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In Defense of Pure Reason: A Rationalist Account of A Priori Justification (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy) Paperback – November 28, 1997
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"This book is an important contribution to the contemporary epistemological literature. The book is tightly organized, crisply argued, and sets the standard against which competing accounts must be measured. BonJour's book is rich and challenging...much can be learned from this book. It is required reading for anyserious student of the field and I entusiastically recommend it to nonspecialists as well." The Philosophical Review
"This work contains interesting criticisms of and rebuttals to opponents of rationalism. In addition it contains a bold, heady, imaginative positive account of pure reason. BonJour's bold answer consists of outlining and arguing for a theory of mental content that is nonrepresentational and at once both externalist as well as internalist. His imaginative conjecture is in the spirit of historic forms of rationalism: it is Aristotelian and Thomistic, in that the intellect in knowing necessary truths is in a sense all things; it is Hegelian in that the project critically argues for the coincidence of the real and the rational." Review of Meta Physics
Top Customer Reviews
But the major joy, as might be expected from the title, is watching BonJour develop a cogent defense of a priori justification.
In the process, he deftly turns aside the objections of empiricism, showing that empiricist accounts themselves depend on implicit use of the a priori.
And in what may be the most significant feature of his own positive account, BonJour acknowledges that a priori justification is _fallible_ but nevertheless cannot, strictly speaking, be refuted by experience; successful refutation always depends on a priori considerations.
Finally, BonJour closes with a promising start toward an a priori theory of induction.
This excellent and workmanlike book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in understanding and defending the power of reason.
What is rational insight? One of the simplest examples is the syllogism: "All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Socrates is mortal." Another example is the statement: "Something cannot be both green all over and red all over." I think that only the hardcore skeptic would deny the certainty of such insights. How do we justify/explain such insights? Here comes the rub - to justify such insights, the ability to grasp them must already be possessed by those who are justifying them and those to whom they must be justified. A point later defended by the author, and which has been defended by many rationalists, is that the structure of the world must such that these relationships are given in reality in some form.
Rather than list and categorize these insights, Bonjour mounts a wonderful defence for these insights, which he categorizes, like other rationalist philosophers, as "apriori" knowledge, or in his better term, "apriori justification". He, like other rationalists, describes them as a grasp of necessity: once thier nature is grasped and understood, people defend them by thinking and reasoning, rather than pointing to specific data given in experience.Read more ›
This view is, broadly speaking, called rationalism and is the dominant position in the history of philosophy. Not only was it advocated by explicit rationalists such as Plato, but also philosophers considered empiricists, such as Locke and Aristotle, were rationalists. It wasn't until Hume and his followers that rationalism went challenged. (Prof. BonJour has an interesting take on Kant, whom he places within the empiricist tradition.) In our day, rationalism has been defended by many distinguished (and diverse) philosophers such as Brand Blanshard, A. C. Ewing, Gordon Clark, and Roderick Chisolm.
Prof. BonJour elaborates on the standard rationalist argument that any attempt to build a rigorously empirical epistemology must ultimately depend on a priori insight. Take the above statement that something can't be all red and all green at the same time. How many examples of red and green objects would we have to observe to come to that conclusion? How would we know that we have made enough observations to be confident in our conclusion? In addition, how can we come to the conclusion given that nothing is entirely red or entirely green?Read more ›
BonJour's critique of Kant's epistemology, showing him to be closer to empiricism than rationalism, is pretty much on the mark, because Kant's theory of knowledge applies only to one's own subjective categories and not reality in sich. (I believe a constructivist defense of Kant's philosophy can be made, but it requires that a bridge be made between the mind and external reality, something not established by Kant himself.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Epistemology has always been one of my favorite branches of philosophy and I'm definitely glad to have had pleasure of reading this excellent academic book from a very good... Read morePublished on April 20, 2013 by Cornell
Laurence Bonjour provides a refreshingly insightful defense of "moderate rationalism" and a priori justification. Read morePublished on April 23, 2006 by Kindle Customer