Re: virus: Reason

Eric Boyd (
Wed, 10 Mar 1999 16:16:55 -0500


Eric Boyd <> wrote: <<
(2) One often does construct arguments to support ones current world view, but that is *not* a property of reason, that is a property of the *users* of reason. If you want to make an argument about the human-centeredness of reason (ala _Voltaire's Bastards_, by John Saul), I am willing to here it, but beware that Saul didn't convince me.

Looking closer, I want to restate this paragraph (before Reed makes me :-). Since I am trying to construct a definition of the *purpose* of reason, I think the users of reason do matter. Which is to say, one of the purposes of reason is to "maintain and strengthen belief in ones current model of the world", as Reed maintained. That said, I think that this use is only a small fraction of the utility of reason -- a much more prominent use of reason is in attempting to convince others of the truth or utility of some belief you possess. (this conversation itself is an example). There is also the falsificationist uses of reason, as described in my previous post.

In conclusion:

"Reason is a disiplined way of thinking, it's purposes include

(1) Providing justification for belief in the conclusion

         of the argument[s] made"
        (a)  Directed towards yourself, reason can thus be
               used to create, maintain or strengthen belief in
               the conclusion[s] of the argument[s] (which
               sometimes relate to ones current world view)
        (b)  Directed towards another, reason's  purpose is
               to convince the other to add and/or stregthen
               their belief in the conclusion of the argument.
   (2) Falsifying[1] beliefs (theories held to be true or useful),
         by showing how they conflict with other beliefs or
         accepted propositions (including 'evidence')."
        (a)  Directed towards yourself, this can be used to
               *weaken* or destroy ones belief in the falsified
               belief, or convince one that such a belief is not
               worth adopting in the first place.
        (b)  Directed towards another, one *hopes* that
               it accomplishes much the same thing, but
               this accomplishment is dependent on the
               rationality of the other (an attribute that is
               difficult to predict and almost impossible to
               control, as David is finding out)

Sorry if this seems overly complicted, but I didn't want to leave anything out.


[1] Falsifying should be read to include not only disproof of truth but also disproof of utility, or most generally, disproof of whatever grounds the belief was held on. It might also include a positive argument for the negation of the original belief, if such can be constucted.