’. In contrast, ‘critical nodes’ are only justified by their place in the wider ‘web of beliefs’. As Wittgenstein wrote, ‘It is not single axioms that strike me as obvious, it is a system in which consequences and premises give each other mutual support.’ The principle of non-contradiction, for example, is not upheld because we can know it to be self-evidently true in isolation, but because we can see that without it, no web of belief can hold together. They are indispensable rather than indisputable."(51)

"Michael P. Lynch notes that although there are some principles and beliefs we must take for granted, ‘this doesn’t mean that we can’t provide reasons for what we take for granted. It just means that the reasons we can provide must be of a different kind.’"(51)

"Both the quantum physicist and the theologian accept the logically paradoxical corollaries of their beliefs because they take those beliefs to be better founded than any alternatives. The key difference between them is simply that the theologian accepts non-scientific as well as scientific grounds for belief. Much as naturalists may dislike this, there is no easy way of showing this to be in principle irrational. It is not a scientific claim to say that science is the only basis for justified belief. This is rather scientism. Scientism, however, is a philosophical position that needs to be argued for. Science cannot discover that only science leads to truth." [mijn nadruk] (57)

"We might appear to have arrived at a dim place for reason. Once we accept that reason works holistically, that beliefs cohere rather than have unshakeable foundations, and that our most basic beliefs do not necessarily themselves rest on reason, then it becomes clear why reason is so often powerless to end important intellectual debates, such as those surrounding the existence and nature of God. If we add to that the empirical fact that reason is used at least as much to defend positions as it is to establish them, then we might be forgiven for thinking that when we reason, we merely rationalise: we make rational to ourselves and others what we believe for non-rational reasons." [mijn nadruk] (60)

[Dit is allemaal nogal abstract. Ik mis het accent op de empirische controleerbaarheid van wat opvattingen beweren. Rationele argumentatie is niet voldoende, dat klopt, maar dat is niet de enige manier om rationeel te zijn. Rationeel zijn wordt hier te veel redeneren. Redeneren kunnen gelovigen ook, net als wetenschappers, geen verschil op dat punt inderdaad. Maar de betrouwbaarheid van een web van aannames en beweringen is een stuk groter als veel van die 'nodes' controleerbaar voor anderen verwijzen naar een waarneembare werkelijkheid in plaats van alleen te verwijzen naar gevoelens die iemand voor zichzelf heeft en die niemand echt kan controleren.]

(65) Chapter two - Science for humans

Wetenschappers zijn het soms fundamenteel oneens, zoals in de quantummechanica.

"The existence of such stark disagreements clashes with the image of a scientific method which merely follows the evidence and leaves no room for differences in opinion."(65)

[Dat is dan ook gewoon een verkeerd beeld van hoe wetenschap werkt.]

"What we see is that scientific reason is and can never be free of disorderly, imprecise and hard to justify personal judgement."(66)

[Nee, dat klopt, maar die beweringen zijn wel ingebed in een wereld waarin voor andere mensen manieren bestaan om die beweringen aan de werkelijkheid te controleren. Baggini vervolgt dan ook terecht:]

"This is not the same as claiming that science simply provides ‘narratives’ each of which has no greater legitimacy than any other competing one. If there is a disagreement between scientific and scriptural accounts of the origins of the universe, for example, then the scientific ought to prevail. My central point is not to belittle science or downgrade its findings, but to promote a realistic understanding of how it works." [mijn nadruk] (66)

"My aim is to show how accepting the role of judgement in science in no way undermines it, but it does require us to rethink how we assume reason works."(67)

"The common-sense version of science maintains that theories are determined by the evidence. If there are two competing theses, then the one that wins out will be the one that best fits the facts. There are, however, specific historical examples which suggest that this is at very least something of a simplification."(68)

[Dat zou bijvoorbeeld Otto - zie The war on science - ter harte moeten nemen. Zoals Baggini ook zegt: de feiten zijn vaak niet voldoende om de waarheid van een theorie vast te stellen - een theorie is dan 'underdetermined'. We komen dan met keuzes voor een theorie op basis van 'meer elegant', 'eenvoudiger', 'redelijkerwijs beter' waarin uiteraard een waardeoordeel verborgen zit.]

"Over-confidence that a theory flows inexorably from the observed data can lead scientists to ignore alternative possibilities."(69)

Er is niet één wetenschappelijke methode.

"Nonetheless, it is important to recognise that ‘No one method, no paradigm, will capture the process of science. There is no such thing as the scientific method.’ Although the most famous philosophers of science tried to codify the scientific method, plenty of others share Wolpert’s skepticism about whether this can be done. For instance, Tim Lewens says that although there are ‘plenty of scientific methods … when we try to pinpoint some recipe for inquiry that all successful sciences have in common, we run into trouble’."(76)

"Scientists themselves help create the false impression of a regular, orderly method by writing up their findings in ways which gloss over the real messiness of discovery. The biologist Peter Medawar spoke about this in a BBC talk in 1964, saying that ‘the scientific paper in its orthodox form does embody a totally mistaken conception, even a travesty, of the nature of scientific thought’. Papers suggest that scientists work by an orderly method of induction, observing facts and drawing general conclusions from them. The reality is much messier. " [mijn nadruk] (77)

[Ook die kan Otto in zijn zak steken.] ]

"We all know that progress in science is affected by all sorts of contingencies such as where funding is allocated or who is appointed to a certain position, and the latter is not always settled entirely by competence. (...) Resistance to ideas is arguably more rooted in prejudice and habit than in any deference to scientific fact."(77-78)

"So we distort the real nature of scientific reasoning when we do not acknowledge the fact that before the formal processes of calculation and verification come moments of clarity which can arise all of a sudden, without being immediately preceded by conscious thought. Reason has aspects which are systematic and conscious but also aspects which are unknown and unconscious. To pretend it only involves the former is to fail to conform theory to observation. " [mijn nadruk] (80)

"So on some occasions, Einstein believed theory actually determined what was observed, while on others he believed a too-rigid commitment to theory blinded people to conflicting evidence.
There is no formal contradiction here. It is, rather, another vivid example of how the scientific method cannot be reduced to a formula but must always require the use of good judgement. This judgement is a kind of skill developed by years of practice, what the Greeks called phronēsis or practical wisdom. Scientists all agree that, ultimately, data are sovereign. The problem is that often the data are not of such a clear, unambiguous and theory-independent kind that they can be used to resolve a dispute definitively. Indeed, the question of whether an experiment or observation counts as critical – sufficient to settle a dispute – is itself a judgement."(85)

"Why do scientists make different judgement calls when faced with the same facts? Distasteful though it may be to those who would like reason to be cool and detached, part of the answer has to be the varying temperaments and emotional characters of scientists. Many of those who know science intimately accept this." [mijn nadruk] (86)

"Time and again in the history of science we see how the primary positive reaction to a new theory is marvel at its beauty.(...) Non-scientists sometimes find themselves puzzled by this talk of beauty. In general terms, theories are described as beautiful when they have a combination of simplicity and great explanatory power."(90-91)

"The appeal of the idea that laws must hold universally would appear to be an aesthetic preference for the simple and powerful, a preference which at root is based on nothing more than temperament.
We should not be surprised to discover that scientists, like all intellectuals, are influenced by their temperaments and personal preferences."(95)

"To say that science is ‘impure’ is not to denigrate it. Nor should we underestimate how powerful data and experiments are in the long run for determining scientific truth. But mathematics and the physical sciences are fortunate in this regard. In almost every other field of human inquiry, it is just not possible to be certain or precise enough about the data to come up with an account which all informed, intelligent observers must agree is correct. The success of science should not lead us to believe that it provides the model for all reasoning; rather that the domain of science is one which is especially conducive to the use of reason." [mijn nadruk] (98)

"We need a more expansive notion of what it means to be rational, one which includes all the elements that are left out when we focus only on the strictly formal and empirical ones. At the heart of this notion we need to place judgement. So far we have seen why we need to do this, and in the chapters that follow we’ll see more about how exactly we should do it." [mijn nadruk] (99)

(99) Chapter three - Rationality and judgement

Baggini start met de vraag: Waarom werd de rol van (waarde)oordelen niet eerder gezien en aanvaard?

"Really good philosophising requires something more than a razor-sharp brain, something that is sometimes called subtlety of mind, a philosophical sensibility or insight. I call it judgement, which I define somewhat cumbersomely as as a cognitive faculty required to reach conclusions or form theories, the truth or falsity of which cannot be determined by an appeal to facts and/or logic alone. There are numerous examples of this, but perhaps the clearest comes from moral philosophy."(101)

"While philosophy has made progress with systematising and developing criteria for good arguments and reasoning, it has had less to say about what constitutes this kind of ‘good judgement’ and acknowledging its indispensability.
I think there are at least three reasons why judgement has been sidelined by philosophers. The first is that the logical side of philosophy can be schematised and formalised in a way that judgement obviously cannot. Therefore it is just easier to come up with something to say about formal logic and the structure of arguments than it is to come up with some real insight into the nature of judgement.
The second reason concerns the academicisation of philosophy. For better or for worse, the work of academic philosophy increasingly takes place at the level of fine detail. Professional philosophers need to publish, and by applying the formal, analytic skills of their discipline to problems which have already been explored in some depth, it is possible to come up with something that satisfies the requirements of an academic paper to be ‘original’, to produce a ‘result’ and to display high professional standards. There is therefore a premium on the analytic, logical side of philosophy because this gets results faster, even if the results are uninteresting.
The third reason is perhaps more significant. Judgement represents the ineliminable limits of rational argument, and because philosophy always aims to pursue rationality as far as it can go, it is an unrelenting quest to reduce the role of judgement as far as it can, since it cannot entirely eliminate it. We want as little as possible in philosophy to depend on judgement while at the same time we know that we cannot do without it. Because our arguments become more rationally compelling the less they depend on judgement, we can make our arguments appear more rational by disguising or concealing the place of judgement in them. Judgement is therefore philosophy’s dirty secret. " [mijn nadruk] (110-111)

Ook in logische systemen speelt het oordeel een rol.

"It might still at least be claimed that rationality is constrained by the fundamental laws of logic."(123)

"In a deep sense then, both traditions uphold the law of excluded middle, in that it takes the existence of a genuine, rather than apparent, contradiction to be evidence that something is not right. The difference is that Western philosophers try to dissolve the contradictions by refining their use of language whereas Eastern philosophers often dissolve them by appealing to a reality beyond language where such contradictions do not exist.
Taoism, for example, stresses that language is an imperfect tool for dealing with reality and does not provide an adequate representation of it. So rather than trying to resolve all the contradictions that language gives rise to, we should often instead try to leave words behind. " [mijn nadruk] (125)

[Mooi inzicht, dat laatste.]

"My point is simply that in such a situation [waarin een contradictie bestaat - GdG] we would be able to sensibly ask which response is more rational. The very fact that such a question makes sense shows that our conception of rationality does not seem to be necessarily constrained by or coextensive with our conception of logic, for what is precisely at issue is how far, if at all, it is rational in such a case to accept, revise or reject what logic appears to demand. In other words, whether or not it is rational to accept an illogical finding is an open question. The apparent illogicality of the finding is not sufficient reason to reject it on rational grounds unless one has some other good reason to believe that rationality’s sovereign is logic. If logic is on at least one occasion neither necessary nor sufficient for settling a rational argument, then rationality cannot be necessarily constrained by the demand to follow the basic laws of logic. Logic becomes one tool rationality uses, not the essence of rationality itself. " [mijn nadruk] (128-129)

"There is one final reason why judgement is an inherent part of reasoning and not merely a fallback when logic fails. The truth is that the deductive mode of argument, formalised in logic, just isn’t the main way we reason at all. (...) not that such reasoning is completely mysterious, but that we don’t know how the human brain makes such inferences and nor do we have clear rules or algorithms to tell us when we’re making them correctly. We look at the evidence and we create hypotheses about what best explains it. Logic comes in to the extent that we test for consistency and see if our explanation has any absurd consequences (although, as we have seen, these need not always be fatal). At the end of the day, however, whether or not such an argument is good cannot be objectively demonstrated. Once again, we use our judgement." [mijn nadruk] (129-130)

"Students being introduced to the ways of philosophy focus much more on the formal reasoning structures of deduction than on the more informal ones. And it is very rare indeed for a philosopher to acknowledge too loudly or clearly that all this non-deductive reasoning requires the use of judgement."(131)

[Dat lijkt me vooral in de Angelsaksische landen een probleem waar logica zo centraal staat. Maar ook in het algemeen klopt die bewering van Baggini wel. Alleen: wat is 'informal reasoning' nu eigenlijk?]

"If the idea that philosophy doesn’t actually depend that much on deduction seems heretical, the fuller truth is even more surprising: it often doesn’t rely on arguments at all. Time and again in the history of philosophy, the key moves made by philosophers turn out on careful examination to be more like observations than arguments. What the philosophers have done is noticed something extremely important and directed our attention to it. Once we do the same, we find ourselves agreeing with them about what it is we can see. Arguments don’t come into it." [mijn nadruk] (131)

[Ha, ja, prachtig geformuleerd.]

"Attending is often more useful than argument. As Wittgenstein put it, the best way to respond to a skeptic who says, ‘I don’t know if there is a hand here’ is to say, ‘look closer’. Attending is a crucial element in good reasoning and provides the clearest example of the ways in which philosophising inevitably requires the use of judgement and cannot rely solely on what logic and evidence dictate." [mijn nadruk] (135)

"Many will worry that if we place too much emphasis on judgement we will end up with an unacceptable degree of subjectivism where we have no grounds to arbitrate between two people whose judgements lead them to different conclusions. This is too pessimistic. As we have already seen in the examples of science and religion, accepting the role of judgement is not the same as saying anything goes and that no reasoned arguments can have any force in a debate."(137)

(137) Part 2: The guide

"By giving due consideration to the so-called irrational elements of thinking, we can revise our understanding of reason to show that while it does have an important role in guiding us through life, it does not and cannot do its work independently from the emotions and other psychological drives."(138)

(138) Chapter four - Lives of the mind

"Earlier I described the inescapability of judgement in reasoning as ‘philosophy’s dirty secret’. But perhaps the discipline has an even darker skeleton in its closet: how people philosophise is largely determined by their personalities."(138)

"The influence of personality in philosophy runs far deeper than it does in science, which undermines the claim that philosophy is as impersonally objective as science. This has significance beyond philosophy, since it reflects a broader truth: that reason can never completely escape the personal and the human." [mijn nadruk] (140)

[Prachtig thema. Bij wetenschap zijn er manieren om die 'objectiviteit' zo veel mogelijk te bereiken ondanks de persoonlijkheden van de wetenschappers. Maar is dat bij filosofie ook het geval, zo vraagt Baggini zich terecht af. Naar aanleiding van het lezen van (auto)biografieën van filosofen schrijft hij:]

"People who lead the life of the mind often have much more interesting minds than lives."(140)

"Perhaps even more important than how they arrived at their positions is what explains why they remained with them. If philosophy were like science, then although we might expect people with different personalities to come up with different ideas, ultimately we would expect the philosophical community to settle on one explanation as the true one. But we do not find this. Although there is often more convergence than might be expected, in most areas of philosophy, there is nothing like consensus." [mijn nadruk] (144)

Baggini verwijst naar het onderzoek van Bourget-Chalmers over de standpunten van filosofen.

"Philosophy is in an important sense a personal pursuit and we do not undertake it with an impersonal faculty called ‘reason’. Rather, how we reason is coloured by who we are and the commitments we already have."(146)

Filosofen vinden dat moeilijk om toe te geven omdat er toch al zo veel sceptici zijn die alle filosofie onzin vinden.

"Humans therefore appear to be making judgements about what is relevant or irrelevant which formal reasoning mechanisms cannot make.
Identifying the part of a causal circumstance relevant to a certain kind of causal explanation is a very similar problem. This is something the human mind seems to find very easy. But it is not something that can be expressed in formal logic. Even if it could be modelled in formal logic, it would not follow that the way we actually think about such things follows this formal pattern. It does then seem that judgement – the ability to reach conclusions or form theories, the truth or falsity of which cannot be determined by the appeal to facts and/or logic alone – is an indispensable feature of our thinking." [mijn nadruk] (158)

"Skeptical doubts can never be entirely eradicated. The key to their resolution is to understand why it is that they arise, learn from this the limitations of philosophy and then work within these limitations."(158)

"I would suggest that we also overestimate our capacity to capture all the relevant facts in the first place. We fool ourselves into believing that we have assembled all the vital data, arranged them into premises and then drawn our conclusions accordingly. This is hubris. The reality is that we have always selected what we judge to be most pertinent at the time, and this is bound to reflect our values and attitudes as well as our raw reasoning power." [mijn nadruk] (160)

Bespreking van Alvin Goldman en de sociale epistemologie.

"Social epistemology builds on the insight that human knowledge is a collective achievement rather than a purely individual one. This seems to be so obviously true that we might well ask why it took so long for philosophers to put the social into epistemology. In part at least, it seems credible that the supreme value placed on the autonomy of the rational individual blinded philosophers to the social dimension of knowledge." [mijn nadruk] (161)

(164) Chapter five - The challenge of psychology

"Must we therefore accept that reason is a mere veneer for irrational impulses, or can can psychology justify giving rationality an important role in human thought and judgement?"(165)

Sinds Freud met name, maar later ook los van de psychoanalyse, is beweerd dat mensen zich in hun handelen vooral door hun onbewuste laten leiden en dat de rationele overwegingen voor een handeling vaak pas achteraf worden bedacht.

"Kahneman has argued persuasively that we have, in effect, two different ways of thinking. ‘System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control,’ he says. In contrast, ‘System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.’ The most vivid way of summing it up is that System 1 is ‘hot’, emotional, quick thinking whereas System 2 is cool, calm reasoning ." [mijn nadruk] (167)

"There are whole books detailing the various ways our minds work that provide endless other examples of this kind of absence of rational thought – ‘rational’ as understood by philosophers, anyway. Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is essential reading for anyone who doesn’t already know this work. You might rush out to buy it believing that if you can understand all these processes you can override them, but Kahneman himself is quite pessimistic about this."(171)

"More importantly, if we have a narrow view of what rationality is, defined by logic and formal reasoning alone, System 1 will be an intolerable interloper. But if we have a broader conception of rationality, we might not be so quick as to see it as a pure enemy of reason. Kahneman himself seems inclined to take this view. ‘People are quite reasonable,’ he once said. ‘It’s not that people are irrational – I really hate that characterisation.’ How can that be?" [mijn nadruk] (173)

"In real life, the best example of this kind of thing is when we don’t go ahead with something because it doesn’t ‘feel right’. On paper, everything looks fine but something is making us wary, and we don’t know what it is. We do not need to believe that this kind of intuition is infallible to believe that it can be well worth paying attention to. As long as we have good grounds to believe that when we feel this way in this kind of situation, usually it does indicate that something is amiss, then we have rational grounds to follow our hunches, even though the hunches themselves are not the result of rational deliberation." [mijn nadruk] (175)

"Living according to reason requires us to give due weight to the unconscious, non-deliberative and affective aspects of living, which we depend on not just for practical purposes but for ethical ones too."(178)

"I think we should accept the fact that our reason is not pure, but is subject to all manner of psychological influences. But what if those influences are systematically divergent in different populations? In particular, what if the way we think differs depending on our gender? Must we think not of reason in the singular, but of masculine and feminine reason?" [mijn nadruk] (179)

"So to accept the extreme claim that masculine and feminine reasons are separate and cannot be reconciled is to give up on rationality. This would seem perverse, since we have numerous examples of knowledge and theories that clearly do cross the genders."(182)

"However, to say that reason is in essence gender-neutral is not to deny that there are many ways in which awareness of the ways in which gender might affect the use of reason is vital, if we are to think properly. Nowhere is this more obvious than in philosophy, where, compared to other disciplines, women are especially under-represented. "(183)

"The problem for women in philosophy is not that reason is masculine but that too many men are not nearly as good at using it as they think they are."(189)

(190) Chapter six - Guided by reason

"Reason therefore has to be autonomous, not heteronomous. It has to be something we use for ourselves and fully own, taking responsibility for how we use it. There is, however, something almost paradoxical about this ... "(192)

"... because there is a sense in which reason does require us to accept heteronomous demands. Our guide is useless if it is merely a form of self-determination which pays no attention to the brute reality of the external world. When we are presented with arguments or given reasons for belief, the way things really are must determine whether they are rational or not. In short, reason is nothing if it does not aspire to objectivity. That is the heteronomous aspect of reason and it brings us to the heart of my account of rationality: rational argument should be defined as the giving of objective reasons for belief."(193)

"Given what I have argued so far, the demand for objectivity might appear to set too high a bar for rationality. Doesn’t objectivity require precisely the kind of impersonal certainty that I have consistently argued is beyond us? But just as I am arguing that we need a more modest conception of rationality, so our concept of objectivity must not be so austere as to be beyond us. As it happens, we have already available just the kind of realistic conception of objectivity we need, one developed by Thomas Nagel." [mijn nadruk] (194)

"The most credible version of the kind of strong objectivity Nagel rejects does away with the metaphor of ‘views’ or ‘perspectives’. An objective fact or account would be one that was true for anyone at any time, regardless of what particular perspective on the universe they take." [mijn nadruk] (195)

"For Nagel, knowledge does not divide neatly between the either/or of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’. Rather, there is a spectrum, with absolute objectivity and subjectivity at opposite ends, and degrees of each in between.
Our understanding is subjective to the extent that it depends on idiosyncratic features of our viewpoint, reasoning, conceptual framework or senses. It becomes more objective the less it depends on these factors and the closer it gets to the unachievable ‘view from nowhere’. The value of objectivity is that it takes us away from subjective viewpoints which are more partial, both in the sense of reflecting our biases and preferences and in the sense of invoking a more limited range of reasons and experiences." [mijn nadruk] (199)

"The characteristic feature of objectivity is that it moves from a particular viewpoint to a more general one, one that can be shared."(202)

"I would conjecture that this kind of increased comprehensibility is a constitutive feature of rational argument. An argument that is in principle comprehensible by any rational agent is more rational than one that is comprehensible only by certain types of rational agent. " [mijn nadruk] (203)

"However, it is not enough that a rational argument is comprehensible by any rational agent. It must also be assessable. If there is no way in principle that others could judge the truth of what is claimed, it remains in the domain of the subjective. " [mijn nadruk] (205)

[Dat is wat ik 'controleerbaarheid' noem, denk ik. ]

"What distinguishes philosophical claims from theological ones is that the philosopher making them does not do so by appeal to any authority other than that of the evidence and arguments themselves. However, it has proven extremely difficult to specify in more detail exactly what distinguishes the assessable from the unassessable. " [mijn nadruk] (207)

"In the early twentieth century, attempts were made to come up with a more robust test for what might pass as a genuine matter of fact, rather than of mere speculation. The so-called logical positivists of the Vienna Circle proposed various versions of the principle of verification , according to which propositions are only meaningful if there is some empirical method of demonstrating their truth. Assessability is thus cashed out as provability. Karl Popper would later come up with a mirror-image alternative according to which hypotheses are scientific if there is some way of testing them such that failing to pass the test would falsify them.
Verificationism and falsificationism both failed, largely because they were seen as self-defeating. There is no way to verify the principle of verification or to falsify the principle of falsification. Therefore by their own criteria they are meaningless or unscientific respectively. However, in rejecting these attempts to put more flesh on the notion of assessability we must not throw out its vitally important bones. Both verificationism and falsification overreached, but they were reaching in the right direction. " [mijn nadruk] (208)

"Do we have this ‘just right’ understanding of assessability? For my purposes, I think we do. As I will argue in more detail shortly, the conception of rationality I am putting forward here is a minimal one, and in that sense its key terms are place-holders for various more precise ones which different schools might fill out.(...) It is not for me to legislate here how exactly rational arguments are to be assessed. But it should be obvious that an argument cannot be rational if there is no way of assessing it at all. " [mijn nadruk] (212)

"A rational argument is always in principle defeasible – open to revision or rejection – by public criteria of argument and evidence. I think this is just a corollary of the criteria of comprehensibility and assessability. To give a rational argument is to say that others can understand and assess it, and this leaves open the possibility that their assessment might be negative or that their understanding might be superior to one’s own. It certainly seems contrary to the spirit of rational inquiry to rule out the possibility that what one has decided is true could not possibly be false. " [mijn nadruk] (215)

"Practical rationality, which involves what we ought to believe, given our goals and values, can therefore be contrasted with what I’m going to call epistemic rationality, which solely involves what we ought to believe if we set aside our goals and values. Epistemic rationality needs more than assessable, comprehensible and defeasible reasons for belief; it also needs its reasons to be interest-neutral. Any reasons which appeal to what people desire are not interest-neutral , since they only have any purchase if we think that people’s desires are a reason for doing something." [mijn nadruk] (218)

"Having made the distinction, I want to set aside practical rationality and continue to discuss rationality on the assumption that we are talking about the epistemic kind. There is a lot of skepticism these days about the possibility that rationality can be interest-neutral. Perhaps most influential here has been Michel Foucault, who argued that truth and power were intimately linked." [mijn nadruk] (220)

"The idea that claims to disinterested fact are often no such thing is not the same as the claim that there is no such thing as a disinterested fact. Whenever thinkers have tried to go this far, they have always ended up in absurdity." [mijn nadruk] (222)

"A common retort to this is to say that the practice of science is never value-neutral, because at the very least there will be decisions about what to focus research on – whether to spend money flying people to Mars or curing breast cancer. But this claim that there is no such thing as the value-free practice of science is an importantly different claim to the one that there are no value-free scientific truths. A scientist may well be led by ideology to investigate the harmful effects of pesticides on human health, but if she is a good scientist, and if her findings are corroborated by others, the truths she discovers can still be value-free. " [mijn nadruk] (223)

"Of course values and interests infuse how we live and how we think. But that does not mean values and interests permeate the content of every knowledge claim."(224)

"For the argument to have objective force it must in some way be compelling. Turned over and examined on all sides, any rational agent who understands the argument should find herself feeling forced – or at least strongly pushed – to accept the conclusion, whether she likes it or not."(225)

"There is a sense here in which there is simply nothing left for a rational agent to say to someone who claims to have followed all these steps but is still not convinced. Take the smoking example. Imagine someone saying, ‘Yes, I can see the evidence. I clearly understand it. I know how to assess it and I see nothing wrong with it. I can also see that the case does not require you to have any kind of personal interest in the destruction of the tobacco industry. But I’m not convinced.’ In such a case you would be justified in concluding that the person was just not being rational. Whatever was stopping the person from feeling the force of the argument, it wasn’t reason. " [mijn nadruk] (227)

"As a way of both testing and illustrating how this account of the objectivity of rationality works, it is worth looking at two examples of forms of understanding that stand at best on the fringes and at worst outside the domain of the rational: anecdotal evidence and mysticism ."(229)

[Prachtige uitwerking van voorbeelden. De eerste is homeopathie: rationeel bezien werkt dat niet, maar mensen komen vaak met persoonlijke ervaringen of historische successen of bepaalde studies waarmee ze denken te bewijzen dat homeopathie wél werkt. Maar die beweringen - bijvoorbeeld 'first person observations' - blijken oncontroleerbaar (unassessable).]

"This view of rationality has important consequences for our conception of what reason is. It shows how it is possible to abandon the idea that we can arrive at the truth by appeal to objective facts and logic alone, without necessarily embracing total relativism, since the strong constraints on the requirements for objective rational arguments severely limit the range of possible rational accounts we can give of the world. It suggests that good judgement is much more than just opinion, and something less than the mere following of logical rules. " [mijn nadruk] (236)

"Philosophy, then, relies entirely on rationality and nothing but. This involves a high degree of commitment to the rigours of argument but also, ultimately, an acceptance that rational argument does not lead linearly to only one answer, since you cannot take judgement away from rationality. Our reliance on rationality as our sole resource makes us both rigorous thinkers and condemned ultimately to use our own best judgement." [mijn nadruk] (240)

"In our disagreements we sometimes forget that, as a community of rational inquirers, we share many core values. Perhaps we don’t like the connotations terms like ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ have, thinking that they suggest a false objectivity or authority. But it is only within the domain of rational inquiry that we can sensibly express these concerns. Those who urge us to reject the idea of truth, for example, do so by offering comprehensible, assessable, defeasible reasons for doing so, reasons that aim to speak to people regardless of their own interests and which have some force."(245)

(247) Part 3: The motivator

"Our concern in Part Three is not the question of whether holding a moral principle is intrinsically motivating, but whether it is true that we can arrive at motivating moral principles by the use of the disinterested intellect alone. Can reason motivate us to act, and to act well? I will argue that it cannot and that Plato’s myth of reason as the motivator needs to be rejected, along with the myths of reason as the judge and guide." [mijn nadruk] (249)

(249) Chapter seven - Rational morality

"One of the most long-running disputes in moral philosophy concerns the relationship between ethics and rationality."(249)

[Grappig. Zelf gebruik ik de uitdrukking 'normatieve rationaliteit', Baggini gebruikt dus 'rational morality'. ]

Baggini presenteert Kants plichtsethiek en Hume's benadering die stelt dat moraal nooit gebaseerd kan worden op de ratio ('sentimentalisme').'

"So if we are to provide a rational justification for morality, we need to decide which side is right and be able to present a clear defence of it. In this, as in almost everything else, I believe Hume got it fundamentally right."(252)

[Jammer genoeg krijgen we nu van die typische academische analyses waarvan ik niet houd. Searle wordt besproken. Uiteraard komt het er uiteindelijk op neer dat Kantianen rationaliteit te eng definiëren en niet - zoals Baggini eerder in dit boek heeft uitgewerkt - als een rationaliteit + waardeoordelen + ingebed in een context. Dat is wat ik zelf met normatieve rationaliteit bedoel: rationaliteit is het samenbrengen en afwegen van context, waardeoordelen, logica, wetenschappelijke feiten, enz. om tot een verantwoorde beslissing te komen, om verantwoord te kunnen handelen.]

"Searle’s argument contains a flaw that ensures not only that it fails, but that any other similar argument that tries to establish a disinterestedly rational, desire-independent basis for morality must also fail."(260)

"This point is critical. Reason is often assumed to be by definition disinterested. Disinterested reason has its place, of course, in mathematics and science, but sometimes it can legitimately be very interested indeed. Reason needs to be objective, not disinterested, and this means it can recognise the objective existence of needs and desires, good and bad states."(271)

"I have argued that morality is not a requirement of disinterested rationality, but this argument has also shown why the alternative to this is not the view that rationality has nothing to contribute to morality. On the contrary, reason is indispensable to morality.
Rejecting the Kantian project simply means giving up the idea that the ultimate justification for morality is to be found by the operation of disinterested reason alone. But get rid of the words in italics and suddenly a much more plausible claim emerges: some of the justification for morality is to be found by the operation of reason, but not its ultimate justification."(272)

(292) Chapter eight - Scientific morality

"Champions of the rational are often their own worst enemies, especially when they happen also to be scientists. Not only do they over-claim for what reason can achieve, they also often do so on the basis of an excessively narrow understanding of what reason involves, which is essentially evidence-based empiricism, no more and no less. The result is an iniquitous intellectual land grab, in which all meaningful discourse is claimed for science and anything else is razed to the ground as useless. This is scientism: the belief that the only legitimate forms of understanding are scientific ones and anything which is not amenable to scientific methods of inquiry is baseless or meaningless." [mijn nadruk] (292)

Bespreking van Sam Harris' The moral landscape op dat punt.

"Many would prefer death to an ignominious life. This makes no sense from a purely biological point of view, but it makes perfect sense from a human one.
The idea that brain scans could reveal to us what form of life is morally better is absurd because brain scans are value-neutral. They can tell you that a certain experience is more intense, that it has longer-lasting effects and so on, but they can’t say whether it is good or bad, except in the narrow sense of whether it promotes the physical health of the organism or not."(299)

[En zelfs dat laatste niet, omdat ook de definitie van wat 'fysieke gezondheid' is deels afhangt van normatieve ideeën over wat 'gezond' is en wat niet. ]

"The fact that moral principles do not have the same status as scientific ones does not mean they are no more subject to rational scrutiny than a preference for strawberries over peaches.
Harris chooses science as the basis for morality, as for him the alternative is too flimsy. But that is because for him everything is too flimsy compared to science.
" [mijn nadruk] (300)

"Scientists who reject morality or who claim to have a scientific basis for it are making two versions of the same mistake. The mistake is to believe that the methods of science have a monopoly on the practice of reason. From this it follows that morality must either be taken under the wing of science or cast out as irrational. To avoid this false choice, we have to reject the assumptions on which it rests, chief among them the dogma that scientists have exclusive ownership of reason." [mijn nadruk] (304)

"It would be just an egregious mistake, however, to pull morality away from science and not to allow science to get its hands on morality at all. Science can contribute to our understanding of morality in numerous ways. Most obviously, many moral issues hinge upon matters of fact, which science can help illuminate."(304)

Verder kan wetenschap helpen het ontstaan van moraal te verklaren (in de evolutie, hersenen, etc.)

"A scientifically informed ethics is to be welcomed, but a purely scientific ethics is an impossibility." [mijn nadruk] (312)

(312) Chapter nine - The claims of reason

"Nonetheless, this is not to belittle reason. It is less powerful than some have supposed but it is certainly not a mere veneer for irrational beliefs and prejudices, a smokescreen for the use of power. Reason has force. In this chapter I want to say more about the most important aspect of this force: its normative nature. The normative concerns what we ought to do, think or believe."(313)

"Reason’s own ought flows simply from the nature of reason itself. Start with the fact that rationality is in the business of providing objective reasons for belief. The very notion of objectivity contains within it the idea that the reason in question does not depend on the particular perspective of the individual but has a more universal validity. If we accept that an objective reason is equally sound for all, then we are accepting that it ought to be sound for us. This is precisely what distinguishes it from a subjective reason, which we can happily reject on the grounds that it rests on too particular a perspective to lay claim to us. The normativity of reason is reflected in the sense in which rational arguments and reasons are compelling." [mijn nadruk]

"Judging that an argument is a sound, objective, rational one is at the same time saying that one ought to accept it.
The normativity of reason implies what I call the Normative Principle of Rationality: We should believe what it is most rational to believe.
To deny this would seem perverse. Who would believe that, given more than one option, we should believe what it is least rational to believe? I can only assume that those tempted to say that misunderstand what reason is and so believe it is only by rejecting it that we can preserve all that is good in intuition or emotion."(317)

(327) Part 4: The king

Wat een verwijzig is naar Plato's koning-filosoof.

"Experience should have taught us that the idea that we can know what reason demands of us is closer to the idea that we can know what God demands of us than we might think. In both cases, humans have tended to have too much confidence in their own ability to access certain, objective truth about how human beings should live. The result is too often tyranny in the guise of enlightened liberation." [mijn nadruk] (328)

(329) Chapter ten - The rational state

"However, as a matter of historical fact, many attempts to establish society on a more rational basis have been disastrous failures. Understanding why helps us to understand better what reason really is and how it can be best used in the service of building a better world.(329) [mijn nadruk] "

Plato plaatst de theorie boven de praktijk, maar wat je in je hoofd bedenkt werkt vaak niet in de praktijk.

"These lines in Plato express explicitly what is often an unstated assumption: that we should place our confidence in the truth of our theories about how society should be run and then approach practical politics simply as a matter of changing society to approximate as closely to this theory as possible."(332)

Bespreking van Amartya Sen.

"Second, the transcendental approach simply isn’t the best way to create a more just world. We do not need any kind of perfect ideal of justice to identify the worst injustices and see how to reduce them."(334)

"It is not just that we can in practice apply our theories incorrectly, but that practice can show theory to be wrong." [mijn nadruk] (335)

"Practical reason doesn’t work well when it dwells too long in the confines of the thinker’s head." [mijn nadruk] (338)

"Arguably the most disastrous result of trying to wipe the slate clean and impose a rational political system was the communist experiment of the twentieth century. The failure was in part the result of an excessive confidence in the power of reason to design a better world."(342)

[Ik vind dat een bewering die nooit waargemaakt kan worden zonder vergelijkingen te maken met de schade die het kapitalisme aanricht aan mens en milieu. Het oordeel is te gemakkelijk. Wonderlijk dat daarbij altijd vergeten wordt dat al die communistische ideeën een poging waren om kolossale maatschappelijke onderdrukking en onrechtvaardigheid uit de wereld te helpen die ontstonden door het kapitalisme, ongelijke machtsverhoudingen, etc.]

"But in the real world, you have to think about how businesses emerge in the first place, and what leads them to develop and grow. All that involves enterprise, entrepreneurship, innovation, competition – the very things that all communist economies to date have undermined in the long run. So if we reason more carefully, starting with observation of how the economy actually works, we can see that there are good reasons why we have capitalists."(346)

[Ik zie niet in waarom dat de enige manier zou zijn om ondernemingen te starten en succesvol te maken. Het is een te indivualistisch denken vanuit eigenaren en bezitters met kapitaal en concurrentie.]

"The key lesson we should draw from both is the same. The attempt to create a more rational society requires that we have good, objectively grounded reasons for making the changes that we do. And these reasons have to be placed in the context of one extremely important reason to be cautious: human society is complicated and if anyone proposes a radical new model of how we should organise society then we have good grounds to suspect that the model is grossly and dangerously simplified. Radical reform should be possible, but it should usually be piecemeal. It is sheer hubris to imagine that we understand what we are messing with enough to justify anything more wholesale.
This might sound depressingly conservative, but to believe anything else is to grant reason – or at least our own reason – much more power than is justified. To be truly rational we need to acknowledge the limits of our rationality: nothing is more irrational than an unwarranted faith in reason." [mijn nadruk] (351)

"Poor political reasoning is not confined to the left, of course. Faith in the rationality of human action reached its peak – or perhaps its nadir – in the free market economics that was mainstream through most of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first."(351)

[Nou, mooi dat hij dat ook inziet en uitwerkt. ]

"It is not simply that human beings are not as rational as the model of Homo economicus assumes, it is that Homo economicus assumes a false model of what being rational means."(353)

"Overall, then, the attempt to construct a rational economics based on Homo economicus was riddled with basic mistakes. The problem was not with the desire to be rational per se, but with the assumption that the ‘rational’ was simple and self-evident. Human beings do not become more rational if they deny the complexity and plurality of their desires and values, they merely become simpler. Nor is it rational to govern your life by algorithms of risk, if that means living in such a way as to treat yourself as a wealth-maximisation machine. And putting your own happiness first is not rational, it’s just selfish." [mijn nadruk] (360)

"There is an irony here. On the one hand, all of these mistakes point to hubris, a belief that human reason is more powerful than it really is. But on the other, all these mistakes implicitly acknowledge how limited the power of reason is, because they require us to simplify our conception of the world in order to make it tractable to reason." [mijn nadruk] (362)

(362) Chapter eleven - Political reason

"An inflated sense both of the power of reason and of the power of human beings to use it lies behind the flawed idea that philosopher kings and other intellectual elites should guide the masses. Nonetheless, a realistic conception of reason has to be at the heart of the political process. To abandon reason in the public square would not just be absurd, it would be catastrophic."(363)

"My argument is that the case for democracy cannot be separated from the case for reason. The only fair and tenable political systems are ones that put deliberative reason at their hearts, since reason is the only justifiable tool for negotiating political differences. The problem is that it is a tool that many want to set aside. All over Europe, there is increasing disillusion with the secular democratic process and a turn to populism, accompanied by demands to bring religion back to the heart of civic life. We need to understand why both these moves are dangerous and how they can be tackled." [mijn nadruk] (364)

Democratie en vrijheid gaan samen met het idee 'pluralisme'.

"In its most general sense, pluralism is the belief that there is no one, single, complete and unified true perspective. There is more than one legitimate way of seeing and no one perspective can maximally accommodate all that is good or true. This is not to say that there are no wrong perspectives or that there are never good reasons for preferring one perspective over another. It does mean, however, that we will expect there to be times when we cannot objectively decide which perspective is superior and there are losses as well as gains in adopting one perspective rather than another.
Pluralism need not be universal. One can be a pluralist in some domains but not others. One might be a moral pluralist, for instance, but a scientific ‘monist’, believing that where two scientific theories are in contradiction, only one is correct.
Political pluralism accepts that there is no one way of ordering society so as to satisfy completely all legitimate aspirations for the good life. Different citizens have different needs, some of which might be related to their different histories, cultures and circumstances." [mijn nadruk] (365)

[Dat betekent dan wel dat iedereen / iedere groep die vindt dat er maar één perspectief is, namelijk het hunne, per definitie fout zit. Dogmatisme, absolutisme, fundamentalisme deugen daarom niet.]

"Without pluralism, democracy is the tyranny of the majority; but without democracy, pluralism is benign dictatorship, which always risks descending into something more malign."(367)

Politiek pluralisme kan gebaseerd zijn op ethisch pluralisme, maar ook op het eerder beschreven normatieve principe van rationaliteit.

"But, of course, as we have seen in discussions of religion and science in particular, even rational agents who reason very well often do not converge on the same belief. Either they come close together but don’t agree on important details, such as is currently the case in physics, or they come to quite widely different conclusions, as is the case with religion. How then do we square the fact that rational argument ought to lead to convergence of belief with the fact that it often does not?" [mijn nadruk] (371)

[Dat lijkt me de kern van de zaak. Maar dan vervolgt hij:]

"It’s not hard to meet this challenge if we have fully appreciated the limits of reason and our need for modesty as reasoners. If rationality entails convergence, but convergence does not occur, then that provides prima facie evidence of an absence of rational justification sufficient to make us refrain from making a definitive judgement on the matter. Although we may be justified in making a judgement, and for practical purposes might have to do so, we ought to be appropriately tentative about it and not assume it is certain enough to be decreed as the truth for all." [mijn nadruk] (371)

"However, one needs to be careful to adopt a principle of sufficient charity. It is too easy to dismiss those we disagree with as having their judgements distorted by prejudice, as though we ourselves were immune from such things." [mijn nadruk] (372)

"In any case, the main upshot of seeing that rational judges dissent is not to suspend judgement. It is simply to accept a greater defeasibility for our beliefs than we otherwise would, and so to insist on them less forcefully. So, one can accept that there is a sufficiently strong case to believe something, but that it is not strong enough to insist that anyone who does not agree must be irrational." [mijn nadruk] (372)

[Ik weet niet ... Dat is allemaal erg lief en bescheiden en waarschijnlijk waar als je te maken hebt met mensen die hun best doen om op die manier rationeel te zijn, mensen die Baggini "competent rational judges" noemt (hij merkt zelf al op dat dat een vaag begrip is). Maar er zijn nu eenmaal een heleboel individuen en groepen die zich aantoonbaar niets gelegen laten liggen aan welke vorm van rationaliteit ook. Met hen zul je nooit 'convergentie' hebben, maar dat lijkt me absoluut (!) geen reden om dan je eigen rationeel overwogen standpunt omlaag te halen, integendeel, dat zou de irrationelen en bullshitters alleen maar in de kaart spelen.]

"This principle is not infinitely accommodating and does not imply an anything-goes, laissez-faire relativism. First of all, not every political claim is underpinned by a sufficient quantity or quality of competent, rational judges. Second, we may at times have an error theory that we judge strong enough to dismiss dissent, even the dissent of a large number. For instance, where we can see that a position is held on the basis of an ideology, zealously upheld by appeal to authority, we have good reason to dismiss the claims to rationality of that position. In such cases, that does not necessarily mean intolerance." [mijn nadruk] (374)

[Ok, maar we blijven ook dan hangen in de vaagheid van wat een competent rationeel oordeel is en van hoe goed / eerlijk / kritisch we zijn zo dat we door kunnen hebben of het oordeel van een ander is gebaseerd op ideologie of autoriteit terwijl ons eigen oordeel rationeel is. Zoals Baggini zelf al aangaf: dat is het probleem met zo'n 'error theory'. En is het zo erg om tegenover dat soort opvattingen intolerant te zijn?]

Politiek pluralisme wordt dan voor Baggini:

"There can be no one way of ordering society so as to satisfy completely all aspirations for the good life because competent rational judges disagree about how society should be run, and the impartiality of rationality entails that in such cases we should accept that we have insufficient grounds to insist on the truth of one conclusion and accommodate different ones, even if we believe only one of them to be the sole truth. Therefore the role of politics is to balance and negotiate between competing claims and demands so as to enable as many compatible goods from different incompatible positions as is possible."(375)

[Maar moet de politiek rekening houden met alle 'claims and demands'? Nee, natuurlijk niet. Alleen met diegene die door 'competent rational judges' naar voren worden gebracht, niet degene die naar voren worden gebracht door mensen die oordelen 'on the basis of an ideology, zealously upheld by appeal to authority'. Dat betekent wat mij betreft dat elke wens vanuit een religieuze of populistische groep niet serieus genomen hoeft te worden, omdat rationaliteit in die hoek vervangen is door kretologie en dogmatisme. Ik weet niet of Baggini dat ook zo ziet. Maar het probleem is hoe we objectief zouden kunnen vaststellen wat kretologie en dogmatisme is?]

"When considering the threats to political pluralism, it is easy to think only of authoritarian regimes, be they secular dictatorships or theocracies. But pluralism can also be threatened by majoritarian democracy. That is why one of the most serious threats to established democratic pluralist states is populism, which is one of the most dangerous threats to a reason-led polis in the West today."(376)

"The reason for this is that populism rejects the idea that what appears as plain truth to the ordinary person in the street can be anything other than what it is. What seems true is true, and only obfuscating, dissembling elites could pretend otherwise.(...) When it is believed that what is most rational is just self-evident, there is no cause for self-doubt when others take a different view. What follows from this is that in place of the Principle of Epistemological Pluralism we have a principle that where apparently competent rational judges disagree, we should accept the verdict of ordinary people.
The logic of populism is therefore toxic to political pluralism, because it simply denies the possibility of meaningful disagreement about issues of major political significance. Populism is diametrically opposed to pluralism: it promotes a single set of values instead of a plurality, offers simplistic solutions instead of complex compromises, and represents the people as a uniform whole rather than a community of diverse communities and individuals. In place of reason, it puts conviction; in place of evidence, the seeming self-evidence of common sense." [mijn nadruk] (377-378)

"However, the severest threat of populism does not come directly from populist parties. The threat comes from the way in which mainstream politics is increasingly being conducted in the populist mode.(...) The root is a shift from real politics – which involves messy compromises between competing interests – to what I call political consumerism. Consumerism is about giving people what they want, without the mediation of politicians or experts. Political parties have adapted to this accordingly. (...) today’s career politicians are a like executive managers. In true consumerist style, the manager’s job is to deliver to the public what it wants, or to make it want what the party is able to deliver. The mathematics of elections means it seems obvious that it is more important to listen to public opinion than that of the party membership. From this it follows that parties must appeal to the centre, and that their policies must be driven by opinion polls." [mijn nadruk] (380)

"Pluralism also faces another threat. It is very hard for a political culture to be truly pluralist if it is not also secular. Any polis which privileges a particular religion will struggle fully to accept the claims of others with different substantive world-views. And yet, like pluralism, secularism is under threat, more overtly, as an explicit target of criticism. It is therefore important to defend secularism and in particular to distinguish it from more aggressive anti-religious political structures."(383)

[Dat laatste moet hij toch even uitleggen ... ]

"Secularism is not a doctrine of religious unbelief, but of state neutrality on matters of religious belief. Secularism allows freedom of religious belief, but does not privilege any one form of belief or non-belief.(...) In a secular state, religion becomes invisible at the political level, even when still prevalent at the personal level. Secular governments and politicians do not invoke scripture or religious authorities to defend their policies. Instead they speak to principles and concerns that all the population can share irrespective of their belief or non-belief."(383)

[Dat is dan zelden het geval, gezien het bestaan van politieke partijen opgebouwd vanuit een religieuze overtuiging. Ik vind Baggini wat erg optimistisch over de scheiding van kerk en staat en dat de rol van religie in de politiek afneemt. Het voorbeeld van de USA dan ook is raar. De invloed van de christelijke meerderheid op politieke besluiten is daar immens. Maar ook in andere landen is die invloed nog steeds groot. ]

"Hence the increasing demand for the traditionally secular West to find more room for religion in public life and not to leave it entirely in the private sphere.
How would we do this? One influential line of argument is perhaps most fully and rigorously articulated by Bhikhu Parekh, who advocates bringing religion back into the public square. Excluding religion from it fails fully to respect religious beliefs and their importance in people’s lives. Furthermore, it privileges a certain atheistic, liberal world-view that is not widely shared. Secularism is not, as it is claimed to be, neutral with regard to belief. Rather, it robs the genuinely religious of the right to assert their belief publicly and it therefore privileges godless liberalism over other belief systems. It is not ideologically neutral but is just another ideology being imposed."(387)

[Maar dat is precies het punt. Waarom zouden we religieuze overtuigingen en de mensen die ze hebben moeten respecteren? Ze zijn per definitie irrationeel en dus in strijd met rationaliteit en pluralisme. De atheistische liberale opvattingen zijn simpelweg en aantoonbaar beter en verdienen daarom de voorkeur te krijgen. Voor religieuze overtuigingen geldt hetzelfde als voor populistische overtuigingen. Ze zijn altijd gebouwd op een gebrek aan rationaliteit in de hier in het boek beschreven zin.]

"Secularism does not deny people the right to be motivated by and to live by their religious beliefs. Nor does it even prohibit them from bringing these commitments to the secular polis. All it prohibits is that the debate itself be couched in sectarian terms."(391)

[Dat is een slecht idee. Ik vind Baggini's verhaal hier totaal niet overtuigend. Het zou zelfs duidelijker zijn als er sectarisch gepraat werd, het toedekken van irrationele overtuigingen met een tamelijk rationeel taalgebruik is gevaarlijk.]

"This looks [Baggini heeft het over de opvattingen van Bhikhu Parekh die religie weer meer plaats wil geven in de publieke ruimte - GdG] like an appealing way forward. But the danger is clear: instead of a somewhat artificially neutral secular discourse, we have one in which arguments are made in sectarian terms, not shared ones. To put it another way, it takes away the demand to present our arguments as objectively as possible and encourages us to put them in the more subjective terms of our specific, comprehensive world-views. The idea that in such a discourse we would nonetheless all be mature and open-minded enough to come to agreement seems to me far too optimistic. Rather, we are likely to end up more divided than ever. The extent to which agreement is possible will become much less obvious as we focus on what divides rather than what unites. Politicians will be speaking no longer as citizens but as Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists and whatever else. People will also be more likely to vote on sectarian lines: if people speak from specific ideological viewpoints, we will want our own to be represented.
This would be a disaster for civic life. The intention to respect fully the diversity of beliefs and not to impose a homogeneous, blurred-out secularism is a noble one. But the way to do this is not to scrap secularism and let a cacophony of different belief systems fight it out instead. The way forward is to reform existing secularism much more modestly and to rid it of its theophobia. There is no need for a secular society to pretend religion doesn’t matter to people. Nor should it prohibit anyone from expressing their religious view publicly."(392-393)

[Ik ben het daar dus niet mee eens, niet met Parekh en niet met Baggini. Religieuze overtuigingen mogen op geen enkele manier een rol spelen in het publieke domein, niet openlijk en niet vermomd in een seculier verhaal - wat ik persoonlijk nog gevaarlijker vind. Dat is de enige manier om kerk en staat te scheiden en op een rationele manier politiek te bedrijven. Dat heeft niets met theofobie te maken, dat heeft met rationaliteit te maken. Respect willen hebben voor religie en voor mensen met religieuze overtuigingen slaat echt nergens op. Waarom zou je dat willen? Ik begrijp niet dat Baggini een heel geweldig verhaal over rationaliteit kan schrijven en dan uitkomt op dit soort 'neutraal' gepraat. Het is inconsequent. Juist omdat mensen religieuze overtuigingen hebben - en zich dus altijd beroepen op autoriteit: wat 'god' zegt, wat hun 'heilige boek' zegt, wat hun 'kerk' zegt - zouden we moeten laten zien dat politiek daar geen boodschap aan heeft. De 'staat' moet de 'kerk' geen plaats geven. Zolang mensen over 'god' blijven praten moeten we ze niet serieus nemen. Baggini noemt als medestanders Alain Badiou en Jürgen Habermas. Dat valt me tegen van Habermas.]

Conclusion: Using reason

"The idea of reason I have defended is therefore a skeptical one. For readers who have detected the fingerprints of this book’s main historical inspiration, that will come as no surprise. That inspiration is the eighteenth-century genius, David Hume."(402)

Uitleg daarvan. Samenvatting van de essenties van dit boek in 52 punten.

"Arguments should generally be criticised as flawed or weak, not irrational. To dismiss others as irrational is to attempt a kind of excommunication from the community of reason when what we should do is keep as many as possible within it."(411)

[Maar dat is toch precies wat er aan de hand is in veel gevallen: dat mensen zich niet rationeel wensen te gedragen? Waarom zou je ze dan niet irrationeel noemen? Als duidelijk is wat 'rationeel' betekent - hoe bescheiden ook -, dan is ook duidelijk wat 'irrationeel' betekent. ]