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Disputation: "What is the proper work of reason?"

Western philosophy orbits around the concept of reason almost as closely as it orbits around the concept of truth.  Western philosophers, in disagreeing with each other, are frequently disagreeing about what reason is, what it does, and what it is entitled to do.

This will be our second meetup in the structured "disputation" format. Two of our members will prepare presentations, formally defending their distinct answers to the title question. After each presentation, other attendees will present comments and rebuttals. Formalized rounds of objections and replies will lead gradually back into our more traditional mode of free conversation.

Our two presenters will give special attention to the question of whether reason has any non-instrumental function. Reason is instrumentally functional when it helps to bring about states of affairs that we have some non-epistemic stake in bringing about. This is a variation on the theme that Hume was likewise varying when he pronounced reason "the slave of the passions". If reason is not its own master, then it cannot judge its own functionality - other standards like pragmatic success and pleasure must do that.

Does reason sometimes function properly - do we reason properly - in ways that cannot be cashed out in terms of our other standing, non-rational objectives? Is there something intrinsically valuable, self-justifying, about the practice of making good inferences?

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  • Brian

    I would've very much enjoyed hearing the points on which Adam and Ivan most differ. Hopefully someone will explain what took place

    July 11, 2014

    • Imran M.

      Rick, I'm always told we have only to look at the atrocities of the 20th century to know which economic system is scientifically correct. The "experiments" proved it. :)

      1 · July 12, 2014

    • jerry

      Probe deeply enough on a complex problem and you have to rely on value judgments to simply move on to figure out what might work. Otherwise, you have stasis.

      1 · July 12, 2014

  • Imran M.

    "The true morality, [Leibniz] claimed, must give us hope and must therefore depend on our knowing that we are immortal and will be rewarded or punished in the hereafter by a just God." -Bertrand Russell

    July 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Anything to post to read for this?

    fyi - I think reason works better with rum or whiskey, though I understand that is instrumentally functional approach.

    2 · June 30, 2014

    • Adam

      No, there isn't any advanced reading. Just come ready to question.

      July 2, 2014

  • Rick O.

    - intrinsically 'valuable' - self 'justifying' - 'good' inference. We're playing with a stacked deck, as we must.

    1 · July 1, 2014

    • Adam

      PSA: please don't conflate consequentialism and utilitarianism. The later is a species of the former, characterized by focusing on consequences in terms of utility. You could imagine a (crazy) consequentialist who focuses on consequences in terms of retribution. Eg "the moral world is one in which all actions are retributed properly."

      1 · July 2, 2014

    • Adam

      But about "playing with a stacked deck": SHHHHHH, you'll ruin my element of surprise.

      1 · July 2, 2014

  • Terry

    Sorry I can't make it but have to say that this book makes the point (through the point of a view of a social psychologist) that intuition comes before rationality as far as everyday pyschology goes (and possibly consciousness?). I like that they can work together, and one not to the discredit of the other.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Righteous-Mind-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777

    July 1, 2014

    • jerry

      "One time I was in the kitchen drinking tea with my husband and our young son, and they got into an argument about ice hockey. I do not feel passionate about ice hockey. They do. Finally our son said. “But Daddy, you don’t understand.” And my husband said, reasonably, “It’s not that I don’t understand, Bion. It’s just that I don’t agree with you.”

      To which the little boy replied hotly, “If you don’t agree with me, you don’t understand.”

      I think we all feel that way, but it takes a child to admit it." ~ Madeleine L'Engle

      July 1, 2014

  • Imran M.

    "It is very difficult for any single individual to extricate himself from the tutelage [Unmündigkeit] that has become almost nature to him. . . . Statutes and formulas, those
    mechanical tools of the rational employment, or rather wrong employment, of his
    natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting minority. Whoever throws them off
    makes only an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch because he is not accustomed
    to this sort of free motion. Therefore there are only few who have succeeded by their
    own exercise of mind both in freeing themselves from incompetence and in achieving a steady pace." - Kant

    July 1, 2014

  • Brian

    Great, who is presenting?

    June 30, 2014

    • Ivan

      Adam vs. Ivan

      1 · June 30, 2014

    • jerry

      *ding*ding*...

      1 · June 30, 2014

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