Episode 39

#39 - The Enigma of Reason


April 27th, 2022

1 hr 1 min 59 secs

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About this Episode

The most reasonable and well-reasoned discussion of reason you can be reasonably expected to hear. Today we talk about the book The Enigma of Reason by Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier. But first, get ready for dogs, modern art, and babies!

*We discuss *

  • Reason as a social phenomenon
  • The two roles of reason: To justify our actions, and to evaluate the reasons of others
  • Reason as module of inference, and how that contrasts with dual-process theories
  • The "intellectualist" vs the "interactionist" approach to reason
  • Nassim Taleb's notion of "skin in the game"
  • The consequences of reason having evolved in a particular (social) niche
  • The marshmallow test and other debunked psychological findings


The interactionist approach, on the other hand, makes two contrasting predictions. In the production of arguments, we should be biased and lazy; in the evaluation of arguments, we should be demanding and objective— demanding so as not to be deceived by poor or fallacious arguments into accepting false ideas, objective so as to be ready to revise our ideas when presented with good reasons why we should.
EoR (pg. 332)

In our interactionist approach, the normal conditions for the use of reasoning are social, and more specifically dialogic. Outside of this environment, there is no guarantee that reasoning acts for the benefits of the reasoner. It might lead to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This does not mean reasoning is broken, simply that it has been taken out of its normal conditions.
EoR (pg. 247)


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