Re: The foundation of reason

Dan Fabulich (
Sat, 06 Mar 1999 00:01:43 -0500

At 09:14 AM 3/5/99 -0600, you wrote:
>Dan Fabulich wrote:
>> This sounds to me like you're going to do more than provide AN argument for
>> reason, but a FOUNDATIONAL argument for reason. Did I misunderstand your
>> project?
>I wouldn't call it a project, since it's just something I discovered
>while doing something else, but anyway... No, you didn't. But a
>foundation does not mean proof. Nor will my foundation (or any other)
>let you bootstrap from a total incomprehension of logic; if so, it could
>be taught to a rock. But, if you are capable of understanding arguments
>but as yet have no positive beliefs about anything, including the
>validity of argument; if you accept arguments as valid but do not accept
>"arguments are valid" as valid - an anti-Tortoise problem - then my
>foundation will let you bootstrap.

I don't see how this is true, but again, maybe I'm misunderstanding you. The Tortoise clearly sees that P . P->Q . Q is a valid argument, if not sound; the question is whether or not the Tortoise should accept Q as true. And (this is the point I was trying to make earlier) it's hard to defend your case that logic is the best choice when you can't use reason to do it. Perhaps impossible. At any rate, I don't see that you've done it here.

>Note that it will NOT let you accept "arguments are valid" as certain,
>which would violate the Godelian rules; and which also demonstrates that
>this is not a trivial argument, since a tautology would be certain.

If we accept that logic is universally correct, then on some level we ARE compelled to accept certain conclusions of epistemological pragmatism. This is, in part, why pragmatism is so useful: you only need to make a few plausible assumptions to get useful conclusions. In this case, you need to presume that logic is correct (extremely plausible, IMO) and you need to presume that you have correctly identified the criteria that makes a question worth asking or not (namely, whether the question has any bearing on how I live my life, make decisions, etc.).

>> Anyway, this isn't even true. Why can't I accept some non-rational or even
>> irrational claim about how I should live my life? Why not live by instinct
>> alone, adopt a Zen philosophy, and reject logic altogether?
>Because it won't work. If it does work, let me know and I'll join you.

This is rather sweeping. There are a whole lot of people who actually DO live by this philosophy and claim that it works for them. How can you justify denying their claims in this case?

>Yes, I know that's not what you were asking. If you start out with a
>mistaken positive belief about the validity of instincts and therefore
>discount all argument, my foundation won't get you out of it.

Well, Zen won't get you out of a possibly "mistaken" positive belief in the validity of logic. This puts us in the position of having no compelling reason for accepting one or the other, except having already found ourselves in one position and resisting change.


               -THEN WHAT DOES-