rationality notes

rationality notes - William James, an American philosopher,...

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William James, an American philosopher, said that “philosophy is the unusually stubborn attempt to think clearly.” To be rational is to think, but all thinking is not necessarily rational thinking. Rationality has to do with the way we proceed to investigate matters, settle disputes, evaluate evidence assess people’s behaviors, practices, and beliefs. If we could get agreement about the standards of rationality, then the only thing left to argue about would be whether or not these standards were fairly and accurately applied. To avoid the futility of endless disagreements, some philosophers maintain that there must be objective and universal standards of rationality. This position on the question of rationality is called foundationalism . Foundationalists hold that we can decide what is rational by appealing to principles that are undeniable to any rational person. According to the foundationalists’ views one should be able to present good reasons in support of their beliefs. The reasons presented would be good ones insofar as they ultimately rest on a set of ideas that are self-evidently true for any person who can properly understand them. Aristotle, claims that the law of noncontradiction (a statement cannot be both true and false) stands at the foundation of all rational reasoning. You cannot rationally assert p (where p stands for any statement) and (then assert) not-p. If you claim p is true , you cannot claim it is false and be rational. Furthermore, he argues, anyone who denies this law and who is prepared to defend that denial will be unable to advance their argument without relying on the very law supposedly rejected. However, the foundation you reach on your descent may turn out to be a ledge that gives way under your weight. Why? Because all the philosophical energy that has been spent on the search for foundational principles has ended in disagreement. Thus, many philosophers have declared the modern search for fundamental rational principles bankrupt. Welcome to the postmodern age of anti-foundationalism. Just as there are many varieties of foundationalism, there are also many varieties of anti-
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This note was uploaded on 09/12/2008 for the course PHIL 1301 taught by Professor Knighton during the Spring '08 term at Georgia Perimeter.

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rationality notes - William James, an American philosopher,...

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