Part One: Taking rationalism seriously

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“Taking rationalism seriously” implies rigorous investigation of how and why and whether and when rationality works. The historical tendency has been to assume as an axiom that it must somehow always work. Since its deficiencies are now well-understood, rationalism is no longer serious.

The Eggplant is an alternative, meta-rational understanding of rationality, and of how to do it better. It’s based mainly on observations about how and when and why rationality does work, covered in Part Three. However, it’s also motivated by specific ways rationalism doesn’t. So Part One reviews some of rationalism’s failure modes, with an eye for how to avoid them.

I will repeatedly ask: “What sort of world would rationalism be true of? What would it take to make a guarantee about rationality that could stick?” In general, the answer is: a world without nebulosity; a world in which all objects, categories, properties, and relationships were perfectly definite. Nebulosity manifests in many different ways, which cause different sorts of trouble for rationality, so I’ll give more specific answers to these questions as I discuss particular issues.

Why does rationality work? In large part, because we do practical work to make it work. Modernity succeeded by altering the world to make it less nebulous, thereby making rationality more reliable.

The problems rationalism treats as theoretical and philosophical, for which it wants to find uniform, universal, formal solutions, meta-rationalism treats instead as practical hassles. Hassles can’t be “solved,” but they can be managed reasonably effectively by devising social practices and by engineering physical objects. As I point out each problematic manifestation of nebulosity in this Part, I’ll ask “How do we deal effectively with this theoretically fatal problem in our actual practice of rationality?” Part Three answers that in depth.


This page introduces a section containing the following:

This page is in the section In the Cells of the Eggplant.

The previous page is Meta-rationality: An introduction. (That page introduces its own subsection.)

This page’s topic is Rationalism.

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