Does reason justify itself?

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Glauber
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 10:38 am
Hi guys,

That's my first thread, and if it's not in the proper section or if there's already a similiar one somewhere else in this forum, feel free to move or delete it.

Talking to an acquaintance some weeks ago about Philosophy, he came up with this question: "How do you know that reason is the safest way to knowledge? Does reason justify itself?"

So, what would you answer?


(P.S.: Sorry for eventual goofs in my posts, English is not my native language.)
 
Edvin
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 11:35 am
@Glauber,
If you by "justifying itself" are thinking of its ability to confirm, develop and explain any given phenomena on its own logical premises, then yes. It does not contradict itself, if it can avoid it. Sometimes it does, then its time to re-evaluate some parts of it, then it can justify itself again Smile. As for other ways of obtaining or understanding what knowledge is, there is loads of philosophies out there ranging from New Age to Kantian theories of how we obtain knowledge, and how we better can understand this process.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 01:37 pm
@Glauber,
Ask yourself this:

1. Has reason ever been overturned by observation?

2. Has observation ever been overturned by reason?

Situation #1 happens all the time. Situation #2 has probably never happened except when an observation is not believed. To me this sums it up -- NO knowledge comes from reason alone, because reasoning is a closed system if it's not tied to observation and experience. Reason is what we use to piece together observations, but it doesn't generate knowledge unto itself.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 07:00 pm
@Glauber,
Quote:
Aedes - NO knowledge comes from reason alone, because reasoning is a closed system if it's not tied to observation and experience. Reason is what we use to piece together observations, but it doesn't generate knowledge unto itself.


I would say that reason and observation work in conjunction to form knowledge. Without reason, observation is disorganized and useless; without observation, reason is empty and useless.

I would argue that observation does not generate knowledge itself either. There is a certain level of reason that we must have before our observations become knowledge.

I saw this with the development of my son. He went from this being who absorbed and (seemingly, at least) didn't understand anything, to a being who can use reason to figure out situations and problems. I will not go so far as to say that he innately had the knowledge required to understand his observations. It is possible that he developed it, but I don't think his observations of the world were meaningful until he developed the knowledge required to organize his experiences.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 07:04 pm
@Glauber,
Quote:
Glauber - Does reason justify itself?


I see the trouble with using reason to justify reason, but why does reason have to justify itself to be efficacious?

Perhaps experience justifies reason?
 
Glauber
 
Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2008 08:38 pm
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
I see the trouble with using reason to justify reason, but why does reason have to justify itself to be efficacious?


Hi Silentio et al,

The case is not that reason has to justify itself in order to be efficacious. In the context of the discussion quoted in my initial post, the whole problem was: is reason the safest way to knowledge, when compared with other kinds of knowledge? By the way, the guy I was talking to is a religious one.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2008 07:25 am
@Glauber,
Glauber wrote:
Hi guys,

That's my first thread, and if it's not in the proper section or if there's already a similiar one somewhere else in this forum, feel free to move or delete it.

Talking to an acquaintance some weeks ago about Philosophy, he came up with this question: "How do you know that reason is the safest way to knowledge? Does reason justify itself?"

So, what would you answer?


(P.S.: Sorry for eventual goofs in my posts, English is not my native language.)


Experience tells us that reason (and experience) does a lot better than: crystal balls, prophets, magic, and, so on. If someone thinks that is not true, he had better show us that. Yes, reason justifies itself, because there is no other way of justifying anything except by reason.
 
Glauber
 
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2008 10:24 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Yes, reason justifies itself, because there is no other way of justifying anything except by reason.


So would be the case that Philosophy is based on a circular justification of the faculty of reason?

And here another question: is there really a problem if a faculty justifies itself?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2008 10:40 am
@Glauber,
Glauber wrote:
So would be the case that Philosophy is based on a circular justification of the faculty of reason?

And here another question: is there really a problem if a faculty justifies itself?


Well, "circular" is a criticism, and I don't think this kind of circularity is something bad. What I argued is that the notion of justification implies reasoning and evidence. So that to talk about justifying the use of reason, must imply using reason and evidence. It isn't as if there is any alternative. If I am to justify anything, then what that means is to use reason and evidence. That is what justification is.

I don't think that justification is a faculty (and I am not sure what you mean by "faculty")
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2008 11:04 am
@kennethamy,
Glaber, to address the initial question.

"Talking to an acquaintance some weeks ago about Philosophy, he came up with this question: "How do you know that reason is the safest way to knowledge? Does reason justify itself?" (Glaber)


This, Glauber, is one of the primary questions and conceptions that kicked off modern philosophy. This is an excellent question!!!!

How do we know that reason is the safest way to knowledge. Look no farther than the very first argument for rationalization in modern philosophy, Rene Descartes in First Meditations.

Is reason the safest way to knowledge????

----------------------------------------------------------------------
There are two options available to us, rationalism and empiricism.

Rationalism
holds that knowledge is gained by rationalizing, working out by our ability to analyze.

Empiricism,
DESCARTES WAXIs WAX 1 the same as WAX 2??? You would say yes, because you put WAX 1 near the fire, you watched WAX 1 melt. You saw what it became after melting. It was not replaced by a different piece of wax (WAX 2) with new properties.

If you were an empiricist, you would say that WAX 1 and WAX 2 are completely different Waxes because they have different properties as they, according to empiricists, come to know knowledge by the senses.


BUT WE KNOW!!!!! That the wax is the same wax, because we saw the wax, the wax being melted, becoming melted wax. We arrive at this by rationalization. Thus reason justifies itself, because we have the logical evidence to support the conception!!!! IT IS THE SAFEST WAY because an empiricists view is based on looks and senses alone, which we find to be faulty!!!!
 
Edvin
 
Reply Fri 7 Mar, 2008 12:05 pm
@Glauber,
Quote:

So would be the case that Philosophy is based on a circular justification of the faculty of reason?

And here another question: is there really a problem if a faculty justifies itself?


It's possible that I am misinterpreting your question, but I'm going to post this anyway for the sake of argument.

In norwegian we have a term that would have the exact same meaning of as to "justify itself." The norwegian term is 'selvbekreftende' and what it refers to is when someone, or something justifies itself on its own premises. That is, it says its true based upon its own rules for what is true. The danger of being 'selvbekreftende' is that there is no way of knowing that this is the only or the "safest" way to arive at whatever conclusion you might come to. Sort of when those big oil companies has an "internal" investigation when there is accusations of corruption. Smile

Depending on your philosophical beliefs rationality becomes everything from a 'selvbekreftende' faculty to a changing and dynamic one. So as for your second question, yes. I do think it would be a problem if you by saying "justifying itself" meant 'selvbekreftende.' But as DeSilentio said:

Quote:

I would argue that observation does not generate knowledge itself either. There is a certain level of reason that we must have before our observations become knowledge.




Experience and rationality can to a certain extent be said to be dependent on eachother, thus not 'selvbekreftende.'
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 12:26 pm
@de Silentio,
de Silentio wrote:
I see the trouble with using reason to justify reason, but why does reason have to justify itself to be efficacious?

Perhaps experience justifies reason?


Knowledge cannot exist without justification, so if we are asking if reason is efficacious in generating knowledge of course it must be justified.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 12:30 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Experience tells us that reason (and experience) does a lot better than: crystal balls, prophets, magic, and, so on. If someone thinks that is not true, he had better show us that. Yes, reason justifies itself, because there is no other way of justifying anything except by reason.


Reason is not justified simply because reason justifies.

In fact, a core rule of our reason is that our beliefs be grounded in something other than themselves, and not only are you violating that principle in your last sentence, but it also shows that reason does not justify itself, rather it shows itself to be unjustified.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 12:36 pm
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
If you were an empiricist, you would say that WAX 1 and WAX 2 are completely different Waxes because they have different properties as they, according to empiricists, come to know knowledge by the senses.
Unless your empirical inquiry extends deeper than just the superficial shape. Because empirical study can show you that in terms of material content (chemical composition and mass, for instance) they are indeed the same wax.
 
Mr Fight the Power
 
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 12:38 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Well, "circular" is a criticism, and I don't think this kind of circularity is something bad. What I argued is that the notion of justification implies reasoning and evidence. So that to talk about justifying the use of reason, must imply using reason and evidence. It isn't as if there is any alternative. If I am to justify anything, then what that means is to use reason and evidence. That is what justification is.

I don't think that justification is a faculty (and I am not sure what you mean by "faculty")


Yes, there is no alternative method of justification to observation and reason, but it would be callous to then equate justification to observation and reason. Justification is the criteria that we set for our understanding to call it true or valid, and to say that we can only use reason and observation for determination of justification leaves open the option that there simply is no method for determining justification.

By taking your tact, you are sweeping that possibility under the rug rather than confronting it.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 07:51 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Unless your empirical inquiry extends deeper than just the superficial shape. Because empirical study can show you that in terms of material content (chemical composition and mass, for instance) they are indeed the same wax.



That's a very interesting point. The wax example is in a Cartesian sense, dealing with the very essence of how we justify and verify that we indeed exist. Descartes at the point of the wax example is in the midst of doubting everything because they are inadequate ideas and may infact be false.

Your point is valid. But using any of empirical method is inherently faulty because that empirical data may not exist. For example, the phospholipid bilayer we see comprising a cells structure seen through a microscope may infact be false because in the most absolute sense, that bilayer, that cell, that microscope, may not exist. How can we reach a definite conclusion empirically if we cannot even trust that whats outside us is real? It does make sense that we can have scientific methods to prove WAX 2 is WAX 1, but we cannot be sure of the outcome of that test because the outside world may not be valid. So empiricism may not be the safest way to knowledge.

But by no means is rationalism faultless. If we doubt everything that comes to us empirically, how to we rationalize the idea of the sky being blue. We do need some definition in order to rationalize, and that's why your point is valid. Descartes used God as a primary definition, but I like your idea of acute observation better. So, we could theoretically substitute God with science and still come to the same outcome.
 
Edvin
 
Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 08:53 pm
@Glauber,
Quote:

But using any of empirical method is inherently faulty because that empirical data may not exist. For example, the phospholipid bilayer we see comprising a cells structure seen through a microscope may infact be false because in the most absolute sense, that bilayer, that cell, that microscope, may not exist.


I'm not sure if you are actually speaking about your own beliefs here, but if you are, there is several threads in the forum on Kant, which should be a very interesting read for empiricists. Basically he chalenges the empiricist notion that everything has to be doubted. And in my oppnion gives a much better alternative to understanding what knowledge is.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2008 12:11 am
@Edvin,
Nope, this is not my own belief. But I do appreciate what Descartes had to say on the issue. The malign genius and god assumptions seemed to be relics of Descartes day.... if anyone took his insight as law today would be very silly. But still interesting and not without its valid points.

As for Kant, though I've read a good deal of his literature (most notable to me is future metaphysics), I have unfortunately been an avid student of traditional metaphysics.... but still, you have to give Kant credit for a good rebuttal.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2008 06:47 am
@VideCorSpoon,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
Nope, this is not my own belief. But I do appreciate what Descartes had to say on the issue. The malign genius and god assumptions seemed to be relics of Descartes day.... if anyone took his insight as law today would be very silly. But still interesting and not without its valid points.

As for Kant, though I've read a good deal of his literature (most notable to me is future metaphysics), I have unfortunately been an avid student of traditional metaphysics.... but still, you have to give Kant credit for a good rebuttal.


In the First Meditation, Descartes's major argument for dubiety is the "argument from illusion". We have made mistakes in the past, but did not know we did, and found out we did only later. Therefore, the empirical judgment we make at this moment may also be mistaken, and we not know it, and find out about it (if ever we do) only later. (I don't know what you mean by, "Descartes' insight" nor what you mean by "taking it as law" either). Clearly , Descartes does not mean for anyone to take the Malign Genie argument literally. That argument is only that it is possible that everything might very well appear as it does, and that yet, there may be no material world at all. The invocation of God, later in the Meditations is used to rebut this view. Of course, God presents three (or four, depending on how you count them) arguments for a non-deceiving God.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2008 06:47 am
@Glauber,
Quote:
But using any of empirical method is inherently faulty because that empirical data may not exist. For example, the phospholipid bilayer we see comprising a cells structure seen through a microscope may infact be false because in the most absolute sense, that bilayer, that cell, that microscope, may not exist.


Isn't this an example of why we should be mindful of context, rather than an example of some inherent fault in experience?
 
 

 
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