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Voorkant Lynch 'In praise of reason' Michael P. LYNCH
In praise of reason
Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2012, 166 blzn.; ISBN: 978 02 6201 7220

(ix) Preface

"There is something clearly wrong about manipulating people into unconsciously agreeing with you, even when the stakes are high and it would get the job done quickly and efficiently. We think there is something valuable in appealing to reasons. The process of giving and asking for reasons matters, independently of what it may happen to get us.
Of course, the value of appealing to reasons also depends on whether they are good reasons. Good reasons are based on good principles. So the aim of this book is to defend both the value of giving reasons in public discourse and the value of certain principles over others—in particular, the principles that constitute a scientific approach to the world."(ix-x)

(1) 1 - Hope and Reason

1 Sources of Skepticism

"In other words, it is not that people think that there isn’ t scientific evidence for evolutionary theory, it is that this sort of evidence isn’t persuasive to them when it comes to many of the issues they really care about. When asked what they would do if scientists were to “disprove” a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds of the people asked said they would continue to hold that religious belief anyway."(1-2)

"many people are just highly skeptical about reason. The causes of this skepticism are varied, but underlying all of them is a common thought: that all “rational” explanations end up grounding out on something arbitrary. In the end, it all just comes down to what you happen to believe, what you feel in your gut, or blind faith."(2)

"Yet like many powerful ideas, this one turns poisonous when taken to its logical limit. The thought that everything is arbitrary undermines a key principle of a civil society: that we owe our fellow citizens explanations for what we do. Civil societies are not necessarily polite or homogeneous; but they are societies that value reason-giving, inquiry, questioning, and hashing out one’ s differences with others. In so doing, they take seriously the idea that there are better and worse ways of doing these things. If you give up on the idea that there are standards of this sort, you give up on the idea that giving reasons has any real point. Deliberation becomes a game played for the joy of manipulation and the increase of power. Skepticism about reason undermines our commitment to civil society, and that is why it is important to understand its causes and answer its arguments."(2-3)

"What do I mean by “reason”? In the broadest sense of the term, reason is the ability to explain and justify our beliefs and commitments. So, to provide a reason for something is to justify or explain it. But “reason” is often employed in a slightly narrower way as well. In this narrower sense, “using reason” means using certain methods, appealing to certain sources, and engaging in certain practices over others. This includes, most obviously, logical inference (both “deductive” and “inductive”) and what is often called “observation”—inference from perceptual experience. It is in this sense that we take scientific practice to be an exemplar of reason: it is committed to certain principles that privilege the methods of observation and logic."(3)

Skepsis betreft meestal de tweede betekenis. Drie bronnen daarvoor. Rationeel zijn wordt gelijkgesteld aan rationalisatie voor emoties.

"A second, and subtler, source of skepticism is that we can’t give reasons for our trust in reason without running in circles. (...) On the cultural Right in America, the fact that reason is circular in this way is sometimes taken to prove that science is “just another faith.” It is on equal, or perhaps even lower, standing with religion. (...) Reasons are, to use a tired word, “relative,” dictated by our culture or dependent on the vagaries of our individual psychologies."(4)

"The third source of skepticism about reason is that it operates under a false pretense: it claims to reveal the objective truth. But to many people across the cultural spectrum, objective truth is an illusion—useful and productive, perhaps, but an illusion all the same. Best to give up believing in truth and so accept that neither reason nor anything else can reveal it to us. This is a view familiar to anyone who, like myself, went to college and graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s. In those heady days, the rejection of the “meta-narrative” of Enlightenment rationalism was seen—not without irony—as the one true triumph of postmodernism.
Postmodernism is no longer the “it-girl” of the academy, and by and large I think this is a good thing. Yet the criticisms that many of its advocates raised against Enlightenment rationalism were real and important. (...)
My defense of reason is naturalist. It takes its inspiration as much from some of reason’ s critics, such as David Hume, as it does from its more ardent supporters, such as Plato. Like the American pragmatists, I think the best we can say on behalf of reason—indeed, what we should say—is that it plays a central role in any healthy public culture.
This book is also not intended as an attack on religion or spirituality. The question here is not whether God exists. Nor am I interested in debunking “faith”—at least in the sense of that troubled word that means “believing without explicit evidence.” Indeed, I think that we sometimes have no choice but to accept some principles without evidence."(5)

[Merkwaardig, die laatste toevoeging, en erg zwak als je bedenkt hoe groot de rol van religies is in de publieke sfeer. Ik denk dat je best hardop een oordeel mag vellen over het gegeven dat religies en gelovigen zich altijd weer onttrekken aan rationele discussie over alles wat ze beweren, waaronder dus dat er een god bestaat, en zo verder. Het is zelfs hard nodig als je ziet hoe ze ratioinaliteit omlaag halen zoals Lynch zelf aangeeft.]

2 Democracy as a Space of Reasons

"Moral principles tell us what is rational to do. Epistemic principles tell us what is rational to believe, including which methods of belief we should trust and value the most.(...) And it raises a fundamental worry: How do we resolve disagreements over values like this? What sort of reasons can we appeal to in order to make our case?"(7)

"The problem that skepticism about reason raises is not about whether I have good evidence by my principles for my principles. Presumably I do. The problem is whether I can give a more objective defense of them. That is, whether I can give reasons for them that can be appreciated from what Hume called a “common point of view”—reasons that can “move some universal principle of the human frame, and touch a string, to which all mankind have an accord and symphony.”"(8)

"Democracies are, or should be, spaces of reasons."(8)

"Without a common background of standards against which we measure what counts as a reliable source of information, or a reliable method of inquiry, and what doesn’t, we won’ t be able to agree on the facts, let alone values."(9)

"What skepticism threatens is the very possibility of ever sharing epistemic principles. As such, it raises the worry that we can’t hope to share a common point of view in general, and in so doing, threatens a central tenet of a civil, democratic way of life."(10)

"But the hope I have in reason is in human reason—a reason that is marked with frailty, fed by our sentiments and passions, whose pale promethean flame must be cultivated lest it gutter and dim. This book is an attempt to show that this hope is justified."(10)

[Ik hoop dat hij die voorbeelden over het creationisme in het onderwijs en over dat de VS gesticht werden als een Christelijke Staat later nog oplost. Dat lijken me nu precies voorbeelden die te maken hebben met religie en de irrationele overtuigingen van gelovigen. Ik zie werkelijk niet hoe je geen kritiek op religie zou kunnen hebben in dit kader.]

(11) 2 - Neither Slave nor Master: Reason and Emotion

1 Alarming Data

"The more interesting conclusion is that reason has almost nothing to do with our decisions, political or otherwise. "(12)

"If having reasons is not what causes you to make your political decisions, and my giving you reasons isn’t going to change your mind, why bother with reasons in the first place? Why not just bop you on the head, or manipulate you in some other way?"(13-14)

2 Two Pictures

Over de verhouding van emotie en rationaliteit.

"The Platonic picture of human reason and emotion, Father Reason and Child Feeling, is what Westen usefully calls the “dispassionate view of the human mind.” The dispassionate view has been so influential in part because it resonates with some very common parts of human experience. We have all experienced saying or doing something (or both) that, in a later, cooler moment we regretted."(16)

"But lacking emotion isn’t just bad for our social life; it is bad because, as neurobiologist Antonio Damasio has famously argued, people lacking the capacity for certain types of emotions are severely impaired reasoners."(17)

"As Damasio himself is concerned to emphasize, these examples suggest that emotions have an important part to play not just in life, but in our rational life, in our ability to reason about what to do and expect. How we feel about a situation can, as he puts it, “assist us with the daunting task of predicting an uncertain future and planning our actions accordingly.” Of course, those same feelings can distort our reactions and cause us to overestimate threats and underestimate problems. But as the cases of Gage and Elliot suggest, without them, our ability to solve practical decision-making problems is diminished or vanishes completely.
In the way I’ve been using the term, a reason is anything that explains why we ought to believe or do something. So in this sense feelings and emotional responses themselves can be reasons. Often they are bad reasons: one’ s envy of a colleague’s success is not a good reason to speak ill of them. But sometimes they can be excellent reasons: my fondness for my child is an excellent reason for promoting her interests. And of course, like any reason, emotional reasons can also be overridden: my fondness for my daughter doesn’t mean I should allow her to take other children’s toys."(19)

3 Lifting a Finger

"According to Hume, it is feelings, not reasons, that cause us to act. One way of putting this idea is that reason can only contribute to determining the means and not the ends of our actions [mijn nadruk]. Reason can tell us “If you want x, then do y.” But without passion, without desire, reason is simply inert. Reason and experience can give us information, tell us where we are on the map, so to speak. But reasons can’t tell us where we want to go, or make us get up off the couch and head out the door. [mijn nadruk] For that, we need a desire, a feeling or passion. We have to want it."(21)

"And when it comes to deciding what we ought to do—to value judgments, in other words—reason’s role is severely limited. Matters of value are matters of the heart."(21)

[Dat is dus de tweede visie op de verhouding rede - emotie. Hier worden waarden en doelen aan de emotie overgelaten, we kunnen niet rationeel aangeven waar we naartoe willen. Dat is een heel slechte benadering, eentje die een normatieve rationaliteit - redenen geven voor wat we belangriijk vinden, welke doelen we nastreven, en zo verder - onmogelijk maakt. Erg simplistisch beeld vind ik. Als Hume wiskunde en logica als de enige rationele gebieden ziet is er veel mis bij hem.]

" That picture flips the Platonic image upside down: in the Humean picture, emotion’ s on top and reason’s on the bottom. It’ s passion, not reason, that causes us to act, and the emotional aspects of our lives—feelings, desires, and so on—are immune to rational assessment. Emotion brooks no lip, so to speak, from its slave."(22)

"The fact that we use words like “inappropriate” and “senseless” with regard to feelings, while taking other feelings to be apt (such as grief at the death of a loved one), indicates that the matter is more complicated than an unqualified Humean picture can make it seem."(23)

"In short, we can acknowledge emotion’ s central and powerful role in our decision-making but still concede that what actually motivates someone to do something may not be what should motivate them, and vice versa."(24)

4 Intuition: What Just Seems Right

Wat is de relatie tussen intuïtie en rationaliteit?

"In particular, it raises the issue of the relative reliability of thinking things through versus making intuitive or unreflective judgments."(25)

"Intuition is a wide-ranging phenomenon, incorporating both snap visual judgments and mathematical insight.
So if asked to define “intuition” in general, I think the best we can say is this: When we intuit something, we find it believable without knowing why. This definition links intuition to belief without defining the one as the other: to intuit something is to find it believable, even if we don’t always end up believing what we intuit."(26)

"Expertise is something that develops over time due to the formation of a huge amount of what Michael Polyani called tacit knowledge about a subject matter. The expert can make intuitive judgments in her area of expertise without having any theory (or even caring to have a theory) about how she does it. She just “sees how it is,” and not because of any occult power, but because she has assembled a huge amount of tacit knowledge."(27)

"Like emotion, intuition is not separate from or independent of reason. (...) To think otherwise would require buying at least two dubious assumptions: that rational cognition is necessarily conscious, and that the causal basis of intuitive judgments is necessarily unavailable to reflection. Neither assumption seems warranted. "(28)

"Nor does it seem warranted to hold that rational thought is essentially conscious. It is true that most of the justifications and explanations we are interested in are those that we can access by conscious reflection. But why not think that sometimes the process of explanation and justification happens beneath the level of immediate attention?"(29)

"In short, the mere fact that many of our decisions—including our decisions about value—are being made by “a ubiquitous and under-studied intuitive process” doesn’ t mean that reason plays no role in those decisions. The fact that reason has a significant role to play in judgment doesn’t mean that we must see it as the single star of the show; it shares the stage with intuition as well as emotion."(30)

5 Without Reason?

"So defending reason doesn’t mean defending the idea that we are dispassionate, unintuitive robots. (...) If to reason is to engage in justification, and there can be unjustified and justified emotions and intuitions, then emotions and intuitions can be rationally evaluated."(31)

"This means that there is another way to interpret Westen’s results. Again, Westen takes his study to show that increased information doesn’t change our minds in the face of an emotional attachment to one side of an issue. But the Quine–Duhem hypothesis suggests a simpler explanation: it is just very difficult to change people’s minds about their core beliefs and commitments—about those that sit near the center of their worldview. (...) To change our core commitments takes an enormous amount of challenging information. What the Quine–Duhem analysis shows is that this is not surprising. This is how rational deliberation and judgment work, and not only in science (which is what Duhem and Quine were interested in) but in daily life. Thus, the fact of our recalcitrance in the face of new information is not a sign that reason does n’t matter. It simply illustrates that reason often works slowly."(34-35)

"If that is so, then we have an example of how intellectual positions, supported by the results of scientific work, can have an indirect (but still important) causal effect on politically relevant behavior. (...) Such glacial shifts in viewpoint about core political issues cannot be simply attributed to either “reason” or emotion.” Both presumably play a role—and that is of course the point. Changes in people’ s attitudes, even attitudes about value, are sometimes due, at least in part, to the influence of scientific reasons. This is why scientific education clearly matters so much to the development of a healthy democracy: it has played a historical role in identifying prejudice and bias."(37)

"But even the most “scientific” of claims is informed by value judgments. Science itself presupposes certain values: truth, objectivity, and what I called “epistemic principles” in chapter 1. Epistemic principles are principles that tell us what is rational or right to believe. They include, at the most fundamental level, principles about which methods and sources of belief I should trust. So epistemic principles are normative; they are values [mijn nadruk]"(38)

"The lesson here is that if reason has no role in value judgments, it will have little role in any judgment, including this one. But rather than embrace this conclusion, it seems more sensible to admit that reason can play a role in our judgments—perhaps not the role that Plato would have wanted, one completely free of emotion, but a role nonetheless."(39)

"Beating a person up is a very easy way to “convince” them; fear and pain are tried and true motivators. But these are not the sorts of “reasons” that can be counted as legitimate in a democracy. I cannot justify my political claims to you by simply wielding power over you, for so doing violates the fundamental liberal democratic principle that I treat you with equal respect. Rather, I must try to persuade you that my view of the facts is closer to the truth than your own. Only then do I treat you as an autonomous, rational being who is capable of judging on her own what to believe."(40)

(41) 3 - “Nothing but Dreams and Smoke”

1 Skepticism from the Tower

"It is one of the little ironies of history that skepticism is rarely more popular than with true believers."(41)

"If reason can’t show that your method of belief is the right one, then don’t give up on the method, give up on reason."(43)

2 Certain and Assured

"But where Montaigne thought it was folly to try and find a reason for adopting some first principles over others, Descartes’ s goal was to do just that: to come up with a method that would provide a firm foundation for the emerging new science."(47)

"Hume elegantly sums up the basic problem with Descartes’s attempt to answer skepticism: it fails because there are no “selfevident and convincing” first principles that can ground the rest. Hume’ s use of the word “convincing” is telling here. His point is not that there are no first principles—he is perfectly willing to grant, as we’ll see later, that we must start somewhere. What he is suspicious of is the idea that we can defend those principles with reasons."(49)

"Proving a point and knowing that it is true needn’t amount to the same thing. Like other animals, humans can know without reflection—without knowing that they know."(51)

3 Skepticism and Epistemic Incommensurability

"Most real epistemic disagreements are over these sorts of principles; they are over the scope of reason, over where to set its limits."(53)

"That worry is that deep down there is just no way to rationally resolve some debates over fundamental epistemic principles, for the simple reason that we can’t rationally answer challenges to those principles."(54-55)

"The apparent upshot of this argument is that fundamental epistemic principles cannot be defended by appeal to reasons appreciable from a common point of view. Reason, as we might put it, can’ t defend itself. This point appears to have at least two alarming implications. The first is that disagreements over fundamental epistemic principles cannot be rationally resolved. For to rationally resolve a debate is to resolve it by appeal to reasons. But that would require, in this case, that fundamental epistemic principles be capable of being defended by reasons that can be appreciated from a common point of view, and the skeptical argument appears to show they cannot be defended by such reasons. To lift a term from Thomas Kuhn, it appears that our fundamental epistemic commitments can be incommensurable as far as reason is concerned. And that, of course, is fuel to the skeptic’ s fire. For if I can’t defend my most basic epistemic principles with reason, then what can I defend with reason?"(56)

"This brings us to the second alarming consequence of the skeptical argument. The skeptical argument seems to imply that we cannot understand how changing our minds about fundamental epistemic principles can be rational."(57)

"Unless we can find some way to answer such skepticism, then the dream of putting our trust in the common principles of reason—the dream at the very core of the Enlightenment—will turn out to be nothing more than that, nothing more than dreams and smoke."(59)

(61) 4 - Reasons End: Tradition and Common Sense

1 That Is Just How Things Are Done

"If justification does come to an end, what fills the void? One answer goes like this: the central lesson is that when justification comes to an end, tradition takes over. All belief is framed by tradition—by historic, meaning-laden practices embedded within the fabric of one’s culture."(61)

"Thomas Kuhn famously argued that this same point holds for scientific practice. Scientific practice is infused with tradition as much as any other practice. Kuhn’ s way of putting this was that scientific investigation generally or “normally” proceeded within a paradigm."(63)

"Like it or not, we are all born into at least some traditions, including the traditions and practices that lace the very languages we grow up speaking. Read another way, however, MacIntyre seems to be suggesting that no judgment is rational independent of a tradition. That is a very different thought, and one that has had a role to play in the intellectual Left and Right."(64)

"Of course, many conservatives would like to think that while the skeptical arguments of Sextus and Hume show that reason can’ t ground itself, some other method of belief—say, religious faith—can do so. Reason can’t get us to truth, but faith can. As saw in chapter 3, however, it is hard to see how this appeal to faith helps. The question immediately becomes: whose faith? “Well, my faith, naturally.” The obvious problem is that if you punt this quickly on the practice of giving and asking for reasons for your views—if, to switch sports clichés, you throw in the towel and say that it all comes down to faith—you’ve left yourself with no way to rationally resolve disagreements over whose worldview is better. Indeed, you can’ t seem to say that any worldview is any better than any other."(65-66)

"There are no “external standards” by which to judge which paradigm is correct, and so we must give up on the idea that changing our scientific tradition gets us closer to the truth. This is now a pretty familiar thought, and similar ideas have been defended by a number of prominent intellectuals, from Gadamer to Rorty. One difference is that progressives, like Rorty, tend to be more honest about its implications.(...)
Unlike conservative skeptics, Rorty is not claiming that a reliance on tradition will get us to the One True Story of the World. Tradition is not a better route to objective knowledge than reason. Nothing gets us to objective knowledge. In Rorty’ s view, inquiry is an evolving conversation. The key isn’t to find some way to make everyone else shut up (by, for example, insisting that you and only you know the one Truth) but to find a way to keep the conversation going, despite our differences."(67)

"The worry is that we are putting tradition itself outside of rational examination—outside of the game of giving and asking for reasons."(68)

"The idea that tradition trumps reason is antithetical to democratic politics. To engage in democratic politics is to see one’ s fellow citizens as rational, autonomous agents who are worthy of equal respect under the law. Part of what it is to be an autonomous agent is to be capable of making judgments about what is rational to believe. Judgments about what is rational to believe are made on the basis of reasons."(69)

2 Common Sense and Presuppositions

"And that, Hume is saying, is all there is to it. Whether we can defend our trust in reason is largely beside the point. Nature won’t allow us to give up certain methods of belief, regardless of whether they are reliable."(72)

"Reid is right, of course, to agree with Hume that we have a natural instinct to trust observation and logical inference. We are hardwired that way. And there is a perfectly plausible evolutionary explanation for why this might be. We need to be able to navigate around our environment if we are to survive, and to be able to predict, at least to some degree, how the future might be given what we’ve experienced in the past. But these facts don’t solve the skeptical problem about reason that we’ve been grappling with."(73)

"Once you say that there are some principles which are self-evidently true because we all have to take them for granted—even though we can’t give noncircular reasons for them—then how do you resolve the question of which principles those are?"(75)

"Once you open the door to the thought that certain principles are true but need no defense by reason, you face being charged with dogmatism. As I’m using the term, the dogmatist holds his position and refuses to support it in the face of public challenge."(77)

"Real doubts about reason are generally doubts about its limits. That is hardly surprising. Giving up on reason entirely, as both Hume and Reid emphasized, would be selfdefeating: we have to trust observation, logic, and so on, to some extent, whether we like it or not."(77)

(79) 5 - The “Sacred Tradition of Humanity”

1 Belief, Faith, and Commitment

"But today he [W.K. Clifford] is mostly remembered, if at all, for a single essay, “The Ethics of Belief,” an impassioned, if rather severe, defense of the importance of reason. This 1877 essay still has lessons to teach us, and I’ll use it as a jumping-off point for my own positive defense of the value of reason."(79)

"In short, Clifford’ s argument for thinking it is always wrong to believe on insufficient evidence is that beliefs are tied to action. We decide what to do (fly) because of what we believe (the airplane is safe). So, since belief is tied to action, believing without sufficient evidence (as did the executives, above) can lead to actions that hurt or kill other people. And that’s wrong.
This, of course, is an entirely sensible point. Yet ever since it was written, Clifford’ s essay has been a lightning rod for criticism. Most of this criticism, not surprisingly, has come from those who wish to defend the rationality of religious belief."(80)

"So even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that there is insufficient evidence for the belief that God exists, it would only follow, according to Clifford, that we would be wrong in believing he exists. It doesn’t follow that we should believe he doesn’t."(81)

"But in fact, there is a third option: being undecided. Clifford’ s point is simply that if the evidence doesn’ t swing you one way or the other, then you have no business believing one way or the other.
Nonetheless, Clifford’ s argument clearly oversteps the mark. (...) it doesn’t follow that it is always wrong to believe on insufficient evidence."(81)

"In short, Clifford isn’t just scolding us. He is telling us that we should commit ourselves to a particular attitude of open inquiry, and the principles that follow from it. If it is a tradition, he suggests with more than a little irony, it is a tradition of not abiding simply by tradition—of thinking things through, insofar as we can, for ourselves."(82)

"The real lesson to take home from Clifford, then, is not the command: Thou shall not believe without sufficient evidence. That is a law we cannot help but break. The real lesson is that it is crucial for the good of civil society to commit to the ideal of reason."(83)

"In short, the ideal of reason Clifford is trumpeting brings with it commitments to epistemic principles, principles that recommend methods, and practices which allow us to “ask further questions.” This is the attitude of one who trusts in reason, and it is precisely a lack of it that Clifford thinks is damaging to our society."(84)

"To have faith in reason is to commit to these fundamental epistemic principles—that is, to adopt a policy of using logical inference and observation in as unstinting and open-minded a way as possible. In so doing, I commit to these sources being reliable even though I cannot show that they are reliable without employing them. But this commitment, this faith, isn’t blind. I can justify my fundamental principles. I can justify them by showing how important these principles are for a functioning civil society. I can give what philosophers call practical reasons for them. Practical reasons are reasons for doing something given our aims, projects, and conceptions of the good. They are the sorts of reasons we typically give in moral and political debates."(84)

"We are looking for a way of identifying reasons we can appeal to when our fundamental epistemic commitments are challenged."(87)

"My strategy for meeting these constraints unfolds in two parts. The first part argues that the fundamental epistemic principles constitutive of scientific practice have a distinctive “open” character. They generate “public” reasons—reasons that are assessable from a common point of view. The second part argues that it is practically rational to commit to those fundamental principles which have this virtue, regardless of skeptical objections, and indeed that we should privilege them relative to other fundamental principles."(88)

2 Objectivity and a Common Point of View

"Here is one way to put our question: What reasons could we give for trusting scientific methods and practices over others? As I noted above, rather than focusing on science’ s achievements, I’ll focus on how it goes about accomplishing them. Scientific methods have virtues independently of their results."(88)

"The Wakefield case [fout en corrupt onderzoek over ' the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism in children' dat zelfs in The Lancet terecht kwam] also shows something else, however. People sometimes put it like this: science is a self-correcting enterprise. The errors in Wakefield’ s scientific work were first pointed out by other scientists; its initial skeptics were other scientists. When science goes wrong, doing more science can help to show us that it has gone wrong. This sets science apart from practices that are by nature insulated from correction."(89-90)

"Theories that, in effect, insist they are always right are not self-correcting because, at least by their own lights, they aren’t capable of any correction—which, of course, is precisely why we should not trust them."(90)

"Scientific principles of inquiry have certain features that lend them a distinctively open character. That is, the reasons generated by such principles are public reasons—reasons that can be appreciated from the common point of view."(90)

"Scientific judgments in this sense are intersubjective. (...)
Scientific practice is also relatively transparent. (...) this sharing, and the relative transparency it involves, also opens the data to question and possible refutation—to public assessment, in other words. Indeed, the expectation of transparency in science is so strong that when violations occur—or even appear to occur—it can draw the media’s attention and cause genuine outrage."(91)

"The relative transparency and intersubjectivity of scientific principles and methods are part of what gives scientific practice what I earlier called openness—that allow it to produce reasons and evidence we can judge from a common point of view. But there are at least three other elements worth noting. First, scientific methods—and the more basic methods on which they in turn rely—are highly repeatable.(...)
Second, basic methods like observation, deduction, and induction come naturally to humans. They are, as Hume said, part of our natural instincts. They are the only methods that are uncontroversially hardwired into us. Most people can employ them at least to some degree. Third, these same basic methods are also extremely adaptable. Indeed, the very essence of logic is that it can be applied to any problem (...)
In sum, then, part of what makes scientific practice distinctive is that it is comparatively intersubjective, transparent, repeatable, natural, and adaptable. These features give science its open character, and the application of its methods can be judged relatively publicly and independently."(92-93)

"But the features that make scientific principles open don’t just distinguish scientific practice from religious practice. Appealing to these virtues can also help us determine whether a given scientific practice is worth trusting (or is as trustworthy as other scientific methods)."(94)

"This in turn explains why we take such reasons to be objective. Objective reasons are reasons whose force does not hinge on any particular person’ s point of view."(94)

3 The Method Game

"You might think that this already shows that it is rational to commit to such principles. And in a way, it does—but only as long as you are already willing to value open principles."(96)

"What we now need is an argument that is itself based on public reasons for the practical rationality of committing to such principles. We need to show that the principles that allow us to have a common point of view are themselves justifiable from a common point of view."(96)

"I’ll develop this point by appeal to a thought experiment about an imaginary game."(96)

[Ik ben niet erg onder de indruk van dit gedachtenexperiment, te kunstmatig / abstract en daarom nooit overtuigend.]

"What the above thought experiment shows, in other words, is that there are reasons to trust certain methods over others even if those methods run counter to your own worldview and the robust preferences that come with it. The ground for these reasons is nothing more than rational self-interest."(107)

4 Questions and Answers

"So while the strategy set out here doesn’ t produce noncircular evidence for the fundamental principles of reason—and no strategy could, if the skeptical argument is sound—it does give us reasons for doing what is arguably more difficult: committing to those principles."(118)

(119) 6 - Truth and the Pathos of Distance

1 A Picture of Knowledge

"But if, as the two-culture view implies, our moral and political arguments aren’ t even capable of being true, then why take them seriously? Indeed, the two-culture view can make the thesis of this book seem quixotic. You can’t defend reason with reasons that aren’t true."(120)

Over de postmoderne gelijkschakeling van alle 'waarheden' (ook door Rorty).

"Rorty’s response to this realist picture of knowledge and science is to dismiss the idea of “objective” truth as a chimera. For Rorty, like Dewey and James before him, beliefs are better or worse not in virtue of how they agree with reality, but in virtue of how they help us to accomplish our goals. As we saw in chapter 3, Rorty embraces, with Kuhn and Foucault, a picture of science that sees it as “one more human activity, rather than as the place at which human beings encounter a ‘hard’ nonhuman reality.” Of course, this is not meant to denigrate science; Rorty is a naturalist and no silly science-basher. Science is a human activity, but it is an extremely important and valuable human activity, one that can help us accomplish many of our goals better than any other method. But the goals that science helps us reach are not to be described in terms of “getting us closer to the truth” or to “the nature of reality” ..."(121)

"To give up on the realist’ s idea of truth is therefore a liberating act, a step forward in world-historical human development. It means that we can stop worrying about which beliefs get at the objective truth and start worrying about which beliefs are useful for making us better human beings. It means that we are growing up and accepting full responsibility for ourselves, no longer abasing ourselves before the illusory authority of the nonhuman."(122)

"In this chapter, I address three connected points. The first is an argument against the idea that no sort of rational inquiry—scientific, humanistic or otherwise—is aimed at the truth. The second concerns the kind of truth that seems the aim of at least some parts of the humanities. The third concerns why, pace Rorty, this kind of truth still can be, and indeed needs to be, connected to a natural world beyond our own creation."(123)

2 Truth and Inquiry

In de lijn van Rorty:

"The argument here is essentially this: Truth cannot be the target of our justificatory practices—of inquiry, so to speak—because we can never know whether our beliefs are true. And a target we can’ t know we’ve hit is no target at all. Yet we can know whether “everybody agrees” with a belief. Therefore, agreement or consensus, not truth, is the proper aim of inquiry.
This argument is curious on a number of fronts.(...) Figuring out that “everyone agrees” with me in regard to even the most mundane beliefs is not easy."(124)

"In short, Rorty thinks that the conception of reason and justification I’ve been defending in this book assumes an objectionable correspondence theory of truth. And Rorty’ s point is not just that we couldn’t know whether our beliefs correspond to the world, but that this should show us that the entire notion of truth as correspondence is unhelpful.
This is a better argument—more interesting, and more plausible. It makes an important point. But it overstates the case. The problem isn’t so much with the correspondence idea of truth as with the idea that this is the only kind of truth there is."(126)

3 Representing the World

"The reason for this is that the most promising contemporary theories of correspondence emerge out of the representational theory of mind currently dominating cognitive science."(126-127)

"That torture is a violation of a right is certainly plausible, but do we really think it can only be true if there are extralegal (if not extra-institutional) entities that exist in the physical world, jostling around with the rest of the objects that clutter the universe? How could such entities causally interact with us? In short, if we were to understand all truth as accurate representation of natural objects, it is not clear how such claims could be in the running for truth or falsity. It is unclear because it is hard to see how rightness and wrongness are independent properties of actions mapped by our brains. A long tradition in analytic philosophy has it that since truth is always and everywhere accurate representation, and moral and political claims can’t be true in that way, we must conclude that such claims aren’t capable of being true. They may be good for something else—self-expression or political manipulation, say—but a claim like “Torture is wrong” isn’ t really true. Indeed, a view like this is pretty common in our culture—and not just among philosophers. Rorty and I both find it somewhat depressing and misguided. But it is worth noting that this response also threatens to be self-undermining. For the claim that certain sorts of propositions are not apt for correspondence-style truth is itself a philosophical claim, and philosophical claims are hardly ideal candidates for mapping external reality as it is in itself. If we are to be skeptical about the truth-aptness of certain claims in the humanities, we had better start with philosophical claims. But that itself is a philosophical claim, and anyone who bothers to make it presumably would think it is true."(128)

"Once we see that when we are talking about truth we are talking about a particular job or functional role, we can see the mistake in assuming that there is one and only one way for judgments (or their contents) to be true. It opens up the possibility that there is more than one property that plays the truth-role. It opens up, in other words, the possibility of making sense of pluralism about truth."(130)

4 Truth and the Human

"The upshot is that supercoherence is not a plausible candidate for what makes our moral and political beliefs true (if they are ever lucky enough to be so). Even if the truth of some beliefs is explained in terms of supercoherence, the truth of all beliefs cannot be. Just because our story says our story is coherent doesn’t make it so."(133)

"Call a belief-system that meets both of these constraints—internal supercoherence and compatibility with external facts—concordant. My suggestion, in short, is that we see certain kinds of inquiries, including our moral and philosophical inquiries, as aiming at constructing concordant explanations. Such explanations, were there ever to be any, are systems of beliefs and commitments, some of which are true in virtue of corresponding to the facts but others of which—such as our philosophical and ethical beliefs—are true simply by being part of the explanation."(134)

"The usual debates over truth confront us with a false dilemma: either all truth is correspondence or there is no truth at all. I’ve argued that there is a third way. If—and indeed, only if—we are willing to be pluralists about truth, we can understand some of our beliefs as true in virtue of concordance. And if that is so, then we are free to say what we already know—that our philo- sophical reasons, indeed our reasons in the humanities generally, are real reasons after all."(135)

(137) Conclusion

Voor een groot deel samenvatting.

"Giving up on reason isn’t just a philosophical mistake. It is also a political mistake. Skepticism about reason encourages us to give up on the one really inspired idea of the Enlightenment, that we share a common currency of reason with our fellow human beings. And once we give up on the idea that there is a common point of view that is partly constituted by a commitment to shared principles distinguishing what is rational from what isn’t, we also give up on the idea of a civil society. (...) If there are no shared standards of rationality, then we are apt to think that it is not worth bothering to give and ask for reasons. We are apt to stop looking for truth and stick with what is convenient. So I end with a caution and a hope. The caution is that if we slide much farther from a commitment to reason, we will find it impossible as a society to claw our way back. Thus my hope. I hope to live in a society that sees a difference between what pays and what is, between everyone believing something and its really being so, between what seems reasonable in the short term and what survives the fires of rational debate, between brute appeals to power and patient appeals to our better natures. I hope to live in a society, in short, that does not just passively accept reason but is passionately committed to it, that puts its principles into action."(138-139)