Share your thoughts.
New York Times
For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. Rationality allowed a solitary thinker to blaze a path to philosophical, moral and scientific enlightenment.
Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.
The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists, some of whom say it offers profound insight into the way people think and behave. The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its April issue to debates over the theory, with participants challenging everything from the definition of reason to the origins of verbal communication.
“Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions,” said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. “It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.” Truth and accuracy were beside the point.
CONTINUE READING - LINK
Anyway, I think Massimo illustrate the problem with this kind of speculative articles in this paragraph:
There also seems to be a basic logical flaw in the authors’ argument. When, for instance, they say: “in most discussions, rather than looking for flaws in our own arguments, it is easier to let the other person find them and only then adjust our arguments, if necessary.” That may very well be true, but wouldn’t that select for better and better ways to spot bad arguments in other people’s reasoning? And wouldn’t that lead to the evolution of near-perfect logicians? You see how easy it is to spin evopsych scenarios?
Everyone likes to win arguments but if it was just that, we wouldn't have come up with many advances in science and technology, if we weren't also seeking the "truth", and here I'm using the word truth to describe the real world and its properties.
Think of the American judicial system, in which the prosecutors and defense lawyers each have a mission to construct the strongest possible argument.
So true! Because lawyers would never try to appeal to a jurists emotions, sentiments, or prejudices!
To Ms. Narvaez, “reasoning is something that develops from experience; it’s a subset of what we really know.” And much of what we know cannot be put into words, she explained, pointing out that language evolved relatively late in human development.
I think we need to draw a distinction between honest reasoning and motivated rationalizing. Most people engage in the latter.
How, then, do the academics explain the endless stalemates in Congress? “It doesn’t seem to work in the U.S.,” Mr. Mercier conceded.
Ha! Truer words have never been spoken.
Unfortunately, I don't have access to that journal. It's very specialized on behavior. I only see the abstract:
Keywords: argumentation, confirmation bias, decision making, dual process theory, evolutionary psychology, motivated reasoning, reason-based choice, reasoning