• flannel jesus
    1.4k
    Imagine a person who values truth, logic and reason. Imagine this person believes the best way to have true beliefs is by applying logic and reason to the things that he may read, hear, see or otherwise experience.

    Now imagine, unbeknownst to this person, that he's actually *bad* at applying reason and logic to things. Perhaps this person has a really poor intuition for logic. Perhaps this person routinely takes steps in his reasoning which are recognized as entirely unjustified to people who are good at reasoning.

    If this persons truth-discovering tools like reason and logic are compromised in such a way, how could this person *discover the truth* that his truth-discovering (or filtering instead of discovering, if you prefer) tools are compromised and unrelaible? After all, he might have to *use* those unreliable tools to discover or come to accept that the tools themselves are unreliable, so how could he do that?

    And then, suppose he does come to understand that he's bad at reasoning - what then? If he still cares about the truth, but he has come to accept that his tools for discovering or filtering truths are compromised, what should he do?
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    I suppose it's kind of recursive, this problem - if one of the benefits of being able to reason well, and use logic, is to find out what you're wrong about, then... what if you're wrong about logic and reason itself?
  • NotAristotle
    252


    If reason functions as a social product (I think Habermas says something like that (perhaps Fichte to some extent too)) then it may be that reason can be instilled into this individual viz. interaction with other rational individuals. In that case, patiently correcting someone for their logical infelicities may be best. Also, logic classes help. Lastly, I think epistemic humility is important.

    Also, I assume this post is not about me, otherwise...irony!
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    One can discover that they are bad at reasoning by bumping up against contradictions in their own thinking. This happens most obviously when others call them out on their contradictions, and less obviously when they encounter signs that their own beliefs are not coherent. One can become capable of understanding and perceiving contradictions even with very simple tools, such as an understanding of truth and falsity, and simple rules of inference like modus ponens and modus tollens.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    it may be that reason can be instilled into this individual viz. interaction with other rational individuals. In that case, patiently correcting someone for their logical infelicities may be best.NotAristotle

    One can discover that they are bad at reasoning by bumping up against contradictions in their own thinking. This happens most obviously when others call them out on their contradictionsLeontiskos

    Yes, this seems like an intuitive avenue to a discovery of one's own erroneous reasoning facilities to me as well, BUT it relies on one necessary premise that the person bad at reasoning must first accept - he must first accept that other reasoners systematically disagreeing with him about his reasoning is a sign that his reasoning is (or might be) wrong.

    If they don't accept that premise in the first place - if one of the faults in their reasoning facilities is to completely ignore the possibility that other people systematically disagreeing with them might be a sign that those other people are correct and they themselves are incorrect - then this avenue of correction gets shut down. Do they become essentially stuck permanently thinking poorly, stuck with bad reasoning, if this avenue is shut down?
  • Outlander
    1.9k
    Pain. And lot's of it. Generally some sort of loss of valued property or as it is in many cases, life.

    The mind is a wonderful if not fickle thing. Cognitive bias especially when compounded with a lengthy history compromised of life choices and philosophy that essentially has ended up playing a major role in the constitution of one's "identity". In short, people don't like to be wrong, because the brain doesn't like to be wrong. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" is an operational aphorism shared by both the conscious and unconscious mind, it would seem. People would rather convince themselves it's not raining despite being soaking wet if they felt strongly enough and had the ideological motivation to do so. Similar to the arguments made by those critical of religion, I suppose.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    If they don't accept that premise in the first place - if one of the faults in their reasoning facilities is to completely ignore the possibility that other people systematically disagreeing with them might be a sign that those other people are correct and they themselves are incorrect - then this avenue of correction gets shut down.flannel jesus

    To disagree is not necessarily to identify a contradiction. It is harder to ignore a putative contradiction than it is to ignore a disagreement. At the foundational level others need to point to the contradictions in the poor reasoner's thinking. Everyone attends to putative contradictions to one extent or another.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    I think it is important to understand the "other side " of an argument. If someone can't do that , that's a sign they do not have understanding of the "other side." And in that case, they can't reasonably object to it. Someone with understanding of both sides is in a much better position to adjudicate.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    Unless they do not accept the law of noncontradiction
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    Someone with understanding of both sides is in a much better position to adjudicate. It may be that that person never "gets out" of their bad reasoning, but we can for our part ignore them if they are unable to explain or understand.NotAristotle

    Someone bad at reasoning may see another person disagreeing with them, saying "this argument is poorly formed / fallacious", and decide that that person just doesn't understand their argument. "You just don't understand my argument" is an easy and readily available out for anything the poor-reasoner says.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    To disagree is not necessarily to identify a contradiction. It is harder to ignore a putative contradiction than it is to ignore a disagreement.Leontiskos

    That's sort of why I'm talking about systematic disagreements, rather than just raw disagreements. Like, if you believe in God, and maybe 80% of philosophers you come across disagree with you and 20% agree with you, that's not really a 'systematic disagreement', that's just normal disagreement within a contentious topic.

    But, if one of your arguments for something you believe in is of a particular form, and *literally everyone* you come across says "this form of argument is fallacious, this step in your reasoning doesn't follow from your last step", then it's no longer just a standard disagreement on a contensious topic, it's something else. It's systematic.

    Disagreement is to be expected, even when you have beliefs that are reasonable or even correct. Universal, or near-universal, systematic disagreement is presumably not.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    Imagine a person who values truth, logic and reason. Imagine this person believes the best way to have true beliefs is by applying logic and reason to the things that he may read, hear, see or otherwise experience.flannel jesus

    Most people self-describe in this way. I was just talking to a man who said precisely this and that this is why is is a Muslim. Reason demonstrates the Koran is true. Which is obviously not the case.

    Now imagine, unbeknownst to this person, that he's actually *bad* at applying reason and logic to things. Perhaps this person has a really poor intuition for logic.flannel jesus

    I suspect most of us are bad at this. We have 'reasons' for everything but I'm not sure how rational our thinking is.

    And then, suppose he does come to understand that he's bad at reasoning - what then? If he still cares about the truth, but he has come to accept that his tools for discovering or filtering truths are compromised, what should he do?flannel jesus

    I'm not sure many of us are overly concerned about truth. In relation to what? Speaking personally, I navigate my world through intuition and experince rather than logic. There are a few subjects where I will employ reasoning per say, but generally this comes post hoc if I am pushed. We are emotional creatures who inherit most of our beliefs and capacities from the culture we are reared in. Post hoc justification is a wonderful thing.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    We are emotional creatures who inherit most of our beliefs and capacities from the culture we are reared in.Tom Storm

    Some of us desire to not be so beholden to such limitations. Everyone is biased, yes, but I think it's pretty likely that, on average, people who TRY to be less biased probably ARE less biased. On average, of course, not universally - some people may try to be less biased and fail, for various reasons.

    For example, it's not so unusual to find people who say "I was born into a culture where everyone believed such-and-such religion, and that anyone who doesn't believe that was damned. I realized that this theological lottery didn't make much sense, so I endeavoured to base my reasons for believing things on reasons other than the idea that I just happened to win the theological lottery by being born into this particular culture." I have a lot of respect for that thought process - where most people just accept those biases they inheret, *not everyone does*.
  • BC
    13.2k
    People would rather convince themselves it's not raining despite being soaking wet if they felt strongly enough and had the ideological motivation to do so.Outlander

    Exactly!!!! One of my elderly sisters, a fundamentalist and Trumper, maintains all sorts of illogical, unreasonable ideas about religion and politics. When countered, she flies into a rage. On other matters, lie medical care or car maintenance, she is very rational.

    Now imagine, unbeknownst to this person, that he's actually *bad* at applying reason and logic to things.flannel jesus

    Based on my personal experience of not applying reason and logic to things, I can attest to the unpleasant consequences that can result. However...

    Man does not live by logic and reason alone. Our very robust emotional systems are often first on the scene of decision making, and they have little interest in logic.
  • Leontiskos
    1.5k
    That's sort of why I'm talking about systematic disagreements, rather than just raw disagreements.flannel jesus

    Whether or not the disagreement is systematic, they will reliably learn that they are mistaken once they begin to see the problems in their own account, and I believe this is best done via contradiction. Those who float at 10,000 feet are good at avoiding the contradictions in their thought. Things must be concretized and brought down to the ground level. I also think the correction should go beyond disagreement in terms of consensus. Consensus is not the best argument.
  • NotAristotle
    252
    I am less concerned whether someone else' argument is fallacious or ill-reasoned, of greater concern to me is that someone (including myself) can understand and represent the argument stated. If they can't do that, or if I can't do that about someone else's argument, then that is a sign of not comprehending. Further, there can be no "meeting of the minds" if the others' argument is not stated and represented as that individual has stated it. In other words, social reason collapses if no attempt is made to understand (even a fallacious reasoner).

    So in summary, I would give less prominence to the "reasoning" abilities of an individual (because that may assume a criteria of knowledge or rationality to which the interlocutor may not agree), and greater prominence to their ability to re-assert and understand another's view. If someone won't do that then there is simply no discussion to be had.

    We also must distinguish between an argument's soundness and its validity. An argument can be valid without being sound. If so, that's not a reasoning error, that just means an assumption is wrong. I am not sure that someone can be "reasoned" out of an assumption.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    I wonder where the motivation for this thread came from :sweat:
  • Paine
    2k

    As a tradesperson, I found out about my poor reasoning by losing control of what I was doing. The only way back was accepting the mistake. And if that idea of the mistake was a mistake, then what that revealed.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    To be honest, I've actually been thinking about this for at least months. Questioning myself has always been important to me - I would want to know if I was systematically bad at reasoning. I'm sure I'm wrong about many individual things, but am I systematically good or bad at the processes of reasoning? And if I were systematically bad, how could I know?

    But you're right about the motivation - there was something in particular that brought this from just being a thing I've been thinking about, to making an actual thread about it. It's honestly an interesting case study. We can see it happening live! And I'm certain that my approach to it has NOT been optimal - certainly some things I've said that I'd like a do-over of.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    Yes, situations that give you real feedback that you have indeed made a mistake are amazing opportunities for learning. Unfortunately, it seems that in philosophy that "real tangible feedback of a mistake" is not always as accessible as it is in other circumstances.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    And I'm certain that my approach to it has NOT been optimalflannel jesus

    It seems to me that the average person thinks little of its mistakes, so I would say the virtue of striving for perfection is outweighed by the stress that comes with it, especially when most are not trying nearly as hard.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    I have a lot of respect for that thought process - where most people just accept those biases they inheret, *not everyone does*.flannel jesus

    Having come from a family of apostates I am well familiar with this phenomenon. But I still think that when people leave religions, it is just as likely because religions fails to satisfy them emotionally first. I think the reasoning comes post hoc. My Dad, who left the church in 1937, put it like this - 'I wasn't satisfied by any of the stories anymore. Then I looked into the arguments and found I wasn't the only one. Then I left.'
  • Bylaw
    549
    If this persons truth-discovering tools like reason and logic are compromised in such a way, how could this person *discover the truth* that his truth-discovering (or filtering instead of discovering, if you prefer) tools are compromised and unrelaible?flannel jesus
    If they are an armchair philosopher, rarerly interacting irl with other philosophy hobbiests, that there's little blowback from abstract arguments,even if everyone disagree with this person.

    But we use logic and reason at work, in the family, in life in general. You rule something out, 'logically', and it turns out to be what happened, that's blunt feedback. You spend your boss' money based on 'logic and reason' that may well ending earning some blunt feedback.

    Of course I think humans are capable of denying pretty much anything, so there's no guarantee for the hypothetical person.

    But there are many ways feedback can come and be hard to be ignored.

    If he still cares about the truth, but he has come to accept that his tools for discovering or filtering truths are compromised, what should he do?flannel jesus

    Apprentice (verb). And for the mentor, a tried and true method of teaching is for the mentor to use whatever the skill being passed is and think out loud while doing it.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    Apprentice (verb). And for the mentor, a tried and true method of teachingBylaw

    This thought occurred to me too, but with the following hesitancy: if this person knows he's bad at discovering truths and reasoning, how confident can he be that it's *true* that the person he's chosen as his mentor is *good* at reasoning? I mean, if this person is bad at reasoning it's probably pretty likely that just about ANY mentor might offer an improvement, but still, he might prefer to have a better mentor rather than a worse one - if his reasoning skills are compromised, it stands to reason that his ability to distinguish a mentor that's good at reasoning might also be compromised.
  • Paine
    2k

    A problem well exhibited in the Theaetetus. Should an idea survive? Is the test right or wrong?
  • wonderer1
    1.8k
    If this persons truth-discovering tools like reason and logic are compromised in such a way, how could this person *discover the truth* that his truth-discovering (or filtering instead of discovering, if you prefer) tools are compromised and unrelaible?flannel jesus

    For someone who seriously wants to look into it, there are tests like the WAIS which can yield more fine grained knowledge of cognitive strengths and weaknesses.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    Fascinating, this is the first I've heard of this test. Thanks for the link.
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    You have, it is one of the standart IQ tests.
  • Bylaw
    549
    I do get the idea. Any feedback (from others, from life) can be ignored, given the problem. And any attempts to fix the problem can be bad attempts...given the problem.

    In specific they can choose someone well regarded by expert peers. Of course, this is no guarantee, but what else can one do, but do one's best, in part based one what seems to be the best suggestions from others.

    I think most people can improve, once they realize there is a problem.
    And I think it is possible for anyone to get a sense there is a problem, if only for a few moments.
  • flannel jesus
    1.4k
    In specific they can choose someone well regarded by expert peers.Bylaw

    I think that would be a safe bet. Of course, the person bad at reasoning could only agree that that's a safe bet if one of the things he's bad at doesn't involve him completely discounting the expertise of others - if he's rejected even that, he's stuck in a limbo of bad reasoning forever. But if he has that - if he's capable of respecting the reasoning abilities of others, and of experts above all - then he stands a chance at discovering his own flaws and perhaps finding guidance to fix them.

    He could even just delegate his thinking to another person. "I will believe whatever this person believes". If he's bad at reasoning, maybe he could resign himself to just stop trying, if that's possible. Probably not possible in his every day life, but maybe possible in the space of ideas - when he's pontificating on philosophy or science or whatever.
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