Rationality

Overview:

The discussion of the concept of rationality is used as a pretext and vehicle for a critique of analytic philosophy.
Background
How did I come to write about "rationality"?
Introduction
A mention of a few sub-topics that I might eventually get round to writing about.
Fallacies
One way of getting a handle on what is rational is to look at how things go wrong. What leads us to false conclusions or inappropriate courses of action?

Background:

How did I come to write about "rationality"?
Problems Reading Philosophy
One of the problems which has beset me since returning to an interest in philosophy has been a difficulty in reading philosophy. Generally, when I pick up a typical piece of philosophical writing and attempt to read it, I quickly find myself in serious doubt about the value of reading through to the end.
Reasons Against
Usually this is because the writer has early made assumptions which seem to me clearly false, or has adopted an approach which seems flawed. I feel just as a mathematician might on discovering a flaw in a proof. There is little interest in working through the consequence of false conjectures.
Delivering a Critique
Perhaps the normal response to finding flaws in philosophy is to write a critique exposing the errors, but I have not found this to be an attractive idea.
Criticism not Worthwhile
The first reason for abstaining from criticism is that criticism of the work of others is just as time consuming, but of much less potential value, than working directly on worthwhile philosophical problems.
Wrong Game
More often the problems seem to me more deep seated. The reason for not engaging in debate is that the rules of the game are fundamentally flawed.
Bipolar Solution
Up until now I have primarily sought to articulate an alternative, without paying the usual degree of attention to what has gone before. This page on rationality is mainly provoked by my feeling that by this means I can offer a critique of prevalent methods and dogmas without being drawn into an engagement on their terms.
Critique of Fallacies
It is therefore a primary purpose of starting to write about rationality to engage in a critique of the most important ways in which modern philosophy barks up the wrong tree.

Introduction:

A mention of a few sub-topics that I might eventually get round to writing about.
Belief and Action
It may be thought rational to act in the manner most likely to realise our present purposes. Our actions may then be thought rational if we rationally believe that they are the best fitted to our purposes. Is the idea of a rational action reducible to that of a rational belief?
Epistemology
Epistemology concerns knowledge and its justification, and hence its considerations are relevant to the question of rational belief. It may be thought rational to chose standards of justification on pragmatic grounds, in the light of an understanding of relevant aspects of epistemology.
Rationality and Machines
Does the emergence of global computer networks effect how it is rational for us determine our beliefs and our actions? Could a machine or network of machines be rational? Should we build rational machines? How do you do that?
Rationality and Deduction
We may describe as "Hume's Fallacy" the presumption that it is not rational to believe anything for which we lack demonstrative proof. This discussion of rationality will address the relationship between rationality and logic.
Logic and Emotion
Logic and emotion are frequently presented as giving conflicting prescriptions for action. This view flows from a misunderstanding of the scope and nature of logic, which can have no properly conceived conflict with our emotions. Are the broader aspirations of rationality equally disinterested?
Rationality and Romanticism
Moving from everyday life to philosophical contemplation, the "conflict" between logic and emotion transforms itself into that between rationalistic and romantic philosophy. Is rationalistic philosophy rational to reject romanticism?

Fallacies:

One way of getting a handle on what is rational is to look at how things go wrong. What leads us to false conclusions or inappropriate courses of action?
Logical Blunders
The things most often thought of as fallacious are elementary logical blunders. However, these are by no means the most important ways in which rationality breaks down.
Broadest Remit
I intend to pack in under the heading of "fallacies" as broad as possible a range of what seem to me the most important contributors to false beliefs or mistaken actions.
Methodological Factors
I would like to discuss, in the light of a modern understanding of deduction, whether the accepted standards of presentation of arguments in published work have any real value in guarding against fallacious conclusions. In formal logic there are strict preconditions which must be met before any value can be attached to formal derivations (essentially, soundness of the logical system). Are there analogous conditions for informal arguments, and are they being met?
Doctrinal Factors
In classical logic, from a single falsehood all else can be derived. The acceptability of proof by reductio ad absurdum in philosophy suggests that the same consideration applies to informal arguments. There have been many fecund propositions through the history of philosophy which are now considered transparently false, a modern example is the verification principle. What are the modern fallacies and how much of modern philosophy rests upon them?
Institutional Factors
One important factor is the institutional context in which philosophers and other "knowledge workers" operate. While ad hominem arguments are generally ill advised, in this generic context it is reasonable to consider, for example, whether academic institutions provide an environment in which it is in an academic's best interests to speak the truth.

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