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Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science (Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy) 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198235743
ISBN-10: 0198235747
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Editorial Reviews

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"Stein has done a great service in bringing together all of the important arguments in the human rationality debate and providing a measured critical assessment of them....This will be an important book and is essential reading for epistemologists, philosophers of mind, and cognitive and evolutionary psychologists."--Choice


From the Back Cover

Are humans rational? Various experiments performed over the last several decades have been interpreted as showing that humans are irrational, we make significant and consistent errors in logical reasoning, probabilistic reasoning, similarity judgements, and risk-assessment, to name a few areas. But can these experiments establish human irrationality, or is it a conceptual truth that humans must be rational, as various philosophers have argued? In this book, Edward Stein offers a clear critical account of this debate about rationality in philosophy and cognitive science. He discusses concepts of rationality - the pictures of rationality that the debate centres - on and assesses the empirical evidence used to argue that humans are irrational. He concludes that the question of human rationality must be answered not conceptually but empirically, using the full resources of an advanced cognitive science. Furthermore, he extends this conclusion to argue that empirical considerations are also relevant to the theory of knowledge - in other words, that epistemology should be naturalized.
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Product Details

  • Series: Clarendon Library of Logic and Philosophy
  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press; 1 edition (January 25, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198235747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198235743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,594,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do humans have the normative principles of reasoning in their reasoning competence? A positive answer was assumed by most scientists, economists, and philosophers (pace Freud, Nietzsche et al.), until the stunning variety of experiments by Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and their coworkers began to appear in the early 1970's. Their results convinced large numbers of psychologists that people deviate systematically from the generally accepted principles of reasoning.

Many, however, disagreed with this interpretation, arguing that the logical and mathematical mistakes people routinely make in the laboratory are due to misunderstanding (e.g., logical connectives mean different things in formal logic and everyday discourse) or performance error (the problems are very hard, and few could solve them without a course or two in probability theory), among other explanations. Stein's book is a very systematic and detailed review of the arguments, and is well worth reading, both for the uninitiated and those who have closely followed this debate. Stein concludes that the question is an empirical one, and the evidence is not yet all in.

I completely agree with Stein's assessment, although I think the evidence is strongly in favor of the rationality thesis: errors in the lab are mostly performance error and misunderstanding. This is not to trivialize the actual findings of Kahneman et al. Far from it. Most humans deviate systematically from the precepts of probability theory, and it is to their disadvantage. People have strange and incorrect ideas about "lucky streaks," they do not understand the Law of Insufficient Reason, they make systematic base-rate errors, and do not apply Bayes law correctly.
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Philosophical reasoning at its best.
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Clearly written and exciting, Stein's book provides a thorough introduction to the subject while advancing his own view. This book is of interest to philosophers and cognitive scientists alike. Very accessible.
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