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The Evolution of Reason: Logic as a Branch of Biology (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology) Hardcover – January 29, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521791960 ISBN-10: 0521791960 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Biology
  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521791960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521791960
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,677,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

The formal systems of logic have ordinarily been regarded as independent of biology, but recent developments in evolutionary theory suggest that biology and logic may be intimately interrelated. In this book, William S. Cooper outlines a theory of rationality in which logical law emerges as an intrinsic aspect of evolutionary biology. He examines the connections between logic and evolutionary biology and illustrates how logical rules are derived directly from evolutionary principles, and therefore, have no independent status of their own. This biological perspective on logic, though at present unorthodox, could change traditional ideas about the reasoning process.

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J. Rantschler on June 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In _The Evolution of Reason_, William S. Cooper shows that, using a simple decision theoretical model of evolution and another of the environment you can find the seeds of classical analytical thought. He does this by "reduction," showing that "evolution" requires decision theory, which in turn requires probability theory, and so on down to basic propositional logic. Although this is precisely the opposite of what is usually meant by reduction in mathematics, Cooper is trying to give a "scientific" or empirical underpinning to the rules of rational thought rather than to begin with a priori assumptions about truth, such as the law of the excluded middle, or the most elegant -- that is to say, smallest -- batch of primitive assumptions. It should be clear that every step except the first is valid.
This is only half of the book, however. In later chapters, he examines complications to his model to see how they affect his derivation, and upon this basis makes some suggestions about how logic as a discipline should be practiced. Although a simplification, I think it is fair to say that he would like further reasoning about logic to be descriptive, to show how we should think in light of biology instead of some
The major annoyances from this book come are in its tone: the author constantly compares himself with Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein and calls his thesis "scientific," even though it is based in no way upon empirical data, or even "evolutionary theory," as he claims. Like many theorists with radical conjectures, he chides (unnamed) people for trying to think of situations in the world that could actually test the hypothesis, and the empirical arguments he does refute are obviously straw men.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jake on July 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My general impression of the book is a little mixed. While I was very interested in how decision theory relates to natural selection, there was no empirical data! The author proceeds by hypothesizing how Mathematics (arithmetic presumably) can be reduced to deduction and that to induction, to decision theory, to life-history strategy theory down to evolutionary theory. If each step can be reduced to the other, then, Cooper argues, he will have shown how these things are biological in nature.

Can logic be reduced to biology? Well, one has to wonder whether doubting this possibility is more reasonable than to believe it. After all, what reason do we have for thinking abstract combinations of simple logical principles like modes ponens and the law of noncontradiction are really true or axiomatic? Let's face it, arcane abstractions produce less intuitive arguments. Even sophisticated philosophers know that they must have certainly made a mistake somewhere in their reasoning. The fact that it can be corrected does not prove a platonic reality of logic because one is usually corrected by an artificial process of abstraction, that is often not intuitive to the average homo sapien. But then the correction can be rebutted and so forth until both realize the futility of sophisticated argument. Cooper steps in and helps us realize: maybe 'sophisticated argument' was never a telos of evolutionary processes! Maybe reason was not a gift from the gods, but only the confluence of different evolved mechanisms. Very intriguing indeed.

Although the author can be a little pretentious about what his study implies, the book should at least stimulate thought on the possibility that logic and mathematics can be reduced to Darwinian process. I commend him in starting the conversation and for mentioning how he could talk about logic with a metalogical language that is not self-defeating.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lester M. Stacey on October 10, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you depend very much on logic in your thinking, as I do, then you will find this book extremely helpful.

Because logic is a product of biological evolution, you can expect to encounter limits and problems in applying it.

Logic is not the panacea it is often portrayed as. You need to know what those limits and problems are in order to avoid unnecessary mistakes when you apply it.

This book demonstrates those limits and problems.

This book complements Within Reason: Rationality and Human Behavior.
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