10 March 2013

The Argumentative Theory

"Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. Reasoning can lead to poor outcomes, not because humans are bad at it, but because they systematically strive for arguments that justify their own beliefs or their actions"

"Science works very well as a social process, when we can come together and find flaws in each other's reasoning. We can't find the problems in our own reasoning very well. But, that's what other people are for, is to criticize us. And together, we hope the truth comes out", says  Jonathan Haidt about a paper written by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber.

Dan Sperber came up with the argumentative theory because he was taking stock of what was happening in the world of psychology at large. A lot of people in psychology were accumulating evidence that the mind, and reasoning in particular, doesn't work so well. Reasoning produces a lot of mistakes. We are not very good in statistics, and we can't understand very basic logical problems.
We do all these irrational things, and despite mounting results, people are not really changing their basic assumption. They are not challenging the basic idea that reasoning is for individual purposes. The premise is that reasoning should help us make better decisions, get at better beliefs. And if you start from this premise, then it follows that reasoning should help us deal with logical problems and it should help us understand statistics. But reasoning doesn't do all these things, or it does all these things very, very poorly.
Source: link, 2, 3
If this theory is the starting point, what is our desired state, and the way to get there?


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